DISTRICT COURT OF FRANKFURT ISSUES VERDICT ON GPL VIOLATION OF D-LINK
BERLIN, Germany - September 22, 2006 -- The gpl-violations.org project prevails in court litigation against D-Link Germany GmbH regarding D-Link's alleged inappropriate and copyright infringing use of parts of the Linux Operating System Kernel.
D-Link Germany GmbH, a subsidiary of D-Link Corporation, Taiwan R.O.C., distributed DSM-G600, a network attached storage (NAS) device which uses a Linux-based Operating System. However, this distribution was incompliant with the GNU General Public License (GPL) which covers the Linux Kernel and many other software programs used in the product.
Following-up a legal warning notice, D-Link signed a declaration to cease and desist and agreed to refrain from further distributing the product, but refused to reimburse gpl-violations.org for expenses incurred in connection with the test purchase, re-engineering and legal advice and representation. In the court proceedings, D-Link claimed that the GPL is not legally binding. A quote from the German letter of the D-Link lawyers to gpl-violations.org, dated Feb 24, 2006 can be translated as:
- "Regardless of the repeatedly-quoted judgement of the district court of Munich
- I, we do not consider the GPL as legally binding."
Since gpl-violations.org has been continuously revealing GPL violations by D-Link since September 2004, it filed a civil case with the district court of Frankfurt (Germany) in March 2006, seeking the court to issue a judgement in support of its copyright claims based on the GPL, and seeking the court to order D-Link to reimburse gpl-violations.org for the expenses of the out-of-court enforcement.
Mr. Harald Welte, Linux Kernel developer and founder of gpl-violations.org states:
"The Free Software community is very happy to see more and more vendors to use Linux and other Free Software in their products. However, Free Software is copyrighted material, much like any other software. Redistribution may only take place in accordance with its license."
On September 6, 2006 the district court issued its judgement, confirming the claims by gpl-violations.org, specifically its rights on the subject-matter source code, the violation of the GNU GPL by D-Link, the validity of the GPL under German law, and D-Links obligation to reimburse gpl-violations.org for legal expenses, test purchase and cost of re-engineering. Only the amount of the legal expenses was considered too high by some insignificant amount of 300 EUR. Therefore, this decision marks a clear-cut victory for gpl-violations.org. D-Link may file an appeal against the judgement.
Mr. Welte continues:
"It was very sad to see D-Link starting to argue that the GPL would not apply . Given D-Link's repeated license violations, it can be thankful that we've never asked for any kind of damages, but merely to cease and desist from further infringements, plus our expenses. I start to wonder whether they actually deserve such a mild strategy."
In the past 30 months, gpl-violations.org has helped uncover and negotiate more than 100 GPL violations and has obtained numerous out-of-court settlement agreements. The gpl-violations.org project is a not-for-profit effort to bring commercial users and vendors of Free Software into compliance with the license conditions as set forth by the original authors. The project was founded and is managed by Mr. Harald Welte, a Linux Kernel developer and Free Software enthusiast.