[FSFE PR][EN] Court rejects AVM´s claims opposing third party modifications of GPL software

Free Software Foundation Europe press at fsfeurope.org
Thu Nov 10 09:25:44 CET 2011

= Court rejects AVM´s claims opposing third party modifications of GPL software =

On November 8th the Regional Court of Berlin issued its decision in the
previously reported case AVM Computersysteme Vertriebs GmbH (AVM) v.
Cybits AG (Cybits). In this case, AVM was essentially trying to stop
Cybits from modifying GNU GPL licensed Free Software inside of their AVM
Fritz!Box products. Yesterday, the court dismissed this principal claim.
Thus, it also confirmed that users of embedded devices with
pre-installed Free Software have the legal freedom to make, install, run
and distribute modifications to this Free Software. The Free Software
Foundation Europe (FSFE) and gpl-violations.org, both welcome this

Although the written reasoning of the decision is not available yet, it
is clear that the court rejected AVM's claims according to which no
third party shall be permitted to alter their products' firmware, even
if the GNU GPL components are concerned. Thus, Cybits or anyone else may
perform such modifications. Furthermore, under the judgement, Cybits is
not prohibited from distributing its software that assists users in
making and installing modifications to GNU GPL licensed software (Linux
kernel used in the Fritz!Box device).

"I am extremely pleased that the court turned down any request by AVM to
control any modification to the GNU GPL licensed components of the
Fritz!Box firmware. Enabling and encouraging everyone to innovate based
on existing software and products is a key aspect of the Free Software
movement.", says Harald Welte, founder of gpl-violations.org and third
party intervener on behalf of Cybits in the dispute.

On the other hand, the court upheld an auxiliary claim raised by AVM. In
its ruling, it enjoins Cybits from distributing the software only in
case it causes the web interface to display a wrong status of the
internet connection and web filtering software. "But this is a side
issue, the important part is: Free Software gives everybody the right to
use, study, share, and improve it. Nobody should be allowed to prevent
others from executing those rights", says Matthias Kirschner, FSFE's
German coordinator.

The decision can be appealed by either party within one month.

FSFE and gpl-violations.org are committed to encouraging the use of Free
Software by companies and developers by making licensing and compliance
as easy as possible. Generally it is considerably easier to comply with
Free Software licenses than with EULAs and other license agreements for
non-Free software.  Often it is only necessary to add a copy of the GNU
GPL license text to documentation, and add an offer to provide the
software source code (see FSFE's compliance tips
https://fsfe.org/projects/ftf/useful-tips-for-vendors.en.html ).

- Detailed background information
- Previous news on this case:
  - 2011-06-20 - AVM violating license of the Linux kernel
  - 2011-06-22 - FSFE on AVM vs Cybits: A small computer is still a
    computer http://fsfe.org/news/2011/news-20110622-01.en.html
- LWN article: "ELCE11: Till Jaeger on AVM vs.
  Cybits https://lwn.net/Articles/465070/

== Press contacts ==

  Matthias Kirschner <mk at fsfe.org>, Free Software Foundation Europe
  Linienstraße 141, 10115 Berlin
  Phone: +49-30-275 95 290 Mobile:  +49-1577-178 000 3

== gpl-violations.org ==

  The gpl-violations.org project is taking legal and other means to
  make sure commercial users of Free Software are adhering to the GNU
  General Public License.  gpl-violations.org has enforced the GNU GPL
  in hundreds of cases, most of them amicably and out of court.
  However, if neccessary, legal means such as warning notices,
  preliminary injunctions and civil copyright lawsuits are used in
  order to ensure companies are following-up with their obligations
  under the GNU GPL.
  gpl-violations.org was started by Free Software developer Harald
  Welte, who has received multiple awards in recognition of his legal
  efforts on enforcing the GNU GPL.

== About the Free Software Foundation Europe ==

  The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit
  non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and
  involved in many global activities. Access to software determines
  participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation in
  the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free
  Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the
  furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study,
  modify and copy. Founded in 2001, creating awareness for these issues,
  securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving people
  Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are central issues
  of the FSFE.


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