About the gpl-violations.org project

Who's behind gpl-violations.org?

gpl-violations.org was originally founded by Harald Welte

Meanwhile, it has attracted the attention of a (small) group of volunteers who are helping with various issues. We're working in close cooperation with a team of lawyers lead by Dr. Till Jaeger of the law firm JBB Rechtsanwälte in Berlin, Germany.

The goals of the gpl-violations.org effort are supported by a large number of free software developers. After all, why would somebody choose to license his software specifically under the GNU GPL, if he wouldn't agree with it's terms and obligations?

There is a huge amount of positive feedback, support and encouragement from the Free Software community worldwide.

Why gpl-violations.org?

The project was started to raise the awareness about past and present violations of the GNU General Public License. Its main purpose is therefore gathering, maintaining and distributing information about people who use and distribute GPL licensed free software without adhering to the license terms.

Goals of gpl-violations.org

The goals are:

  • Raise public awareness of the infringing use of free software, and thus putting pressure on the infringers.
  • Give users who detect or assume GPL-licensed software is being misused a way to report them to the copyright holders. This is the first step in enabling the copyright holders to push for license compliance.
  • Assist copyright holders in any action against GPL infringing organizations.
  • Distribute information on how a commercial entity using GPL licensed software in their products can comply with the license.

Project history

The founder, Harald Welte, started to get active with GPL enforcement in late 2003, where he discovered the first bunch of companies violating the GPL in software he wrote for the netfilter/iptables project.

After some time, he discovered that the number of GPL violations was far bigger than expected, as is the number of Free Software projects whose copyrights are mistreated / abused. Therefore, the gpl-violations.org project was officially started in January 2004.

During 2004, more and more cases of infringement were discovered, mostly in the embedded networking market. The first preliminary injunction in favor of the GPL (and the gpl-violations.org project) was granted in mid-2004.

Over time, some other Linux kernel developers have transferred their rights in a fiduciary license agreement to enable the successful gpl-violations.org project to enforce the GPL in cases where no code originally written by Harald Welte was used / infringed upon.

By June 2006, the project has hit the magic "100 cases finished" mark, at an exciting equal "100% legal success" mark. Every GPL infringement that we started to enforce was resolved in a legal success, either in-court or out of court.

Apart from that, please see the news section of this homepage for further noteworthy events.


The gpl-violations.org thanks the following companies, organizations and individuals who contributed to this website:

  • Armijn Hemel for contributing endless hours as a volunteer and core team member investigating reported GPL violations.
  • Linux Kernel Developer Alan Cox for writing the initial gpl-violations.org <olink targetdocent="faqs">FAQs</olink>.
  • Linux Kernel Developer Werner Almesberger for signing a fiduciary license agreement on his initrd and msdosfs implementation.
  • Paul "Rusty" Russell for signing a fiduciary license agreement on his ipfwadm and ipchains work.
  • Free Software Foundation for creating the GNU General Public License and starting the free software movement.
  • Free Software Foundation Europe for creating the <ulink url="http://www.fsfe.org/projects/ftf/ftf.en.html">Freedom Task Force (FTF)</ulink> and the associated international network of Free Software licensing experts.
  • Software Freedom Law Center for creating the conservancy project and doing the legal part of enforcing the GPL in the United States of America.
  • Chris Hübsch for designing the logo of the project.
  • Jürgen Lüters of Intranet Engineering, technical expert recognized to German courts who provided us with technical studies on the technical proof of copyright infringement.
  • Dr. Till Jaeger and his team of JBB Rechtsanwälte, the Berlin based law firm that is doing an excellent job of handling the legal aspects of all gpl-violations.org cases.
  • noris networks AG for sponsoring IP traffic to this website
  • Kommunikationsnetz Franken e.V. and Towersoft Gbr for originally hosting the web server for this website in its early days