> 2. What legal cases have gone through courts in Europe - word on the street > (from XXXX XXXXXXX) is that there has been some action in Germany?

Yes, Germany tends to be at the heart of European FOSS litigation mainly due to the actions of an extremely committed German enthusiast Harald Welte. Welte runs the site


which publicises infringements of the GPL, usually by technology vendors who use GPL-licensed code in their software or hardware offerings without meeting the licence's requirements by publishing the source code to the GPL code in question along with their amendments. Welte approaches vendors and asks them to comply with the licence, and if they refuse he seeks transfer of copyright to himself from the FOSS software's owners in order to have standing to seek an injunction.

Since 2004 Welte has succeeded in bringing well over 100 GPL infringers into line with the licence's requirements, both in and out of the German courts (an example of a successful court action would be the case against networking equipment vendor D-Link - http://www.jbb.de/judgment_dc_frankfurt_gpl.pdf ). While it would not be impossible to seek damages for infringement of copyright in these cases, the general culture within the FOSS community tends to favour a request to comply followed by court action to force compliance without seeking damages. Generally the community wants people to play by the rules, not pay monetarily for their infringements. An example which did not get as far as court is provided by our own BT Group plc, whom Welte contacted over their failure to produce the source code to GPLv2-licensed software in the ADSL 'Home Hub' modems they provided to customers. BT - after some fuss - came into compliance:


In the US the public interest law firm the Software Freedom Law Center


takes on a role similar to Welte's in Germany. The SFLC has successfully forced various large US firms including Verizon into compliance with the GPLv2 and is currently taking action against Cisco. One final case worth noting in terms of US enforceability is Jacobsen v Katzer, in which the US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that the conditions FOSS software licences were enforceable even where there was found to be no specific contract between the parties governing the granting of the licence. OSS Watch wrote a blog post about this decision here:


(Incidentally the reason that the GPLv2 is the subject of most of these cases is that it is both very common and has the most positive responsibilities placed upon distributors).

OSSWatchWiki: LicenceEnforceability (last edited 2013-04-15 13:56:21 by localhost)

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