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The Courts Government GNU is Not Unix News

German Court Convicts Skype For Breaching GPL 309

Posted by kdawson
from the means-what-it-says dept.
terber writes "A German court has once again upheld the GPLv2 and convicted Skype (based in Luxembourg) of violating the GPL by selling the Linux-based VoIP phone 'SMCWSKP 100' without proper source code access. (Original is in German, link is a Google translation.) Skype later added a flyer to the phones' packaging giving a URL where the sources could be obtained; but the court found this insufficient and in breach of GPL section 3. The plaintiff was once again Netfilter developer Harald Welte, who runs gpl-violations.org. The decision is available in German at www.ifross.de (Google translation here)."
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German Court Convicts Skype For Breaching GPL

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  • The interesting part (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeti (105266) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @03:46PM (#19974259) Homepage
    After a previous conviction, a sheet was included
    with the phone that contained URLs to the GPL-
    license and to the source code . The articles do
    not make any statement on whether the source code
    contained all modifications, but they do not claim
    otherwise.

    The court decided that providing only an URL to the
    license was not enough and that the whole license
    should have been included in printed form.

    So far, so good. Now the interesting part is that
    according to the judge, providing a link to the
    source code is only acceptable for software that
    is provided on the internet. For software that comes
    preinstalled, the source must also be delivered with
    the device.

    This decision seems extremely strange to me. It is
    not what I read in the GPL v2. Here is the relevant
    part:

    3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it,
    under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of
    Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the
    following:

            a) ...
            b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three
    years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost
    of physically performing source distribution, a complete
    machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be
    distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium
    customarily used for software interchange; or,
            c) ...
  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @04:06PM (#19974579)
    >which is a copyright violation

    Right, we need to protect copyright at all costs! Maybe insert some DRM to protect us from evil capitalists!!

    I wonder how many slashdotters would agree that the idea to limit copyright to 12 years or so means that linux will be put in the public domain for anyone to do whatever they want, and to hell with the gpl.

    Not trying to troll, but its funny to see people quote copyright law line and verse when it serves them.
  • Hooray for Harald! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PingXao (153057) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @04:13PM (#19974695)
    This guy is waging a one-man show against GPL violators. Oh, the EFF is involved to some extent, but their effort is not Harald's. Harald, by the way, is the lead on the ipfilters project, something many /.'ers have probably heard of.

    He is swamped with submissions from folks claiming this company or that is in violation of the GPL. I submitted one myself about a year and a half ago. Nothing ever came of it. Not because the company is innocent, but because Harald has very few resources to go after the perpetrators of GPL license abuse. When a company gets reported he has to physically buy the item - most violators seem to be in the embedded Linux area - and verify the GPL violations before putting the lawyer(s) on them. He has scored some notable successes.

    But he is basically pissing into the wind. For every successful case he pursues there are 10 more that go unpunished. The real people who should be up in arms against commercial violators of the GPL are the authors who hold the copyright on the code being misused.

    Sadly, most of them can't be bothered and the violations go on. This will be the end of the GPL: developers who do not care to enforce their rights. Not v3 or v4, or Linus or Stallman or tiny paragraphs in section 1. At some point there will be a case where an evildoer will use the defense that since the copyright holder didn't pursue company X 5 years ago they should be prevented from trying to do it now. And poof! The copyright will vanish or be declared null and void and with it the GPL distribution license that goes along with it.

    Hooray for Harald! Watch out for the backspray, Harald.
  • au contraire .... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @04:19PM (#19974763)
    Given the amount of spyware that comes along with Skype, I'm guessing they require secret proprietary code for their business (which is also a service).
  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @06:24PM (#19976409) Homepage Journal
    I started reading the threats but stopped after the first few *5* rated articles ;D

    What me rely wonders is this wording A German court has once again upheld the GPLv2 .

    No! A german court did not upheld the GPL. No court is interested in the GPL. the court honoured copyright law. The authors of the code in question are the copyright owners. The company distributing the code is not a copyright owner. The license is completely irrelevant.

    Notpicking mode on:
    A license could be void if it contained illegal terms, like: you agree to hand over your first born son, and his first born son and also his up to the 17th generation to follow to (insert your name here) ...
    In this case the license would be void. Not copyright! You still had no right whatsoever to distribute the code / IP of the legal owners.

    The court did not uphold the GPL. It only decided that Skype violated the GPL and in doing so violated copyright law If you violate a BSD or MIT license you violate copyright law as well.

    To uphold a license you would need to challenge the legal-ness of the license. So instead of suing Skype for breaking copyright law you would need to sue the author over using an illegal license. However there is no real applicable law here. You could construct a case probably by having a license that also encourages murder and rape ... like: by using this software you also a accept that the nazis did not committed a holocaust. In germany claiming in public that "the nazis did not commit the holocaust" is a legal offense. So having a license including legal offenses you had a license that would be void or tangible. But still you could not distribute the code of the copyright holder ... because your act of distribution has nothing to do with the license but only with copyright.

    angel'o'sphere
  • by obeythefist (719316) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @08:22PM (#19977799) Journal
    Kicking a company in the nuts for violating the GPL is well and good, but when they are actively trying to make amends, isn't it bad for the FOSS community and PR in general to keep on kicking anyway?

    Using the same mechanism as the RIAA to uphold freedom is good.
    Using the same sore-winner attitude as the RIAA and punishing people for the heck of it is bad.
  • by HatofPig (904660) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [keegehtnotnilc]> on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @10:30PM (#19978793) Homepage
    You have read about the OpenMoko Neo 1973 [slashdot.org] open-platform cell-phone, right? The developer version (sans-wifi) is available now, and the consumer-ready version will ship in October. It's linux-based, and 100% open-source (both hardward and software) for a price comparable to the iPhone.
  • Re:Damn (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ravenshrike (808508) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @12:02AM (#19979387)
    Let me get this straight. It's a net based phone application, which you need access to the internet to be able to use anyway, but yet an url where you can find the source code for the relevant part of the app isn't sufficient? Can someone help explain the insanity here, or am I not seeing something blindingly obvious?

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