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Court Confirms GPL Valid in Germany
Friday, July 23 2004 @ 03:55 PM EDT

I'm getting positively light-headed from so much good news, and I surely hope you are sitting down if you have any inclination toward heart flutters, because a court in Germany has just confirmed the earlier preliminary injunction in the netfilter/iptables case -- the GPL is valid in Germany. Here is a reader's translation of a bit of the Heise story:

"From the reasons of the ruling which as of this Friday are available in written form it becomes clear that the judges recognize the GPL as legally effective in general: 'The court shares the view that under no circumstances the GPL can be regarded as renouncing the copyright or legal positions based on the copyright.' Plaintiff, a GPL developer, is entitled to legally enforce his copyrights on the source code.

"Attorney Till Jaeger who represented the OSS project before the court in an interview with Heise On-Line rejoicingly stated: 'This is probably the first ruling on earth confirming the effectiveness and enforceability of the GPL, and it makes the OSS community well-fortified.' Additionally, the court made clear that nobody needs to worry as long as they adhere to the rules of the GPL."

Sherlock translates it that the GPL is "militaryful". That sounds good. Golem has the further info that Sitecom's argument that the GPL didn't have weight because it was in English and only unofficially in German failed. Here's what the court ruled on that:

"It is not a problem that the GPL is present only in English and a German translation applies only unofficially."

I have long suspected that MS and SCO thought Germany had a soft legal underbelly with respects to the GPL and that is why they had Mr. Blepp concentrate efforts there, so this is very good news indeed, not only now for long-term.

Here is the order in German. And just in case, here is the German for the Heise snip:

"Aus der seit dem heutigen Freitag vorliegenden schriftlichen Urteilsbegründung wird deutlich, dass die Richter die GPL grundsätzlich als rechtswirksam anerkennen. Wörtlich heißt es: 'Die Kammer teilt die Auffassung, dass in den Bedingungen der GPL keinesfalls ein Verzicht auf Urheberrechte und urheberrechtliche Rechtspositionen gesehen werden kann.' Der klagende GPL-Entwickler sei legitimiert, die Urheberrechte an dem Sourcecode geltend zu machen.

"'Damit ist endgültig klar, dass das GPL-Modell auch nach deutschen Recht funktioniert"', frohlockte Rechtsanwalt Till Jaeger, der das Projekt netfilter/iptables vertritt, im Gespräch mit heise online. Nach diesem 'wohl weltweit ersten Urteil zur Wirksamkeit und Durchsetzbarkeit der GPL' sei sichergestellt, dass die Open-Source-Gemeinde wehrhaft ist. Umgekehrt habe das Gericht klar gemacht, dass niemand etwas zu befürchten habe, solange er sich an die GPL-Regeln halte.'"

Christoph has done the following translation for us from the Order:

From page 14 (PDF):

[opinion of the court]

First of all, the chamber has no objections, that the common terms of business according to § 304, p. 2 Civil Code have been validly included in a possible contract between plaintiff and defendant. The website points to these terms (attachment AS 2). Furthermore, the terms are publicly available. Even if the German translation may not be official, there are no objections, because English is the common language in computer industry. This is at least the case, if it's about a contract between the creators and a commercial software company.


Die Kammer hat zunächst keinerlei Bedenken, dass die Allgemeinen Geschäftsbedingungen nach § 304 Abs. 2 BGB wirksam in ein mögliches Vertragsverhältnis zwischen der Verfügungsbeklagten und dem Verfügungskläger einbezogen worden sind. Auf der Internetseite ist auf die Bedingungen hingewiesen (Anlage AS 2). Die Bedingungen sind weiterhin allgemein zugänglich. Auch wenn die deutsche Übersetzung nicht offiziell sein mag, bestehen angesichts des Umstandes, dass Englisch in der Computerindustrie die gängige Fachsprache ist, keinerlei Bedenken, weil die offiziellen Bedingungen nur in englischer Sprache vorliegen. Dies gilt zumindest, wenn ein Vertragsverhältnis zwischen den Urhebern und einer gewerblichen Softwarefirma in Rede steht.

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