GPL Issue

Arnoud Engelfriet arnoud at
Wed Sep 29 14:38:57 UTC 2010

Ian Jackson wrote:
> Arnoud Engelfriet writes ("Re: GPL Issue"):
> > (yes, the GPL is a contract under European law). [...]
> Can you provide a reference for that ?  I don't think it is the case
> in England and Wales.

I wasn't aware England had joined Europe :)

Anyway, I should have said "European civil law countries" to
be more precise. European civil law doesn't have the requirement
for consideration before a contract can be formed. A one-sided offer
therefore can become a contract upon acceptance.

There's very little case law on this point, but in the Sitecom case
the German courts made little work of this question. I quote Hoeppner:

"The Court held that the GPL conditions had indeed and .undoubtedly. been
incorporated into a possible contractual relationship between the parties,
as on the plaintiff.s website reference was made to the GPL. Furthermore, it
found that the fact of the GPL only being available in English language and
any German translation of it being ´unofficial´ posed no problem in the
particular case, since .English is a prevalent foreign language in the
computer industry.. According to the opinion of the Court, this principle
.at least. applies where a contractual relationship between the authors of
the software and a commercial software business such as the defendant is

Also Till Jaeger:
"The GPL is considered a license agreement with a resolutory condition that
provides for an automatic reversal of rights in case a licensee does not
abide by his contractual obligations.[19]"

Ref 19 is A. Metzger/T. Jaeger, Open Source Software and German Copyright
Law, IIC Vol. 32, 2001, p. 52. which does not appear to have an
online source.

Regards, Arnoud

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