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Skype violates open source licence

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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. ®

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