FAQ - GPL Case Law? : GPL issue at my work place

Danese Cooper danese at gmail.com
Fri Jan 18 18:21:56 UTC 2008

Are you volunteering, McCoy :-)?


On Jan 18, 2008, at 10:13 AM, Smith, McCoy wrote:

> If you're talking US, pretty sure the answer is "not really, inless  
> you
> include the Wallace case"
> Overseas, there are the various German decisions coming out of
> gpl-violators.org enforcement efforts.
> I'm assuming you also mean "interpreting the GNU General Public
> License";  the term "covering" is pretty expansive and would include a
> massive body of contract and copyright law cases.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ernest Prabhakar [mailto:ernest.prabhakar at gmail.com]
> Sent: Friday, January 18, 2008 10:07 AM
> To: Tzeng, Nigel H.
> Cc: license-discuss at opensource.org
> Subject: FAQ - GPL Case Law? : GPL issue at my work place
> Hi all,
> This is a topic that seems to come up periodically.  Someone care to
> take a stab at writing a FAQ?
> Q: Is there any existing case law covering the GNU General Public
> License?
> -- Ernie P.
> On Jan 18, 2008, at 5:20 AM, Tzeng, Nigel H. wrote:
>>> From: Arnoud Engelfriet [mailto:arnoud at engelfriet.net]
>>> As far as I can tell this has not made European lawyers more (or
>>> less) comfortable with open source licenses.
>> I think James's point is that without actual court results as
>> opposed to
>> settlements the risks of using GPL is unbounded from the conservative
>> point of view of some corporate lawyers.
>> The worst case scenario is an injunction against distribution of all
>> affected products unless all the corporate IP used in the software is
>> released under GPL including all relevant software patents (under v3
>> anyway).  Business process patents presumably as well since they  
>> would
>> be codified in the software.
>> For the past cases, like BusyBox, it wasn't really THAT big a deal to
>> conform since those companies were largely hardware makers.  It was
>> more
>> costly to have the devices sit in legal limbo hence the settlements
>> IMHO.
>> But for other domains the potential impact to a company could be  
>> quite
>> significant to have to conform to the GPL.  FSF's position on what
>> is a
>> derivative work is not overly helpful in reducing concerns.  Not that
>> Sun would force a company to release their product IP because they
>> used
>> the GPL'd MySQL connector library without a commercial license but
>> that
>> they potentially COULD under the GPL has to be factored in.
>> There is a reason I use PostgeSQL over MySQL beyond any technical
>> ones.
>> Certainly this conservatism can be seen in the current example even
>> though from Google's example they are on pretty safe ground.

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