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Skype responds to Euro GPL rebuke

Jul 30, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive

In response to inquiries regarding a German court's ruling that Skype had breached the GPL, the company told LinuxDevices.com today that it “has not acted improperly.” The alleged violation was associated with the method by which Skype “distributed” GPL-licensed source code with a Linux-powered VoIP handset.

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A July 24 posting by Dr. Julia Kueng on the website of the Institute for Legal Questions on Free and Open Source reported that Gpl-violations.org, a Germany-based group headed by software developer Harald Welte had recently prevailed in a lawsuit it brought against Skype for allegedly violating an aspect of the GNU GPL (GNU General Public License).

The violation reportedly involved the manner in which Skype distributed a third-party product, a VoIP handset with an embedded Linux kernel and supplied by SMC Networks as model WSKP100 (depicted on the right). The suit alleged that Skype failed to supply a copy both of the source code and of the GPL license itself — as required by the GPL — along with the handset to its purchasers.

Skype reportedly defended itself against the suit by noting that URLs provided within the handsets' documentation pointed customers to where they could download both the GPL and the relevant source code. According to Dr. Kueng, the German court denied the sufficiency of Skype's defense, and ruled that Skype had breached section 3 of the GPL.

In an email received this morning by LinuxDevices.com, Imogen Bailey, director of global PR, stated:

“Skype is surprised by the recent decision and believes that it has not acted improperly. At this time, we cannot comment further because Skype is considering its options in relation to appealing this regional judgment.”

According to Dr. Kueng's posting, SMC Networks — which manufacturers the WSKP100 — is the target of a similar case that remains to be decided.

Although the substance of the alleged violations appears minor, the verdict could influence corporate behavior related to the GPL, paricularly in Europe, where the decision of a regional EU court is likely to set a precedent for other actions throughout the EU.

The text of Dr. Kueng's complete posting at ifrOSS.org, entitled “Neuerliche gerichtliche Durchsetzung der GNU GPL,” is available here (in German).


 
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