Fri, Apr. 23, 2004

German GPL Ruling not That Influential

CK - Washington.   Addendum to the GPL decision discussed on Wednesday: In a commentary, GPL Gains Clout in German Legal Case, Stephen Shankland attaches greater precedential significance to the injunction than may be warranted. Yet, he paints a vivid and useful contextual picture of the international legal environment surrounding the GPL.

I would disagree with a quote Shankland includes about the German and American legal systems of contract law being similar. They are really quite different and the differences exert a marked influence on the validity of the GPL. In addition, without an opinion from the court, any interpretation of the Munich ruling may eventually find support. That would include the view that the court may have disregarded, and found unnecessary to explore, the GPL and simply ensured that the creator of a copyrightable work may impose any legal terms for its distribution while a distributor may not give the false impression that a work is in the public domain or in his own ownership. The same result would hold true for any of the multitude of distribution schemes involving published source code and for those prohibiting the publication of source code.

Depending on whether one advocates a philosphy favoring or abhorring the publication of source code for software, one may arrive at different conclusions. When you descend from the clouds of licensing philosophy and reenter the vibrant reality of drafting, selecting or using licenses, with or without the publication of source code depending on business model and many other important factors, the Munich decision is not all that useful.

Addendum May 6, 2004: See discussion at Slashdot.

Reforming the Corporate Law

ASG - Washington.   The Schröder cabinet announced yesterday that it initiated the legislative process to amend the German corporate law. It approved amendments to corporate financial disclosure obligations.

Two bills, Bilanzrechtsreformgesetz (BilReG) and Bilanzkontrollgesetz (BilKoG), intend to strengthen corporate governance and the protection of investors, improve the transparency of disclosures and to implement some European Union directives.

For instance, the drafts contain conflict rules for services provided by accountants, permit an election to apply the IAS standard instead of the German HGB accounting rules and conceptualize private boards of review for suspicious financial statements of listed companies.

These bills are anticipated to become effective in 2005 after three hearings in the federal diet, Bundestag, and, potentially, the advice and consent of the upper house, the Bundesrat.

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