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The Courts Linux

Friendlier GPL-Enforcement Permission Proposed By Linux Kernel Developers (kroah.com) 94

The former Executive Director of the Free Software Foundation -- and Slashdot user #41121 -- contacted Slashdot with this announcement. bkuhn -- now president of the Software Freedom Conservancy -- writes: Software Freedom Conservancy, home of the GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers, publicly applauded today the proposal of the Linux Kernel Enforcement Statement, which adds a per-copyright-holder-opt-in additional permission to the termination provisions of Linux's GPLv2-only license.
It apparently addresses a developer who "made claims based on ambiguities in the GPL-2.0 that no one in our community has ever considered part of compliance," according to a statement from some of the kernel developers who drafted the statement. While the kernel community has always supported enforcement efforts to bring companies into compliance, we have never even considered enforcement for the purpose of extracting monetary gain... [W]e are aware of activity that has resulted in payments of at least a few million Euros. We are also aware that these actions, which have continued for at least four years, have threatened the confidence in our ecosystem. Because of this, and to help clarify what the majority of Linux kernel community members feel is the correct way to enforce our license, the Technical Advisory Board of the Linux Foundation has worked together with lawyers in our community, individual developers, and many companies that participate in the development of, and rely on Linux, to draft a Kernel Enforcement Statement to help address both this specific issue we are facing today, and to help prevent any future issues like this from happening again. It adopts the same termination provisions we are all familiar with from GPL-3.0 as an Additional Permission giving companies confidence that they will have time to come into compliance if a failure is identified.
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Friendlier GPL-Enforcement Permission Proposed By Linux Kernel Developers

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  • Monetary gain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday October 21, 2017 @09:58AM (#55409359)

    Fines and penalties aren't always about pure monetary gain. They are a means of punishment for wrongdoing and a way to dissuade others from engaging in the same behavior. Absent payment as a penalty, I suppose we could take the board of directors of a company found in violation of the GPL and have them shot.

    • Indeed, enforcement is too cheap if it's only a cost of doing business the next time around.

    • Fines and penalties aren't always about pure monetary gain. They are a means of punishment for wrongdoing and a way to dissuade others from engaging in the same behavior. Absent payment as a penalty, I suppose we could take the board of directors of a company found in violation of the GPL and have them shot.

      Agreed. And in some of the cases the offender needs to be taught a lesson as they were flagrantly disregarding the GPL even after being warned repeatedly.

      I have no problem "going light" on someone who makes an honest mistake, but there are a lot of dishonest nonmistakes that need to be handled a little heavier.

    • True, payment can also be used to encourage compliance BEFORE getting caught. "If you don't comply from the start, you'll have to pay when you get caught", is one approach. It seem McHardy is seeking personal gain, though, based on his tactics of putting time pressure on them, etc.

      There may be no right way to do it. Giving a warning and allowing them to come into compliance with no penalty makes sense if someone just goofed. On the other hand, a policy of always allowing 30 days to cure with penalty could

  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Saturday October 21, 2017 @10:29AM (#55409469) Homepage Journal

    I think as Linux kernel developers we should take note of the very personal touch the MPAA has used to deal with violators: An early morning visit by a paramilitary police force.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is a corporate push to protect corporate interests while they violate the GPL. The monetary findings that punish companies are so rare that there is no problem here at all. Liars working for moneyed interests.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Copyright law is a joke and has functionally destroyed or delayed unfathomable levels of productive economic activity.

    The Linux Foundation needs to bring in Stephan Kinsella on retainer to help with this. Probably no one else has done as much legal-philosophical work into the nature and practice of modern IP as he has.

  • by MinusOne ( 4145 ) on Sunday October 22, 2017 @01:17AM (#55412183)
    Damn newbies, they ruined this place years ago!
  • by spth ( 5126797 ) on Sunday October 22, 2017 @01:48AM (#55412227)

    Apparently, a few years ago, some Linux developer named McHardy started enforcing the GPL in Germany on his own. See e.g. the background article at https://sfconservancy.org/blog... [sfconservancy.org]

    It looks like he tends to sue GPL-violators for about 2000€ + his costs (attorny fees for trying to settle out of court, costs for reverse engineering):

    Example where he successfully sued the Germany subsidy of a Taiwanese hardware manufacturer for a total of about 2900€: LG Frankfurt, 2-6 O 224/06 http://www.jbb.de/fileadmin/do... [www.jbb.de]

    However, there was also a case where he demanded and got more: A GPL-violator that he had contacted in 2010, and got to comply with the GPL out of court back then became a repeat offender in 2012. He sued them for for 5000€ + attorny fees of 2000€: LG Hamburg, 308 O 10/13 http://www.damm-it-recht.de/lg... [damm-it-recht.de]

    On the other hand, most Linux developers apparently think that free software developers and organizations tasked with GPL enforcement should not profit from suing GPL violators. The Software Freedom Conservancy is losing money from enforcing the GPL, and asks for donations to be able to continue their work.

    Philipp

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