GPL lawsuit in Germany

Frank Heckenbach frank at
Fri Jan 25 00:16:40 UTC 2002

Joerg Schilling wrote:

> >From nickm at Thu Jan 24 23:36:01 2002
> >The German company is talking utter rubbish. Even if the GPL were
> >shown to be invalid in German Contract Law (which is unlikely), this
> >would not suddenly cause you to lose your standard copyright - it
> >would not magically revert to the public domain! The very best they
> >can hope for is the even MORE restrictive general protection that
> >copyright affords you.
> Sure, in Germany it is impossible to give away "authorship rights".
> You will not loose your standard copyright, this is what my lawyer told me.
> .... but as I cannot enforce GPL, I cannot force the person to e.g.
> publish the part of the new source that has been created by this person.

Even if the GPL is found applicable, you could not force them to
publish it because the GPL does not say "you must publish all
modifications", but it says "if you give away a binary of a modified
work, you must also give away (or offer to) the source" (very
shortly paraphrased, of course, IANAL).

So if they're distributing a modified work in binary form without
source, all you can force them to do is probably to stop
distribution at all. (If they distribute it for money, this will
make it almost worthless to them, so they might be willing to think
about publishing the source instead; but if they use it for internal
purposes, you can't stop them, and this is also the intention of the

Apparently you can also stop distribution (and possibly get some
money as you said) with the standard copyright.


Frank Heckenbach, frank at
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