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My Answer and a GPL Case in Germany
Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 09:23 AM EDT

I wrote an article for CIO Today, "The SCO Boomerang and the Strength of Linux," which I consider my answer, from way up here on the high road, to all the mean-spirited FUD from SCO and its lackeys. I list all the benefits I see flowing from SCO's litigation. I hope you enjoy it. It's also on NewsFactor and Yahoo News picked it up too.

One of the benefits is that now the world knows that the GPL stands up in court. SCO ended up proclaiming their allegiance to it, as I recall. They still distribute GPL code. This month's SCO partners newsletter included this:

Part 4 Bandwidth Management

Squid provides a flexible set of options to identify and sort web browsing by user, site visited or even time of day to name a few of the many possibilities. Once the browsing activity has been identified a bandwidth limit can then be placed on it by using Squid's Delay Classes.

The Squid documentation explains the purpose of bandwidth management as

"Delay Classes are generally used in places where bandwidth is expensive. They let you slow down access to specific sites (so that other downloads can happen at a reasonable rate), and they allow you to stop a small number of users from using all your bandwidth (at the expense of those just trying to use the Internet for work)."

Squid is licensed under the GPL, which isn't unconstitutional after all, I see.

So it is possible to distribute GPL code, even if you are a proprietary company. Even if the company isn't beloved by the FOSS community. Of course you have to do it in conformance with the license.

Here's more proof of the GPL's legitimacy: a very complete account of the GPL case in Germany, where the court has enjoined Fortinet from distributing two of its products, after it was alleged that they not only used GPL code from GNU/Linux in their proprietary product, they used cryptography to try to camoflage the deed:

The ruling could prevent the security appliance vendor from further distributing its products until it complies with the open source licence.

Fortinet was accused of using cryptographic techniques to conceal the presence of Linux code in its FortiGate and FortiWifi products, as well as not releasing its source code under the terms of the GPL.

The company's use of Linux was deemed by the court to be in violation of the GPL under which Linux is distributed.

The case was filed in Germany against Fortinet UK Ltd, the UK subsidiary of Fortinet Inc, by Harald Welte, a Linux developer who also runs the gpl-violations.org website.

The site aims to raise public awareness about past and present GPL violations, and has resolved 30 such cases in the past months.

Fortinet said in a statement that they thought they were going to resolve the issue outside of court and that the litigation was unnecessary. I guess that depends on how you view the GPL. It's certainly necessary to let companies know that it's a license that needs to be complied with. Welte writes more in his blog:

Legal action was made possible via the "intrd" code, on which Werner Almesberger signed me his rights a couple of months ago.

To the best of my knowledge, Fortinet is not using any of the iptables/ip_conntrack/... code, but something different. We'll see how that is integrated into the kernel network stack as soon as they release the full corresponding source code in accordance with the GPL.

I'd like to thank my lawyer Dr. Till Jaeger from JBB Rechtsanwälte and Jürgen Lüters from Intranet Engineering, the technical expert in this case.

Obtaining (better: Applying) for a preliminary injunction is a tremendous amount of work, so this really is the last possible option if all other options have failed.

See, I think this is why certain very closed and proprietary minds assumed that Linus must have done something like that. Except he didn't. SCO have now spent two years vainly trying to find any such violation, at great cost and annoyance to the world at large. It's called projection.

I read a study once, where the researchers left something of value on a table and left each subject alone in the room. Some immediately pocketed what was not theirs and some didn't. Later, all the subjects were asked to guess how many had stolen the object. The ones who had taken it thought a much higher percentage would do the same than actually had. And the honest ones thought most others would be honest like they were, and they miscalculated the percentage too. So, what I got from the study is that you tend to think others do whatever you do.

The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight imagines that someone who is big and famous or powerful has to be behind Groklaw, because it couldn't be just a blogger -- and a female at that (for some reason that really seems to stick in their craw) -- and a group of willing volunteers, because they couldn't do what Groklaw has done. But they will have to accept it, because it is true. And I would strongly encourage them to look into this Open Source phenomenon. Maybe it could help their business. It's a powerful thing.

Heh heh. All right. I just couldn't resist.


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