GPL lawsuit in Germany

Georg Jakob jack at
Fri Jan 25 11:34:23 UTC 2002


On Fri, 25 Jan 2002 Joerg Schilling kindly wrote:

> >On Qui, 2002-01-24 at 23:19, Joerg Schilling wrote:
> >> >From joao at Thu Jan 24 23:32:34 2002
> >> >On Qui, 2002-01-24 at 22:17, Joerg Schilling wrote:
> >> If someone abuses your code you may sue this person and will get you righ=
> >t in a=20
> >> way so the abusing person hast to give you money later (enforced by the c=
> >ourt).
> >> This is because you cannot enforce a license agreement if not both partie=
> >s
> >> agreed on it.

If there's no explicit verbal agreement, there still can be a silent one
(konkludente Einwilligung). For dietails why this is applicable to the
GPL in European countries, see the article I sent you (soon available
for others at If the user of your programm still says he
didn't agree he is a *thief*. Which, under most countries laws should 
be worse for him than a simple breach of contract.

> >>=20
> >(I'm assuming that Germany autorship/copyright law has something in
> >common with the USA, Portuguese and Spanish ones. I'm almost convinced
> >that's not always so...)
> >Authorship law in Portugal defines that you can't modify the work
> >protected by copyright unless the author has given you permission to do
> >so. This means that they are in one of 2 positions: They didn't asked
> >for your permission, and so they've commited a crime, or they've
> >accepted the GPL as your permission and, by not obliging to it, they've
> >also commited a crime. Obviously I'm not a lawyer, just an engineer who
> >has read too many legislation (including some international "copyright"
> >treaties).
> This looks similar and IO am sure that German and Portuguese copyright
> law have more in common than german and USA Copyright.

There is *no* Copyright in Europe. In most european countries we have the
concept of Authors Rights. Difference in a Nutshell: Copyright is
protecting the editor or publisher of a work, ie his (monetary) investment
in producing copys. That's why it's called "Copyright".

In Europe, the *authors* personal, idealistic rights are at least as
important as his (notice the difference: it's still the author) economic
rights. That's why we're talking about Urheberrecht, Diritto d'Autore, 
Droit d'Auteur etc.

> Of course, there are two aspects of the case. One is the civil acspect of the 
> case and another is the crimnal aspect. Going only the way of sueing for the
> criminal aspect will take many years while starting with the civil case before
> will help to get a fast start.

Three aspects: The contractual, the author's rights (and here: personal &
economic rights) and the criminal. Those aspects do interfere. You can
accuse a thief (so he might go to jail) and/or sue him for the damage he
has done to you (-> monetary compensation). The latter can (but dosn't
have to) be done in connection with a criminal proceeding.
The copyright aspect is iomportant, because it gives the violater of a
licence the right to choose if he wants to pay for your damage or accept
the license (ie publish the source code). The latter might be more
reasonable for him in many cases. Interesting article on that in
the (german) Linuxmagazin 01/2002; should be available soon at (where you'll find more on the subject).

> The main problem seems that my lawyer does not see a way to enforce the other 
> person to publish the modifications.

Get yourself another. I would recommend Till Jaeger and Axel Metzger (they
should be reading this list from time to time) and of course, get in
contact with Georg Greeve - who should comment on this matter very soon...

kindest regards,         jack at
Georg Jakob    
"After explaining the situation to the machine clearly with appropriate
 use of a screwdriver and cleaning up I got the update to behave." (A. Cox)

More information about the Discussion mailing list