GPL - possible violation - what should I do?

Georg Jakob jack at
Wed Mar 20 18:08:43 UTC 2002


On 20 Mar 2002, Claus Färber kindly wrote:

> Jan Wildeboer <jan.wildeboer at> schrieb/wrote:
> > Interesting - Free software can violate antitrust laws? Can you
> > construct a theoretical example? Just curious :-)
> Consider this: Apache changes the licence to GPL. As Apache has a  
> large market share, 3rd party vendors for WWW server solutions  
> would have to make their products compatible with Apache.
> However, taken the GPL literally, they could not, for example,  
> write a plugin like mod_fancy_shopping_solution and release that  
> under a proprietary licence.
> So proprietary software vendors could not access that market,  
> giving an competive advantage to Open Source software vendors.

*ROFL* Go and tell that Microsoft.

But let's get serious:

1.) Having a monopoly is perfectly legal. Using this monopoly for your own 
good is perfectly legal, too. But: It is not legal to use a monoploy in 
illegal way (this principle is true for Europe and the US, even if the 
law is differing a lot). So: Changing a license is OK, telling Apple you only 
will continue support your Office-Suite for their OS when they change their 
default Internet Browser (which MS did) is not.

2.) Acting for profit on a market is an essential precondition for 
Antitrust Law to be applied. In the case of the Apache Group, I strongly 
doubt if they can be seen as a company. (Besides that you can't even sue 
them. Legally, the Apache Group doesn't exist.)

3.) Changing the license from one version to another is perfectly legal 
(if the License itself is not illegal, but that's another story). It is a 
general principle in all western Civil Laws that you can choose the 
conditions under which you agree to a contract. It is called Economic 
Autonomy of the Individual (Privatautonomie).

4.) The License of programs already published can not be changed (well, 
in some countries yes, but only under *very* limited circumstances). So, 
as it already has been pointed out correctly, prior versions will be still 
avail- and distributable as before. No need to sue anybody.

So: Please stop the FUD or provide more substantial legal reasoning. And 
beware: IAAL.

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)

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