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GNU is Not Unix The Courts Your Rights Online

GPL Wins In French Court Case 266

viralMeme writes "An appeals court in Paris has upheld the ruling from a lower court, which found that the French firm Edu4 had violated the GNU General Public License (GPL). The plaintiff was the French Organisation Association francaise pour la Formation Professionnelle des Adultes (AFPA), an umbrella organization for adult education." The basic charge was the removal of copyrights and such from VNC source code, and not distributing it.
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GPL Wins In French Court Case

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  • Use public domain! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 24, 2009 @09:48AM (#29528065)
    Anyone releasing code to the masses should make it public domain to remove any legal controversies that may arise over it.

    Information wants to be free!
  • Sacre bleu! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Thursday September 24, 2009 @09:49AM (#29528071)

    Zis is good step for all of us, mon ami. Ze GPL needs testing so badly. Zus far it has only been tested in ze legal depart'ments of business, and not in ze legal courts.

    Pardon my French, but fuckez yeah!

  • by Seth Kriticos ( 1227934 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:06AM (#29528285)

    People should be able to release code they wrote with whatever conditions they like. And hey, it's the case (for once something positive).

    There is a reason why GPL is so successful and there is so little Public Domain code. The GPL isn't terribly difficult to understand, as it simply says: sure, take this code for free, improve it, but the price is that you redistribute your changes with the same conditions.

    If you don't like this kind of license, then simply don't use GPL'd code. Use something like BSD licensed code, like Apple did with OS X.

    This is not rocket science.

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:10AM (#29528327) Homepage Journal

    I'm not sure THAT's a great idea. Convince me, please. Are you sure that public domain has any force or power to ensure that it is NOT abused? GPL at least has teeth to bite it's abusers.

  • Re:Stupid GPL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ash-Fox ( 726320 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:17AM (#29528401) Journal

    Yeah, I'll probably be rated flamebait for saying that, but for me as a shareware author the GPL is reason enough not to use GPL-licenced code.

    That is absolutely fine with the people who release their code under GPL. They want it in GPL applications, not Shareware.

    Feel free to release your own Shareware compatible libraries.

    I know the GPL people strongly/violently disagree.

    Their goals are different from yours.

  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by noundi ( 1044080 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:18AM (#29528413)

    No, not to all, only to their clients.

    Not according to the GPL. If you distribute GPL software to anyone, then you must extend the offer of source code to all third parties.

    Wrong. Look people it's fucking simple, if you distribute GPL, you bring along the source. You have no obligation to distribute it to anybody else than those you distributed the software to. Meaning if A buys software from B, B must give source to A, C has no way of demanding the source from either. How is this difficult?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:19AM (#29528437)

    BSD is how a license should be. I'm not talking about granted rights but how it's written. The BSD is short, concise and everybody can understand it. The GPL is the sort of bloated legalese mumbojumbo that makes you think "Oh, screw this!".

    The GPL is difficult to understand, which is documented by the massive amount of posts, threads and questions on what is and what is not allowed. All these posts always end with "I'm just guessing, get a lawyer". It's definitely not easy to understand if you need a lawyer to explain it to you and help you decide if it MIGHT be ok to do what you want to.

  • Re:Sacre bleu! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:20AM (#29528449) Homepage

    Ze GPL needs testing so badly. Zus far it has only been tested in ze legal depart'ments of business, and not in ze legal courts.

    That first sentence is not really true, and not only because the second sentence is also untrue. The GPL may not have been tested extensively, but it has been tried in courts around the globe. But since there really isn't any reason no think that it would be ruled invalid, that testing isn't necessary. There's a reason it's been tested so few times -- all those legal departments, all those lawyers of various degrees of sleaziness, can find no basis on which to challenge it which they think would pass the judicial smell test. Even though they and their clients would have every reason to trump something up. The few that have tried to challenge the validity of the license have failed spectacularly.

    That is, as the French say, "Le hint".

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gudeldar ( 705128 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:24AM (#29528511)
    Presumably they are only going to distribute the binaries (and therefore the source) to their clients. There is nothing stopping the clients from then giving the source code away for free but unless one of them does then the only way to get it is to buy their product.
  • Re:Why? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:31AM (#29528605)

    No it doesn't. The GPL says if you provide a binary to someone you must offer them a way to get the source code, and if they redistribute the binary to someone else you must also honor your offer of source code to that third party (ad infinitum). If someone doesn't have your binary, they don't have any claim to your code.

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:39AM (#29528701) Homepage

    The GPL intentionally does not impose the burden for modifiers to positively disseminate their "Corresponding Source" to anyone other than those to whom they have already incurred the burden of distributing the binaries.

    GPLv2 section 3b. If you don't convey the source directly with the object code, you must convey a written offer valid for any third party to send them the source code upon request.

    I had forgotten that this was an "or" clause, but it is in the GPL, so maybe you should read it too?

    And this isn't FUD for anyone who wasn't already terrified of the GPL. Why is conveying a link to a website with the source such an onerous burden? Especially when that link can simply be to whatever CVS repository the open source project normally works from, assuming you committed your changes to it? Seriously.

  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AlecC ( 512609 ) <> on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:53AM (#29528897)

    Not sure I understand you. The Adult Education organisation was the plaintiff, the winner, in this case, complaining that the IT company they hired to set something up for them, used and modified GPL code (VNC) but did not, as required by the GPL, give them the modified sources. Presumably, the IT company was wanting to keep the AE organisation beholden to them for maintenance rather than, as the GPL hopes, being able to do it themselves or find someone else to do it if the wanted to. I.e. the GPL wanted to help the organisation you support, and the courts have just backed it up.

  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @11:27AM (#29529287) Journal

    They are all for profit institutions. The only difference is in who makes the profit- investors verses employees. Just because the state funds one of them shouldn't change the reality of what is happening. I know of teachers making over 100k a year teaching grade school and only working 9 months of the year. They will get another 7% increase within the next year because of a contract they negotiated while on strike.

  • by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @11:34AM (#29529373)

    "Any sane legal system should let ANYBODY sue over ANY illegal thing"

    Say what?

    First let's put this in context: people sue over civil matters - not criminal ones. Indeed the case in question - a GPL violation - is a civil matter. So what you're saying is "if I do something that makes me liable to Bob, Jim should be able to sue me".

    What if Bob and I are perfectly happy to resolve the matter out of court? Why, then, would it be any of Jim's business? The civil courts are there as one means of conflict resolution - and most reasonable people consider them a last resort. If you're not part of the dispute, you don't get to decide what method should be used to resolve it.

    Again, if we were talking about a criminal offense, that's completely different. It would be considered the business of everyone in the society - which is why neitehr Bob nor Jim sue in that case, but rather the state brings charges (potentially even if Bob would rather they didn't).

  • Re:Mixed Feelings. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ratboy666 ( 104074 ) <fred_weigel AT hotmail DOT com> on Thursday September 24, 2009 @12:58PM (#29530459) Journal

    Have you actually READ the EULA for Microsoft products? Protected? From what?

    Or, pick another EULA for a closed source product. Let use Adobe, shall we?

    "Stock Files may not be used in the production of libelous, defamatory, fraudulent, lewd, obscene or pornographic material..."

    WTF does the actually mean? Isn't it completely dependent on the actual jurisdiction?

    The GPL is simple. You DO NOT HAVE TO AGREE TO IT. You may use the software anyway. The ONLY time it comes into play is if you decide to distribute the software. Which is something you CANNOT do under these "closed source licenses" or under Copyright.

    Just follow Copyright, and the GPL doesn't come into play at all! The GPL is a grant of additional rights, beyond Copyright. Do you want to use "Stock Files" to produce a picture of a woman showing her face (considered obscene in parts of the World)? Go ahead -- you won't need a lawyer. No usage constraints are imposed. No auditing constraints are imposed (you can tell the BSA to pound sand).

    In other words, as a user of software, the GPL is completely reasonable -- use it for anything you want, on as many machines as you want, with no further issues. If you want to use GPL software in your own projects, go ahead, there are no further issues. If you want to give the software to other people, go ahead -- just point them to the place you got it from (or, if you are "sophisticated", give them the source).

    That's it.

    Anything else only kicks in if you want to distribute, or use GPL software in your own projects that you will distribute. But then, you are at the level of developer or systems integrator; not so much an "end user" anymore. In this position it would be sensible to actually READ the EULAs and GPL!

  • Re:Mixed Feelings. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PeterBrett ( 780946 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @01:48PM (#29531065) Homepage

    However it will also make people feel worried about using GPL software, and possibly being suied from honest mistakes.

    Let me describe the typical GPL "enforcement" process (well documented: c.f. Linksys, BusyBox, lots of other examples):

    1. User: "Oooh, your product which I just bought uses some GPL software. Can I get the source code, please?"
    2. (Three months later) "You haven't replied to me... please can I get the source code?"
    3. (Another month passes) "You have read the license, right? It says you have to give me the source code!"
    4. (Another month passes) "(To developer) Hey, these guys are using your software but won't pass on the source code."
    5. Developer: "Oi, you're using my software, and this dude says you won't give him the source code. What gives?"
    6. (Another three months pass) "Look here, you comply with the terms of the license, or I'll send you a nasty letter."
    7. (Another month passes) "Here is a nasty letter, detailing what you're doing wrong and how to fix it!"
    8. (Another month passes) "This is your last chance, we mean it!"
    9. (Another month passes) "See you in court, assholes!"

    The aim of the GPL enforcement process isn't to slap the violators down, it's to encourage them to come into compliance. Going to court is a last resort, if every other measure fails. If it's just that you've made an honest mistake, the people who are complaining will be very happy to give you the help you need to fix the problem, and to direct you to experienced sources of reliable legal advice on GPL compliance.

    If you say, "People won't use GPL software in their products because they're afraid of the legal ramifications," you are doing nothing but spreading FUD.

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta