Skype violates open source licence

Linux fundamentalist strikes again

Skype has been convicted of violating the open source GPL (General Public License) by a regional court in Munich.

However, it is not its popular peer-to-peer VoIP software that was addressed in court, but a VoiP phone from SMS Networks that the firm sells on its website.

The phone uses the Linux kernel, but Skype failed to also supply the source code, a prerequisite of GPLv2. Skype did, however, issue a flyer that contained URLs to the GPL license and to the source code. The GPL only permits a URL for software that is delivered over the internet.

The plantiff was German open source purist and Netfilter developer Harald Welte, who also runs, an organisation he set up to track down and prosecute violators of the GPL. In 2004, Welte sued Dutch company Sitecom, alleging it used the software in a wireless network product without abiding by the terms of the GPL. Not a word about the new case on his weblog yet.

Exactly what punishment Skype can expect is not clear, but it's likely to be a small fine. ®

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