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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 gpl-violations.org 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, 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.


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