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GNU is Not Unix Software Linux

First US GPL Lawsuit Heads For Quick Settlement 196

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the owning-up-shows-character dept.
DeviceGuru writes to tell us that the first lawsuit centered around the GPL seems to have been quickly resolved outside of the courtroom. Monsoon Multimedia was quick to admit that they had violated the GPLv2 in their modified BusyBox code and will soon be releasing the source to come into full compliance with the license.
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First US GPL Lawsuit Heads For Quick Settlement

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  • Aha! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:08PM (#20735557)
    1. Violate GPL
    2. Get sued and get massive publicity for your little device that's actually kinda cool, then settle
    3. Profit!
  • by he1icine (512651) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:08PM (#20735571)
    While it would have been better had they not violated the GPL in the first place, but it is nice to see that Monsoon is able to admit their mistake and release the code according to the license. Too bad most companies are happy to fight it out in the courtrooms forever, or pay people off, than to stand up and admit when they were wrong.
    • by snowgirl (978879) * on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:18PM (#20735683) Journal
      The interesting thing is that once they start talking to lawyers, I think they are informed of just how screwed they are.

      I mean, if they defeat the GPL, then they couldn't use the software in the first place, if they defend the GPL, then they need to conform to it.

      Either way, the whole GPL suits are so full of pitfalls and dangers to those abusing the code that they really don't have a chance, and any good lawyer should be telling them that.

      There was another suit awhile ago with CherryOS vs PearPC, that looked to be pretty hefty, but before anything could be done, they dumped the product entirely. Sometimes, if something isn't worth that much... it's just not worth keeping around.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by QuantumG (50515)

        I mean, if they defeat the GPL, then they couldn't use the software in the first place, if they defend the GPL, then they need to conform to it.

        That's a false dichotomy. There's a remote possibility that a judge could rule that the use of GPL on BusyBox is "copyright abuse" and the developers could lose their copyright. Or the judge might rule that certain actions that were thought to be insufficient to be in compliance with the GPL are actually sufficient. For example, the judge could rule that "the source code being available" is sufficient and it doesn't matter where the source code is available. Or that only a "majority" of the source code

        • by Stephen Ma (163056) on Monday September 24, 2007 @07:34PM (#20737027)
          The idea that we know what would happen in a US court should the GPL ever be tested is wishful thinking.

          OK, let Microsoft challenge the GPL in court then. They haven't dared to try it, even though all indications are that they really, really hate it. They have a history of going for what they want, dishonestly or honestly, if they think they can get away with it. But they have left the GPL strictly unmolested, and that is pretty strong evidence that even Microsoft feel intimidated by the strength of the license.

          • by QuantumG (50515)
            Yeah, because if there's one thing Microsoft is all about, it's the fair fight.

            </sarcasm>
          • To respond to you and parent, keep in mind that the court of public opinion is very strong. Even if there is some wild technicality that MS can use to challenge a license, e.g., their covenant-not-to-sue through Novell, MS has to respect the GPL, even if they don't like it.
            The real public opinion of MS is expressed in the continued popularity of XP. Vista was their last gasp^Wrelease. Now, do they go 'nucular' on the GPL, a la their SCO meat-puppet, and try some courtroom shenanigans?
            I suppose if one o
            • To respond to you and parent, keep in mind that the court of public opinion is very strong.

              Most people barely understand who Microsoft is, or what an operating system is anyway. Even less are familiar with Microsoft's past actions. The Microsoft name is mud in a majority of tech circles but it is important to note that such circles are an absolute minority of the population. Basically: Not many people know, care, or know why they should care.

              If you asked two dozen random people (ie. not techie friends) who
            • by snowgirl (978879) *

              Now, do they go 'nucular' on the GPL, a la their SCO meat-puppet, and try some courtroom shenanigans?


              That's the first time I've ever seen it spelt how Americans actually say it.
            • by sumdumass (711423)

              Now, do they go 'nucular' on the GPL, a la their SCO meat-puppet, and try some courtroom shenanigans?

              I don't think they would have to even touch a court room. If they really had a stiffy for the GPL, they would just wait until the GPLv3 became standard, specifically with Samba using it along with enough code updates to make it a major pain in the ass to back port to a different license, Then release some sort of discriminatory patent license as defined by the GPLv3 with every product they sell while rese

              • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @06:44AM (#20741091) Homepage Journal

                I suspect Samba to be hit or at least a target. It is a key part of replacing a lot of windows servers.
                You touch the money nerve here.
                When you touch that nerve, an awful lot of people become highly interested.
                MS would have to tread very, very carefully to make an attack on GPLv3 and not face ridiculous blowback in the form of anti-trust proceedings.
                The outcome would be far from certain, and I don't think big money moves in uncertain waters.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by yuna49 (905461)
            OK, let Microsoft challenge the GPL in court then. They haven't dared to try it, even though all indications are that they really, really hate it.

            I'm not convinced that Microsoft "hates" the GPL. It would certainly hate for the GPL to be applied to some component of a Microsoft product, but overall continued uncertainty about the legal status of the GPL benefits Microsoft.

            Most of Microsoft's anti-GPL rhetoric is really aimed at enterprise customers considering migrating servers from Windows to Linux. The
            • by Stephen Ma (163056) on Monday September 24, 2007 @08:44PM (#20737463)
              People don't advance to positions of power in corporate establishments by being risk-acceptant. So long as a GPL sword hangs over the heads of CIOs, they often going to choose the reliable, commercial solution

              However, corporate executives are always interested in saving money, and they will stretch pretty far in order to do it. Linux and the GPL have the reassuring presence of IBM and HP behind them, and that is usually good enough for even the most timid exec. This is why Linux has been growing by leaps and bounds the last few years.

            • by mpe (36238)
              People don't advance to positions of power in corporate establishments by being risk-acceptant. So long as a GPL sword hangs over the heads of CIOs, they often going to choose the reliable, commercial solution (read "Windows") rather than worry about who owns the rights to every little piece of GPL-licensed software.

              It's risk perception rather than actual risk.

              Even if Microsoft is found to be an infringer, as in the Eolas case, it has the resources to protect its end-users from any potential risks or lo
        • by Aim Here (765712)
          "There's a remote possibility that a judge could rule that the use of GPL on BusyBox is "copyright abuse" and the developers could lose their copyright."

          Lose their rights to enforce the copyright until the misuse is resolved, you mean. In any case, it doesn't apply here. The copyright misuse defence theory of GPL infringement is that it relies on the copyright holder overstretching the definition of 'derivative work' beyond what copyright law allows. MyHava were being growled at over unmodified copies of bu
      • by mpe (36238)
        I mean, if they defeat the GPL, then they couldn't use the software in the first place,

        It would be rather hard to attack the GPL without also attacking all similar licencing. Which would create a lot of "interested parties", e.g. any publisher who subcontracts their production.
    • IANAL, but wouldn't it have been better if a judge actually ruled against them (Monsoon), setting a precedent to be used in future GPL violation cases?
      • by cromar (1103585)
        Yes, there is no precedent if the judge does not rule on the case.
        • by mordors9 (665662)
          Even then, there would be a some meaning for precedence sake but not much. To have significant meaning they would need to appeal the decision to an appellate court for review and lose there also. Then you would have precedent that would have meaning within that appellate court's jurisdiction and may even be referred to by other appellate courts when they would consider the matter.
          • What about hacking the legal system in order to establish precedence? Let's say I want to establish a precedence in a particular type of issue. I higher someone to let me sue them, and have them present a very week defense (so week that the judge would have to rule in my favor). Then go through the same fake process during appeal. Since I'm controlling the lawyers on both sides, I can almost guarantee a victory for the side I want to win, and with an actuall judgement we have a precedence.
            Of course if t
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Artifakt (700173)
              (I won't be a Spelling Nazi)
              (I won't be a Spelling Nazi)
              (I won't be a Spelling Nazi)...

              I'm not a lawyer - this is a layman's comment, reflecting only a layman's understanding, so of course utterly worthless. Still, I had fun writing it.

              No, it won't stand up (much).
              A precedent isn't an automatic win for subsequent cases. If a precedent appears to have technical flaws, people opposed to it will normally ask a higher court to overturn it. In some cases, all this takes is legal status as a
      • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:26PM (#20735791) Homepage
        IANAL, but wouldn't it have been better if a judge actually ruled against them (Monsoon), setting a precedent to be used in future GPL violation cases?

        Better for whom? The attorneys in the case represent their respective clients, not the public interest at large. If they see a way to get a good result for their clients, they are ethically obligated to pursue it, even if in the long run someone else down the road has a harder time of it.
        • by torstenvl (769732)
          My hat goes off to you, sir, for Getting It (tm). Are you a lawyer/law student? I'm tired of people who rattle on and on about the law and deliberately spread misinformation (and moderate down correct information). Thank you for pointing out the ethical obligations of the legal profession.

          On the other hand, I think that it would be in the client's best interest - if that client is responsible for a lot of GPL software - to set a precedent. It takes a larger up-front effort, but further actions that disposit
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nomadic (141991)
            My hat goes off to you, sir, for Getting It (tm). Are you a lawyer/law student? I'm tired of people who rattle on and on about the law and deliberately spread misinformation (and moderate down correct information). Thank you for pointing out the ethical obligations of the legal profession.

            Thanks, I'm a lawyer. I think what a lot of people here also might miss is that even if they pursued it to a victory in court, that might not really create anything of real precedential value. If the case is routine e
      • "it have been better if a judge actually ruled against them (Monsoon), setting a precedent to be used in future GPL violation cases?"

        Well, I'd say it's only liminary better than current situation. After all, a precedent is the opinion of one judge impressing the opinion of another judge. Current situation is that of a lawyer (the one that settled outcourts) and it will reasonably impress future lawyers in simmilar situations. So while they don't have a precedent, they already have a "precedent".
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Myopic (18616)
      This was billed as the "first American GPL lawsuit". So... what companies are you referring to?
      • by QuantumG (50515)
        I don't really get that whole "First US GPL Lawsuit" thing.. I mean, wasn't Progress Software vs MySQL AB in the US?

    • by bl8n8r (649187)
      > forever, or pay people off, than to stand up and admit when they were wrong.

      Oh c'mon, who the *cough*sco*cough* heck would *cough*Microsoft*cough* ever do something like that? You're being paranoid and trollish. Are you one of those GNU shills?
    • Why are you giving them so much credit? They basically told everyone to pound sand until the lawyers were whipped out, and then only backed down because they were outgunned.

      That tells me they are a scumbag company ran by scumbags. Instead of doing what is right and working with everyone, they were selfish and scummy and forced everyone involved to go to court.
    • by JimDaGeek (983925) on Monday September 24, 2007 @08:39PM (#20737459)
      Do you work for this company?

      If you read TFA, Monsoon didn't do Sh!t until lawyers got involved. The developers of BusyBox tried to settle things "under the radar". If Monsoon was a company with any morals, they would have corrected their mistake(s) then. However, they did not. It wasn't until a lawsuit came and bad press came that they did what they should have done from the get-go.

      So no, it is not "nice to see that Monsoon is able to admit" anything. They basically said F-U until legal measures were taken. If BusyBox didn't have the ability to get support in fighting this, Monsoon would still be violating the GPL and saying F-U to the developers.

      There is nothing "insightful" about the GP (I don't mean that to offend you GP). This sounds like typical corporate crap. Monsoon continued in their infringement after being notified. Monsoon did nothing until legal matters were taken. Now Monsoon is all like "we 'intended' to comply and we will comply". BS.
    • The FSF has resolved a lot of similar cases without going to court. After the situation is explained to them, all the companies up until now has accepted to either withdraw the infringing code, or release it under the terms of the GPL.

      Either Monsoon Multimedia is more stubborn than most, or the BusyBox developers lack the finesse of the FSF.
  • by User 956 (568564) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:11PM (#20735607) Homepage
    Monsoon Multimedia was quick to admit that they had violated the GPLv2 in their modified BusyBox code and will soon be releasing the source to come into full compliance with the license.

    I hate to sound like a pessimist, but this sounds like nothing but a win for Monsoon. Number one, there's no mention of any cash payout, and number two, they get a shit-ton of free advertising for doing the "right thing".
    • by Erris (531066) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:28PM (#20735809) Homepage Journal

      this sounds like nothing but a win for Monsoon. ... there's no mention of any cash payout, and number two, they get a shit-ton of free advertising

      It's another win for software freedom. We get their changes or they get hammered. The thing being advertised is that free software can be and is used for business. No one had to waste money on lawyers and everyone is happy.

      For their reputation, it's a wash. Monsoon's reputation has been damaged by their original behavior but the settlement goes a long way to repairing that. The reputation enhancement they get from using free software is well deserved because free software has a well earned reputation for quality.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kripkenstein (913150)

        >>this sounds like nothing but a win for Monsoon

        It's another win for software freedom.

        Both, I think. When FOSS software is used according to the licenses, it is a win for all parties involved.

        The only possible losers are those with competing proprietary software.
    • by QuantumG (50515)
      They're good GPL soldiers, they're not interested in money. Asking for damages in the complaint is just a stick. Dropping the complaint if Monsoon comes into compliance is the carrot.
    • by Daimanta (1140543) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:45PM (#20736031) Journal

      Number one, there's no mention of any cash payout
      Why do there always have to be (punitive) damages paid? They lost and they will now comply. FOSS has won. No revenge. Case closed.
      • Why do there always have to be (punitive) damages paid?

        I've got one concern with no financial penalty, and I admit it's minor. It encourages companies to think, "Hey, let's start with GPL'd software and if we get caught, we'll wait until someone sues us and settle."

        On the flip side, other companies see how the FOSS community treats violators and contrasts that with Microsoft and the BSA.

        Microsoft - Product activation, DRM, byzantine license requirements, and CALS.

        BSA - Audits, lawsuits, big public

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Lord Kano (13027)
        Why do there always have to be (punitive) damages paid? They lost and they will now comply. FOSS has won. No revenge. Case closed.

        Because it provides people with a reason to do the right thing.

        It's like this, if you break the rules either you get away with it or you get caught and have to comply with no additional penalty.

        If you know that getting caught doing the wrong thing will cost you more than just doing the right thing in the first place, you have an incentive to stay above board.

        LK
    • by kebes (861706) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:49PM (#20736085) Journal

      Number one, there's no mention of any cash payout
      In various talks I've heard, Eben Moglen (legal counsel for the FSF) repeatedly states that it should be the policy of the free software community to give ample opportunities for infringers to "do the right thing."

      He emphasizes that the objective is for the software to end up free, not to extract revenge, or get extra money. As such, the message we must send is "do the right thing," and not "pay for your crime." He says that this strategy has worked remarkably well: most GPL infringements never make it anywhere near a courtroom: a couple of friendly phone calls and the situation is resolved.

      Frankly I think this "don't be a jerk" tactic is something we should encourage everywhere, not just in the FOSS community. In any case, the somewhat more even-handed approach to infringements helps to not scare away potential users of GPL software and code (e.g. corporations). The message they get is: "play by the rules... but if you make a mistake, don't worry: we'll send you a friendly reminder before taking any harsh action."
    • by Quarters (18322)
      Getting a post on Slashdot and some other tech-sites doesn't = a "shit ton" of free advertising. Ask anyone watching an NBC season premiere tonight who "Monsoon Multimedia" is and you'll, more often than not, just a blank stare in return.
    • by dbIII (701233)

      I hate to sound like a pessimist, but this sounds like nothing but a win for Monsoon

      Yes. It's better to think of the law as a method of getting people to do the right thing instead of being some tool of vengence.

    • by armb (5151)
      > they get a shit-ton of free advertising for doing the "right thing".

      Doing the right thing only once they were threatened with a lawsuit isn't entirely positive advertising. If it encourages other comapnies to do the right thing from the start, it's a win for BusyBox (and GPL software generally) too.
  • Precedence (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ricebowl (999467)

    While it's good that Monsoon's finally agreed to uphold the GPL agreement I was rather hoping that they'd hold out, if only to establish precedent for future actions.

    Still, there's a chance that other companies approached by the SFLC [softwarefreedom.org] will look to this act before deciding to refuse to comply with the GPL they're trading under.

    Hopefully...

    • Re:Precedence (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:36PM (#20735933) Homepage
      While it's good that Monsoon's finally agreed to uphold the GPL agreement I was rather hoping that they'd hold out, if only to establish precedent for future actions.

      I guess. Is a precedent really necessary? I mean the "GPL hasn't been tested in court -- it might be an invalid license!" makes for great anti-GPL FUD, but when you get down to it there is no reason to believe the GPL would be invalid. There are thousands of licenses out there that have never been tried in court, and with most of them there would be no point.

      This may be the first GPL lawsuit, but it is hardly the first GPL-related incident with lawyers involved. The fact is that most companies cave immediately when faced with the facts of their GPL violations. Before now nobody has even wanted it to get to the point of a lawsuit being filed, much less letting the facts be tried by a jury. I think it's safe to say that most of these companies' legal departments regard the GPL as a sound license, and getting it ruled invalid as unlikely (and detrimental, since without the GPL they would have no license to use the code at all).

      The closest we've come to a company actually fighting the GPL in a court of law was SCO who claimed it was unconstitutional of all things. Nobody else seems to be crazy enough to want to fight the GPL at all.

      So a precedent would be nice simply for being able to say "the GPL has been tested in court and was ruled to be a valid license" to silence the FUDmeisters, but practically speaking it's not necessary to protect GPLed code.
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:14PM (#20735643) Homepage Journal
    They did not win on technical grounds, and any sane (or insane) lawyer would have done the same.
    They backed down once they found out RMS might be called to testify.

    In reality, this means that there is still no precedent for the GPL in court which is a shame.
    • Re:Bargaining chip (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kebes (861706) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:43PM (#20736003) Journal
      On the other hand, the fact that no GPL dispute has ever gone to court says something very powerful: It says that no company who has ever been discovered to be violating the GPL honestly thought that they could win in court.

      So, the (unofficial) conclusion from a wide variety of lawyers working for different, unrelated, companies is: "Don't go to court against the GPL." It's not a legally-binding test, but it sends a clear message to other would-be infringers.
      • by Splab (574204)
        I bet RIAA would love to be able to use that as an argument...
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        The great thing about going to court is that there would be a verifiable record. If something like a GPL suit never makes it to the courts, then where would a company who might be infringing or in violation of the terms find this powerful information from. Surely the biased sites like the FSF or whoever is filing the complaint would have information about how strong his grounds are, but you would expect them to make an appearance of strong grounds. They might be omitting anything that could make their case
  • Precedent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cromar (1103585) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:16PM (#20735667)
    It is too bad, in some ways, that it didn't go to court. Personally, I will sleep much more soundly when there is a precedent set which upholds the GPL as legally valid.
    • Re:Precedent (Score:4, Insightful)

      by codepunk (167897) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:28PM (#20735815)
      I would not loose a whole lot of sleep over it, the GPL may never be tested in court. When faced with
      a violation the offending party is not going to be stupid enough to go to court over it. If you loose the case you get smoked for copyright infingement, if you win you still cannot distribute the compiled code since the GPL is the only thing allowing distribution.

      Only a fool would take his chances with such odds.
      • by maxume (22995) on Monday September 24, 2007 @06:36PM (#20736551)
        Only the sandman can loose sleep. Other creatures occasionally lose it though.
      • Only a fool would take his chances with such odds.
        We actually had a fool all lined up to take his chances, but he cleverly arranged to duck out at the last minute [groklaw.net]. The case is merely stayed [groklaw.net], though, so we might see some precedents further on down the road.
    • Re:Precedent (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vondo (303621) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:44PM (#20736025)
      As the other commenters have alluded to, businesses go to court with other businesses all the time over these types of issues. The fact that no company, to date, has been willing to take on a bunch of long haired hippies with scant resources over their commie license would suggest that either the terms of the license are benign to them or they know they don't have a leg to stand on. Also, there have been a few companies that have gotten to the stage Monsoon has and they've folded their hand when lawyers get involved. That says something.
  • by heff66 (561254) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:20PM (#20735717) Homepage
    You can't center "around" something. You can revolve around something or you can center ON something. But you can't center around. Doesn't even make sense and it's on two front-page Slashdot articles.
  • They should have given it more time to begin with. The GPL folks themselves had argued that one warning and - wham - suing wasn't a good way to deal with these issues.

    Since the GPL is pretty straightforward and based on the same principles as 'normal' copyright, companies really don't make much of a chance, and they know it. A little bit of pressure, and even the obnoxious ones cave in rather soon, *without* having to go to court.

    As long as violations can be solved this way, there really isn't a need to go
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:50PM (#20736097)
      It has an extreme likelihood of being legally sound and valid, and companies (and everyone else, really) know that - that's why they settle so fast in the first place.

      Let's not forget that GPL settlements are usually much nicer than 'normal' copyright settlements.

      Example: Violate Microsoft's copyright on some code, bundle it up in an executable, and start distributing it (heaven help you if you actually sell it). Think the settlement that Microsoft will offer you will be anywhere near as amicable as "Share your changes back to the rest of us." ?? Not on your life.

      The fact that the GPL hasn't needed a legal confirmation gives testament to its simplicity and strength. These waters are filled with some *very* dangerous sharks that have had plenty of time to attack. It seems our shark cage is made of some pretty stern stuff.
  • by tygt (792974) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:43PM (#20736015)
    Ok I really don't know anything about this, but... what if Monsoon is actually on the tux side and wanted to provide an opportunity for a court case which they were already planning on caving on, just so that others would think "well you *can* get sued and those guys caved".

    I know, far fetched. But still, I love a good conspiracy theory.

  • NO IT DOESNT (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:47PM (#20736059)
    THE FIRST US GPL CASE TOOK TWO YEARS TO SETTLE

    http://www.groklaw.net/articlebasic.php?story=20050225223848129 [groklaw.net]
  • by vertinox (846076) on Monday September 24, 2007 @05:50PM (#20736091)
    A.) Hire a lawyer and fight a court case you may or may not loose.

    or

    B.) Just release the source which costs you nothing
    • Actually, choice A is more like "Hire a lawyer and fight a court case you will probably lose". To get a call from the FSF lawyers likely means the code is truly licensed under the GPL. Lawyers realize that if they are not abiding by the scope of the GPL, they have no right to use the code at all. Copyright infringement is ridiculously costly.

      I have to applaud the FSF lawyers, who are giving big businesses a second chance to do the right thing without any monetary penalty. It is something that other area
    • Hire a lawyer and fight a court case you may or may not loose.

      Rotsky!

      Sorry. Wrong site.

  • It could be viewed that failing to follow the GPL is not a copyright violation, but a contractual violation.

    That changes the game. That was a concern for the artistic license [slashdot.org] not too long ago.

    It could happen. I hope not, but it could.
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      I'm not a lawyer, but I have failed to see how that's a bad thing. If they violate the contract, you sue them under contract law. If that doesn't work, THEN you go after them for the copyrights they broke. Either they are in a contract with you, or they aren't. If the court rules they aren't (because they've broken it) then copyright laws still exist, and both parties must follow them.
      • by h2oliu (38090)
        An additional poster commented as well, pointing to a wiki article.

        IANAL either. To me it is kind of like the DMCA, for good guys. The more it is defined by the courts, the less options that we will have.

        I just don't have a lot of faith in our legal system.
        • by Aladrin (926209)
          That's... Horrid logic. It basically says 'Until it's proven, anything is possible. The more we prove it, the worse off we are.' ... No, the more we prove it, the more we know exactly what our rights are, and the less money we spend trying to figure that out. I'd much rather know exactly what the GPL means in a court of law than not if someone was infringing on my rights.
      • The difference between contract and license: A license allows one to do something that otherwise would be illegal, such as drive, perform brain surgery, distribute someone else's copyrighted work. In both contracts and licenses, considerations may change hands - such as money. But a contract can NEVER make an illegal act legal unless license rights are part of the considerations changing hands. (See SCO v. World)
        Contracts also must be agreed to by all parties. GPL is a license because I can release my
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Verte (1053342)
      If you violate the contract, you don't have the right to distribute, and therefore, any distribution is copyright infringement.
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        You actually have to inform them they are in violation of the contract and their rights to distribute are taken away. Outside that, your on the money.

        When most people break a contract, they do so unknowingly or in a way that would make them appear to be ignorant of the fact. In that case, they wouldn't know they didn't have a right to distribute the copyright protected works.

        And there are some other snags in the picture, Are they agreeing to the license each and every time they are distributing, or are they
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Monday September 24, 2007 @06:09PM (#20736313) Homepage Journal
    Here's the situation. A startup company took a GPL licensed program, made modifications to it and dynamically linked to a proprietary third party VOIP library. Initially they weren't going to release any of their modifications, but after being contacted by the developer they tried to come into compliance. However, the use of the proprietary VOIP library is not compatible with the GPL as they are unable to provide source code for it.

    The startup company was the first to sick the lawyers on, but the developer has fought back better. For a while it looked like there was going to be a default judgment in the developer's favor but now it looks like it is going to court.

    See http://www.jinchess.com/ichessu/ [jinchess.com] for more details.

  • by EEPROMS (889169) on Monday September 24, 2007 @06:16PM (#20736359)
    The reason why no sane company will challenge the GPL is very simple, even if you win you lose. As soon as you have removed the GPL hurdle you then have the nightmare of copyright law to face. The GPL does not remove copyright its a usage agreement, so if the "agreement " is annulled in court then the code falls under well tested copyright law and thats even worse to deal with.
    • by drfireman (101623)
      When people express concern that the GPL may or may not be "upheld," I don't think they're really worried (or should be) that the GPL will be found to be null in the sense you're describing. The GPL conditionally grants certain rights that would otherwise be reserved for the copyright holder, and there's a valid concern that through some mechanism as yet unidentified, someone will claim to have been granted those rights without having agreed to the conditions in the way we all understand them. At this poi
    • by Kjella (173770)
      I've never been afraid of the GPL being invalidated, neither should anyone else. Without the GPL all the software would fall back to the default under copyright law, which doesn't let you distribute or reproduce at all (beyond fair use). What I've always been afraid of, and that I still don't feel 100% comfortable with, is that someone would claim technical compliance. There's a great number of ways beyond linking like sockets, pipes, dlls, plug-ins, bytecode, calling scripts, command-line passing etc. that
      • What makes something a derivative work, in terms of compiled software code, therefore requiring the the derivative work be required to be licensed under the GPL or even belong to the original copyright owner.

        It seems unlikely that a Court would see program Foo available under the GPL, and rule that the GPL is somehow unfair and shouldn't be enforceable. But what would a court rule? What about derivative works.

        For example, if I take Application Foo, modify it to be a library that is called by my Applicatio
  • I wonder how much money changed hands in this settlement? It's not that protecting free software is free as in beer.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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