FDL again, was: My concerns about GPLv3 process

Jeroen Dekkers jeroen at vrijschrift.org
Sun Feb 12 23:45:44 UTC 2006

At Sun, 12 Feb 2006 19:29:46 +0100,
Alfred M. Szmidt wrote:
>    > In theory, anyone can go and make Linux a non-free program, since
>    > it is simply impossible to enforce the license there.
>    I suggest you read http://gpl-violations.org/ in order to see where
>    the GPL has been discussed, and upheld, in court, following
>    companies attempting to make the Linux kernel proprietary.  Harald
>    Welte, who started the site and wrote some of the Netfilter code,
>    took (and continues to take) many companies to court over the use
>    of his code, which is included in the kernel. The violations being
>    sued for now are on a wider scale than just Netfilter, as I
>    understand it.
> This is different, netfilter had presumable only a single copyright
> holder (or a few), Harald Welte.  This isn't the case with the whole
> of Linux.  For each infginged part, you would have to figure out who
> the copyright holder is, and ask them to sue.  Something that is
> infact a practical impossibility. Harald Welte can only ask for his
> copyrighted bits to either be removed, or have the infringing party to
> comply with the license, he (or the court I think) cannot dictate what
> should be done with the other parts, since no copyright holder has
> come up and sued.
> None of the cases at http://gpl-violations.org are about companies
> infringing on the license of Linux, but seperate projects or stand
> alone bits in Linux, as far as I can see.
> I spoke about Linux as a whole, not in small parts.
> For example you could do something like: take Linux, someone sues, you
> remove the infringing bit, continue distributing a non-free version of
> Linux, and simply wait until someone "sues" again (have any of the
> cases listed on gpl-violations.org gone go court?), and only do the
> minimal to comply with the bits you are infringing on.
> Anyway, this is all in theory...

And practically speaking now, if a piece of software has multiple
authors, each author can sue. You don't need the agreement of all
authors for that. So there are thousands of developers who can
actually sue when somebody infringes the copyrights of Linux.

Removing the bits which are copyrighted by somebody isn't really
feasible if they have contributed a lot. You need to find out what a
person has committed over the years and which work is based on that,
etc. And it's not like you can remove the virtual memory code and run
without it or rewrite in a few hours. There are a few developers like
Linus who could sue and then you really don't have anything usable

And yes, two cases of gpl-violations.org have gone to court and
have resulted in an injuction.

Jeroen Dekkers

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