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The GPL Wins Again - Welte vs. Skype Technologies SA (Germany)
Thursday, May 08 2008 @ 09:46 PM EDT

Today was the hearing in Skype's appeal of an earlier judgment against it for a GPL violation. Harald Welte, as part of the project, brought the matter to court in Germany back in February of 2007, seeking to enforce the GPL against Skype. The case is Welte vs. Skype Technologies SA, and he won an injunction in the lower court. But Skype wanted to appeal to the higher court in Munich, alleging ... hahahaha ... well, something about antitrust, à la Dan Wallace, I gather. You'll recall the Wallace v. FSF appeals court ruled on that theory in the US already:
The GPL encourages, rather than discourages, free competition and the distribution of computer operating systems, the benefits of which directly pass to consumers. These benefits include lower prices, better access and more innovation.

Just in case Skype is thinking deep second thoughts tonight.

Well, today was the hearing, and Welte reports that one of the judges told Skype's lawyer that if a copyright owner wants a publisher to publish his book in a "green envelope" (dust jacket), it might seem odd to the publisher, but he can't publish without the green envelope. In short, don't touch the GPL code if you don't follow the requirements of the license.

Like it or lump it. I think that's how one would translate into English the judge's mindset.

At that, after a break, Skype decided to accept the lower court decision and skip the appeal. And so the GPL wins again.

To all those who don't like the license: you don't have to use it. Just write your own code. But if you want to use GPL code, the license comes with it. It's a package deal. Thanks.

Here's what Welte reports:

The court hearing in the "Welte vs. Skype Technologies SA" case went pretty well. Initially the court again suggested that the two parties might reach some form of amicable agreement. We indicated that this has been discussed before and we're not interested in settling for anything less than full GPL compliance.

The various arguments by Skype supporting their claim that the GPL is violating German anti-trust legislation as well as further claims aiming at the GPL being invalid or incompatible with German legislation were not further analyzed by the court. The court stated that there was not enough arguments and material brought forward by Skype to support such a claim. And even if there was some truth to that, then Skype would not be able to still claim usage rights under that very same license.

The lawyer representing Skype still continued to argue for a bit into that direction, which resulted one of the judges making up an interesting analogy of something like: "If a publisher wants to publish a book of an author that wants his book only to be published in a green envelope, then that might seem odd to you, but still you will have to do it as long as you want to publish the book and have no other agreement in place".

In the end, the court hinted twice that if it was to judge about the case, Skype would not have very high chances. After a short break, Skype decided to revoke their appeals case and accept the previous judgement of the lower court (Landgericht Muenchen I, the decision was in my favor) as the final judgement. This means that the previous court decision is legally binding to Skype, and we have successfully won what has probably been the most lengthy and time consuming case so far.


The GPL Wins Again - Welte vs. Skype Technologies SA (Germany) | 104 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Authored by: grouch on Thursday, May 08 2008 @ 09:52 PM EDT
Please post corrections in this thread. Include enough context to find the error. Thanks!

-- grouch

"People aren't as dumb as Microsoft needs them to be."
--PJ, May 2007

[ Reply to This | # ]

News Picks
Authored by: grouch on Thursday, May 08 2008 @ 09:55 PM EDT
Please post commentary about News Picks articles in this thread. Clickable links and titles are helpful. Thanks!

-- grouch

"People aren't as dumb as Microsoft needs them to be."
--PJ, May 2007

[ Reply to This | # ]

The GPL Wins Again - Welte vs. Skype Technologies SA (Germany)
Authored by: gard on Thursday, May 08 2008 @ 09:56 PM EDT

I love the green envelope part.

Thank you, RMS and Eben Moglen. Your brainchild triumphs over evil again!


[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic
Authored by: josmith42 on Thursday, May 08 2008 @ 10:11 PM EDT

Clickable links, if you feel like it and know how, are really cool. This might come in handy.

This comment was typed using the Dvorak keyboard layout. :-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Great work Harold
Authored by: The Mad Hatter r on Thursday, May 08 2008 @ 10:30 PM EDT

Thanks for doing this necessary work.


[ Reply to This | # ]

I assume this was GPL v2? (n/t)
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 08 2008 @ 11:23 PM EDT

[ Reply to This | # ]

Original action was for...
Authored by: Crocodile_Dundee on Friday, May 09 2008 @ 12:15 AM EDT
My understanding is that this stems from Skype selling a VOIP handset which
utilised GPL software and for which it had only given a URL where the source
could be obtained.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it would have been reasonable for them to
have said "If you want the source, please send 10 Euro to cover handling
and shipping to..."

(It would have been far simpler just to stick the source on the driver CD -- I'm
not arguing against that)

Why isn't a URL containing a link to the source sufficient?

I would guess in the case above it would have to be a link to my server rather
than (say) sourceforge.

Am I right in understanding that an offer of source does not have to be free (if
it actually costs money to get the source to you -- nd you charge no more than
that, it looks like I am)?

"b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to
give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically
performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the
corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2
above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,"

OK, my understanding *IS* faulty, because for V3, tells me:

"For instance, when you host object code on a web or FTP server, you can
simply provide instructions that tell visitors how to get the source from a
third-party server. Thanks to this new option, fulfilling this requirement
should be easier for many small distributors who only make a few changes to
large bodies of source."

Although I guess that does not apply to GPL v2 code.

Given all that, and given I can't find any original reference, what did they do
wrong? Did they fail to provide any way of getting the source at first, or did
they try a GPL v3 way of providing GPL v2 source?

That's not a law suit. *THIS* is a law suit!

[ Reply to This | # ]

GPL - Green Packaging Law ?
Authored by: SirHumphrey on Friday, May 09 2008 @ 01:12 AM EDT
"If a publisher wants to publish a book of an author that wants his book
only to be published in a green envelope, then that might seem odd to you, but
still you will have to do it as long as you want to publish the book and have no
other agreement in place".

[ Reply to This | # ]

The GPL Wins Again - Well Done! :) NT
Authored by: SilverWave on Friday, May 09 2008 @ 03:28 AM EDT

Phorm is highly intrusive - it's like the P.O. opening all my letters to see
what I'm interested in, merely so that I can be sent a better class of junk

[ Reply to This | # ]

Thanks to Harald
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, May 09 2008 @ 04:20 AM EDT
Thank you, Harald, for your very important work.

And a small hint to you, Skype: was it neccessary to make yourself such a
complete idiot?


[ Reply to This | # ]

The GPL Wins Again - Welte vs. Skype Technologies SA (Germany)
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, May 09 2008 @ 07:47 AM EDT
Congratulations are the order of the day to Mr. Welte!

Additionally a huge round of applause are due to Mr. Richard M. Stallman (RMS),
the creator of the GPL, and to Professor Eben Moglen who took RMS's most
wonderful idea and made it work.


[ Reply to This | # ]

They "get it"!
Authored by: tz on Friday, May 09 2008 @ 10:30 AM EDT
Though the "green envelope" is a bit cute, it is what the GPL is

You can use all this code - much good and reviewed and maintained, some not, but
if you use it you must make the source available and publish your

Thinking about open v.s. closed, in specifications (I have to deal occasionally
with SAE or IEEE stuff which is not on the web except in occasional excerpts -
and I would add ISO in many cases), open is an order of magnitude more

I can't do google or yahoo searches for SAE standards, but RFCs are all there.
For them, there are usually multiple implementations, with differing features so
I can learn and get ideas or even just choose the right one.

Engineering now has to decide if they will be a medieval trade guild, albeit a
large one, or if they will open up so the standards and practices will be
available to all.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • They "get it"! - Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, May 09 2008 @ 02:00 PM EDT
  • perfect hit - Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, May 16 2008 @ 01:54 AM EDT
Win what?
Authored by: davidmaxwaterman on Friday, May 09 2008 @ 11:06 AM EDT

I'm just curious what was won - ie what is the outcome of this.

I normally think of a win in court to imply some money penalty or something. Is
that true here, or is it just Skype saying that they accept the terms and will
change their ways?

If there's some fine or something, what happens to the money?


[ Reply to This | # ]

29. Zivilsenat
Authored by: ak on Friday, May 09 2008 @ 11:21 AM EDT
That decision was issued by the 29. Zivilsenat of the OLG München. That
Zivilsenat normally is in charge of copyright law, unfair competition and
similar areas of law. In the Skype-case it was acting as
"Kartellsenat" which is in charge of another type of legal disputes.

The 29. Zivilsenat was also in charge of The SCO Group GmbH ./. Kuckartz which
resulted in a ruling against SCO.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Green Envelope
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, May 09 2008 @ 11:58 AM EDT
Enjoy it now, the green envelope comment is about to become one of those famous
quotes that everyone remembers, but no one can remember who said it.
To the honorable judge in the case...WELL SAID!

[ Reply to This | # ]

The GPL Wins Again - Welte vs. Skype Technologies SA (Germany)
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, May 17 2008 @ 09:24 AM EDT
Is the lower court's decision available on the net somewhere?

[ Reply to This | # ]

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