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Skype Founders File Copyright Suit Against eBay 107

Saif writes to let us know that Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, the founders of Skype, have filed a copyright suit against eBay for altering and sharing the peer-to-peer source code behind the calling service. The founders managed to maintain ownership of the source and licensed it to eBay in their 2005 deal and are now seeking an injunction and statutory damages which could total more than $75 million per day. "Mr. Zennstrom and Mr. Friis have developed a reputation for litigiousness in some legal circles. They filed three separate lawsuits against Pamela Colburn, an investment banker who represented them in the original sale of Skype, in the United States, the Netherlands and Britain. In May, a British judge dismissed the case and said the two men's reason for pursuing the matter in his country 'remains inexplicable.' The buyers of Skype have not publicly addressed the founders' lawsuit against eBay in Britain or their potential legal liability."
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Skype Founders File Copyright Suit Against eBay

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  • Basically (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:37PM (#29470403)

    They sold Skype to eBay.
    But managed to maintain ownership of a chunk of code because eBay's lawyers were fucking retarded.
    They now claim eBay has altered that code, thus infringing on their copyrights.

    Why are now suing for damages that could be up $75,000,000. Per day.

    My question - how do they know the source doe was altered?

  • Re:Basically (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous McCartneyf ( 1037584 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:43PM (#29470501) Homepage Journal
    Because eBay, in a fit of insanity equal to failing to obtain the copyright to that code in the first place, shared the altered code. eBay distributed it. Did they really think the founders of Skype wouldn't see?
    Copyright law -- is there any chaos it can't cause?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18, 2009 @04:17PM (#29470927)

    It could go down as one of the worst business moves in the history of mankind. Paying billions of dollars for a temporary right to license a free service while leaving patents and copyrights to the previous owners.

  • This might be.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AresTheImpaler ( 570208 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @04:25PM (#29471033)
    This might be a little bit off topic, but... Is there any good skype alternative? Something that works in linux, windows, and mac?
  • Re:Basically (Score:5, Interesting)

    by coolsnowmen ( 695297 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @04:46PM (#29471293)

    you've clearly never tried to look at skype's code then. It has multiple levels of code obfuscation.

    Last I checked the majority of the program's contents are encrypted. The loader decrypts it into memory, and also deletes the boot-loader from memory. Additionally, the the program will try and detect if you are running it in a debugging environment and jump into random pages. This in turn is hard to detect because seemingly random jumps are all over the code from checking checksum's on itself (to make sure you didn't put in software debugging).

    I'm not even explaining this fully-
    from: []
    read: []

  • by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @04:47PM (#29471321)

    I believe it is $75 million from the time they illegaly distributed the source code, not from the day of the deal. When exactly that would be I have no idea, but the British version of this lawsuit goes back to March of this year.

    Using a March start date, you're still looking at $13.5 billion, but that is based on the maximum statutory damages (which these litigious copyright owners do not set, btw). More than likely if eBay loses it will be substantially less than that, but still very significant.

    If eBay loses I wouldn't be surprised to hear a $1-5 billion figure, assuming they are correct in their assertions of when statutory damages trigger.

  • Re:Basically (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Friday September 18, 2009 @04:52PM (#29471383) Journal

    I must say I haven't tried looking at it and while I know that Skype has lots of obfuscation and different layers of protection, the guys who developed it most likely know also how to get around it. And these protections were in Skype even before the sale to eBay.

  • Re:Basically (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @05:18PM (#29471641)

    With all the shit ebay has pulled over the years, and I'm not just referring to ridiculous fee increase, but all the ways they have given third parties veto power over auctions (e.g. try selling a copy MS windows on ebay and watch the auction be disappeared because MS thinks all copies of windows sold by individuals are pirated and ebay just lets them cancel auctions independently) its basically a case of ebay getting hoisted by their own petard (live by arbitrary and unfriendly contracts, die by arbitrary and unfriendly contracts).

  • Re:Basically (Score:3, Interesting)

    by digitalunity ( 19107 ) <digitalunity&yahoo,com> on Friday September 18, 2009 @07:18PM (#29472675) Homepage

    If Skype did this to anyone other than EBay, I would be kind of pissed. EBay has engaged in a lot of really anti-user policies of late, mostly because they (legally) garnered a monopoly in the online auction world. A lot has changed though over the last 10 years though and EBay doesn't have the same power they did in 2000.

    Regardless, yeah it's pretty shifty what Skype did. I bet in talks they TOLD eBay they were buying everything, but held back copyrights and the eBay lawyers skimmed over it. Nobody would pay what eBay paid unless they really were, or thought they were buying everything, including copyrights.

    It's kind of like the reverse of SCO claiming they bought everything, including copyrights from Novell for a pittance, when just years earlier Novell paid billions for it. SCO knew at the time they were paying pennies for it because they weren't getting copyrights.

"Turn on, tune up, rock out." -- Billy Gibbons