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GNU is Not Unix Government The Courts News

German Court Says GPL is Valid 327

Axel Metzger writes "The Munich District Court has ruled on May 19, 2004 that the main clauses of the GNU General Public License are valid under German copyright and contract law. This seems to be the first judgment worldwide proofing the validity of the most popular free software license. The ruling is a confirmation of the preliminary injunction of April 2, 2004. The new judgment gives on 20 pages the reasons for the ruling. It states explicitly that the terms of section 2, 3 and 4 of the GPL are valid under German copyright and contract law. Here is the German text of the judgment; an English translation will be available soon. The judgment comes at the right time to fight those (SCO and others) who challenge the legal validity of the GPL in Europe and elsewhere. The lawyer of the plaintiffs, Till Jaeger from Munich should be granted the Free Software Award."
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German Court Says GPL is Valid

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  • by Da_Slayer ( 37022 ) on Friday July 23, 2004 @01:37PM (#9781373)
    In terms of the SCO lawsuits this is great. It will allow IBM and others to just point to this ruling as proof of support for the GPL.

    This is also a victory for good old RMS who has stated for years that the GPL is legally valid and binding.

    This brings up an interesting question in my mind. Lets hypothesize for a moment that SCO loses all it's lawsuits and the GPL is proven in a US court to be valid and legally binding. How will future lawsuits dealing with violations of the GPL handled?

    Are violators of the GPL going to have to pay fines or be forced to open source the code they designed in conjunction with GPL'd code. Add to this the possible stances the FSF could take on this issue.

    This definitly makes things more interesting in my opinion.
  • Re:It's nice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eln ( 21727 ) on Friday July 23, 2004 @01:47PM (#9781499)
    It can't be used as formal precedent, but international law and court decisions can, and often are, cited as supporting arguments in a court's decision.
  • Re:It's nice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Friday July 23, 2004 @01:48PM (#9781511) Journal
    anyway, can't folks in the judicial system can still use this as 'precedent' in a way?

    IANAL, but technically, "yes and no". It can't be an actual precedent because a precedent is a prior ruling/interpretation on the SAME law, which isn't the case since it was a ruling on a German law. However, it can still be quoted by an attorney as previous ruling, to demonstrate that upholding the GPL is not so unusual and is "universal". The GPL isn't American or German, after all. The judge can do with that info as he pleases, consider or discard it. A smart judge would probably look at it and at least say "hmm".
  • by spitzak ( 4019 ) on Friday July 23, 2004 @01:58PM (#9781625) Homepage
    "violators of the GPL" are actually copyright infringers and are subject to the same punishments as copyright infringers. In all copyright cases in history, the maximum punishment has been cease & desist making the illegal copies, and monetary damages.

    I have never heard of a copyright infringer being forced to lose rights to other IP of their own. I very much doubt anybody will ever be forced to open source code. This would be like saying the New York Times has to give away all copies of their paper from now on because one of their columns was plagarized. Such ideas are total nonsense, but are always brought up by the enemies of the GPL.

    One part of confusion is that the infringer may choose to obey the GPL in exchange for getting the lawsuit threat dropped and to be able to continue distributing their product. But they were not "forced" by the GPL to do this. In fact, legally, it does not in any way get them out of their liability for the previous copyright violations (otherwise you could violate the GPL for years and then release the source code at the end as a "get out of jail free" card).
  • Re:True, however (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) <> on Friday July 23, 2004 @02:03PM (#9781679) Homepage Journal
    As copyrights are made stronger, the GPL is also made stronger. The GPL is a beautiful and skillfull judo move.
  • Re:My translation: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) <> on Friday July 23, 2004 @02:11PM (#9781767) Homepage Journal
    I'm guessing that's because the translator wasn't a native English speaker, so the German was translated into plain English. Notice there's really no "legalese" in there, nor are there overabundant acronyms, nor is there any business "manager speak" such as "productize" or "leverage". I didn't notice any place where citizens are referred to as "consumers", nor did I notice any other indication that a marketing department had a hand in the translation. All of these things I consider to be a pox upon the language, so much that when we read something in plain English it seems like poetry.
  • Re:It's nice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ninewands ( 105734 ) on Friday July 23, 2004 @03:20PM (#9782560)
    It is not a binding precedent, which means that US courts do not HAVE to follow it. I imagine that since it is a DISTRICT court (trial-level court, IIRC) other German courts are not even required to follow it. That being said, the legal reasoning the judge used in deciding the case CAN (and probably will be) be followed as "persuasive authority" in other courts.

Would you people stop playing these stupid games?!?!?!!!!