GPL - possible violation - what should I do?

Georg C. F. Greve greve at
Mon Mar 18 11:51:29 UTC 2002

Hi Jan,

to answer the question raised in the subject:

Whenever you believe you may be facing a GPL violation, get in touch
with the FSFs. The easiest way to get in touch with the FSF Europe is
probably by sending mail to team at

First we will figure out whether something is really a violation, then
we will try to figure out whether it can be solved peacefully and only
if this fails will we resort to other means like making such cases
public or taking legal steps.

Our goal is to make people comply to the GPL, not to put them all out
of business. Sometimes GPL violations will be genuine mistakes and if
we come down on them hard without ever giving them a chance to solve
the problem first, this will not encourage people and companies to
support Free Software.

Making such cases public prematurely, will put a lot of pressure on
the violator, making a peaceful solution much more unlikely.

Also it will create a lot of noise about potential GPL violations that
will create uncertainty and also make sure people miss the truly
important information. Shouting "Wolf" all the time has never been a
very good idea.

And whatever you do: never take legal actions based on the GPL without
involving the FSFs beforehand and keeping them involved as a third

Most lawyers and judges do not know a lot about software and they
usually know much less about Free Software. 

The FSFs know the strengths of the GPL better than anyone else and
have a lot of experience dealing with such cases. Taking legal steps
without involving the FSFs means taking a gamble on the future of Free

It may come out fine, but if it doesn't, you'll be the one who created
the precendence case against Free Software!

Coming back to your case, Jan, I recommend you write a summary of the
situation to team at or to me directly and let us know
what's going on. Then we can see what should be done.

Georg Greve

Georg C. F. Greve                                 <greve at>
Free Software Foundation Europe	                 (
GNU Business Network                        (
Brave GNU World	                           (
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