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 gpl-violations.org, 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. ®
GPL2 vs GPL3
David Pottage wrote: "Internet distribution was thought of when the GPL 2 was written, the reason that it is only allowed when the product is distributed via the internet is because there is no guarantee that the URL will allways be valid, and that the data at the end will always be the same. The latest GPL licence that was finalised last month contains the same provisions."
No it doesn't. Read clause 6d. Getting things from a network server is allowed in GPL3, so the provisions are NOT the same as GPL2. You just have to make sure you keep it available (so non-vanishing URL is allowed, vanishing URL is forbidden).
Incidentally, am I correct in thinking that the reference to "6b" in clause 6c is a mistake, should be to "6c"? If I'm wrong, that's an enormous relaxation of conditions compared with GPL2 and the provisions of the two are even more different.
Skype just need to sue the manufacturer or wholesaler of the phone, who presumably broke the terms of the GPL when they offered them to Skype to sell. Then Skype can get their legal expenses back, lawyers can get richer, nobody loses anything, and the world rolls happily along.
Why label Weite a "purist" ?
It is just a question of respecting the rights of copyright holders. Would you call Microsoft a "purist" for going after distributors of pirated copies of MS Office? This is the same thing. GPL'ed software just has an unusual form of payment (and still way cheaper than MS require), that's all.