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Court rejects AVM's claims opposing third party modifications of GPL software

Court rejects AVM's claims opposing third party modifications of GPL software

On November 8th the Regional Court of Berlin [Landgericht Berlin] issued
its decision in the previously reported case AVM Computersysteme
Vertriebs GmbH (AVM) v. Cybits AG (Cybits). In this case, AVM was
essentially trying to stop Cybits from modifying GNU GPL licensed Free
Software inside of their AVM Fritz!Box products. Yesterday, the court
dismissed this principal claim. Thus, it also confirmed that users of
embedded devices with pre-installed Free Software have the legal freedom
to make, install, run and distribute modifications to this Free
Software. The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and
gpl-violations.org, both welcome this decision.

Although the written reasoning of the decision is not available yet, it
is clear that the court rejected AVM's claims according to which no
third party shall be permitted to alter their products' firmware, even
if the GNU GPL components are concerned. Thus, Cybits or anyone else may
perform such modifications. Furthermore, under the judgement, Cybits is
not prohibited from distributing its software that assists users in
making and installing modifications to GNU GPL licensed software (Linux
kernel used in the Fritz!Box device).

"I am extremely pleased that the court turned down any request by AVM to
control any modification to the GNU GPL licensed components of the
Fritz!Box firmware. Enabling and encouraging everyone to innovate based
on existing software and products is a key aspect of the Free Software
movement.", says Harald Welte, founder of gpl-violations.org and third
party intervener on behalf of Cybits in the dispute.

On the other hand, the court upheld an auxiliary claim raised by AVM. In
its ruling, it enjoins Cybits from distributing the software only in
case it causes the web interface to display a wrong status of the
internet connection and web filtering software. "But this is a side
issue, the important part is: Free Software gives everybody the right to
use, study, share, and improve it. Nobody should be allowed to prevent
others from executing those rights", says Matthias Kirschner, FSFE's
German coordinator.

The decision can be appealed by either party within one month.

FSFE and gpl-violations.org are committed to encouraging the use of Free
Software by companies and developers by making licensing and compliance
as easy as possible. Generally it is considerably easier to comply with
Free Software licenses than with EULAs and other license agreements for
non-Free software. Often it is only necessary to add a copy of the GNU
GPL license text to documentation, and add an offer to provide the
software source code (see FSFE's compliance tips).
     

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