Thu, Apr. 22, 2004

Judicial Enforcement of GPL Terms of Distribution

CK - Washington.   On April 19, 2004, the German Institute for Legal Issues Involving Free and Open Source Software reported on the first court case that compels the enforcement of the GNU General Public License terms for distribution of open source software. Although the decision as an injunction is of limited value and does not include an opinion, it could be an important step in the recognition of the GPL. This is particularly true in legal systems such as Germany which raise grave doubts about the implied or waived acceptance features of the GPL.

ifrOSS' Axel Metzger discusses, in German, the particulars of the April 2, 2004 Munich District Court decision in the matter 21 O 6123/04. The product at issue is netfilter/iptables developed by a developer consortium of the same name. Sitecom Deutschland GmbH distributed its software, allegedly after receiving it from Taiwan, without source code, attribution or reference to the GPL license. The court ordered Sitecom to comply with the terms of the license. The purported receipt of the software from a third party does not excuse Sitecom's failure to abide by the GPL distribution terms. At this time, the decision has not become final.

For an open source license developed for compliance with German law, see the Bremer Lizenz für freie Softwarebibiliotheken.

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