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11.23.07

The GNU GPL is Already Proven and Tested in Court

Posted in America, Courtroom, Europe, FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL, Law, Microsoft at 1:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microvell

Microsoft should come clean

Several months ago, Microsoft snubbed the GPLv3 as though it does not apply to Novell and Microsoft. It insisted that it’s not bound by the GPLv3 and allowed the conversation with the FSF to just cool off. Here are some of these past developments, listed in a chronological order:

  1. GPLv3 Cluebat Hits Microsoft, Which Has Just Entered the ”Denial” Stage of Its Agony (Updated)
  2. Without GPLv3 Obligations, Microsoft and Its Linux Partners Stay Stuck in 2007 (Updated)
  3. Amid the Recent Developments, Where Does Novell Stand?
  4. Kevin Carmony Responds, Linspire on Permanent Feature Freeze for GPLv3 Software
  5. Patent Lawyer in Microsoft’s Defense on GNU GPLv3 Issues
  6. With Novell’s Deal, Microsoft is Already Bound by GPLv3

We don’t typically cover GPL stories other than ones that involve GPLv3 (for the parts of it which address Novell-like deals and patents). Making this post the exception, let’s just mention that The Software Freedom Law Center has taken action to defend the GPL.

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) today announced that it has filed two more copyright infringement lawsuits on behalf of its clients, two principal developers of BusyBox, alleging violation of the GNU General Public License (GPL). The defendants in the lawsuits are Xterasys Corporation and High-Gain Antennas, LLC. BusyBox is a lightweight set of standard Unix utilities commonly used in embedded systems and is open source software licensed under GPL version 2.

As you will find below, to the SFLC this is not a case of seeking legal precedence. Rather, it’s about establishing a strong relationship with its clients and defending the licence, as one should. It’s the developers’ right.

Here are the stories (reverse chronological) about the first lawsuit attempt.

There is another new and interesting situation in LWN.net.

A GPL compliance case against Iliad

[...]

Several free software writers have called Iliad, one of the main telecom companies in France, to respect their work, and a judicial proceeding has begun to demand the respect of their licence. This action follows repeated refusals of Iliad to publish the source code of the Free Software included in their Freebox. Although the writers appreciate “the innovative contributions that Iliad has made in the telecommunication industry, along its historical inclination toward Free Software”, they are concerned about the reasons that may have led Iliad to this philosophical swing.

Not so long ago, LWN.net had its eye on Yoggie because of its Linux-based USB firewall.

Skeptics Abound…

There will always be a self-serving voice which will tell you that GPL violations are impossible to detect and keep track of. Some further exploration suggests otherwise and squashes this type of GPL FUD.

“A paper to be presented at the upcoming academic conference Automated Software Engineering describes a new method to detect code theft and could be used to detect GPL violations in particular. While the co-called birthmarking method is demonstrated for Java, it is general enough to work for other languages as well…”

Let’s not forget Black Duck, either. We mentioned this company on a couple of occasions that involved Novell.

Over at the 451 Group’s blog, I found myself facing geo-centricity which assumes nothing is true until its arrival in America. It’s something along the lines of “innovation exists only once Microsoft implements (imitates) an idea and mass-markets it. Anyway, the assumption there was that the GPL requires a test case in court. This isn’t quite the case though. Here is a quick list of GPL court wins:

German district court Munich has convicted Skype of violating the GPL. One of the VoIP telephones sold by Skype run Linux, but the GPL text was not handed out together with the phone, although the GPL requires that.

Open-source programmer Harald Welte said Thursday he won a civil court case in Germany centered on the General Public License (GPL). The license governs many open-source projects and permits anyone to use software covered by it, but requires that companies incorporating GPL software make the underlying source code available.

D-Link Germany GmbH, a subsidiary of D-Link Corporation, Taiwan R.O.C., distributed DSM-G600, a network attached storage (NAS) device which uses a Linux-based Operating System. However, this distribution was incompliant with the GNU General Public License (GPL) which covers the Linux Kernel and many other software programs used in the product.

It is worth remembering that Daniel Wallace’s attempt to declare the GPL illegal failed miserably [PDF] earlier this year (appeal declined also). On the other hand, Microsoft’s notorious EULA may have no legal basis, but who would ever challange Microsoft over this in the courtroom?

There is nothing wrong with the GPL other than perceptions that were developed around it by masterminds of the proprietary software industry. Would Dostoevsky Use the GPL?

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