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<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<html newsdate="2011-06-20">
<title>AVM violating license of the Linux kernel</title>
<h1>AVM violating license of the Linux kernel</h1>
<h2>Linux kernel at centre of battle for control of embedded devices</h2>
<p> Berlin, 20th June - Tomorrow on June 21st a legal case
will be heard before the District Court of Berlin which may have enormous
consequences for the way that software is developed and distributed. The
adversaries in the case are the manufacturer and distributor of DSL routers AVM
Computersysteme Vertriebs GmbH (AVM), and Cybits AG (Cybits) which produces
children's web-filtering software. Both companies use the Linux kernel, which is licensed
under the GNU General Public License, version 2 (GNU GPL); a Free Software
license permitting everyone to use, study, share, and improve works which use it.
The case was brought to court by AVM with the aim of preventing Cybits from changing
any parts of the firmware used in AVM's routers, including the Linux kernel.
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and consider
AVM's action as a broad attack against the principles of Free Software, and thus against the
thousands of individuals and companies developing, improving and distributing
Free Software.</p>
<p>"I decided to contribute my work to the Linux kernel under the GNU GPL, and let others
benefit from it. I'm happy if companies make a lot of money with software
written by me and thousands of others. But in return, when they distribute our
software I want them to give others the same rights they received from me",
said Harald Welte, founder of and copyright holder of several
parts of the Linux kernel.</p>
<p>This is however exactly what AVM tried to avoid when in 2010 they filed
two actions against Cybits. AVM claimed that when their customers install
Cybits' filtering software on AVM routers it changes the routers' firmware
and consequently infringes on AVM's copyright. In the opinion of AVM, even
changing the Linux kernel components of the firmware is not allowed. The Court
of Appeals of Berlin rejected this argument in its decision on the request for
a preliminary injunction in September 2010, after Mr. Welte intervened in the
case. Now, the District Court of Berlin will have to decide on the issue again,
this time in the main proceedings.</p>
<p>"This case has far reaching consequences for the future of Free Software
and the GNU GPL. The GNU GPL is a legal license set by the original authors of
the software. These terms are not optional" said Till Jaeger from JBB
Rechtsanwälte who represents Mr. Welte in this case.</p>
<p>If AVM succeeds in forbidding others from exercising the freedoms explicitly granted by the
GNU General Public License terms, it will directly contravene the legal rights
of the original authors of the programs, who decided that software freedom and
cooperation is more important to them than directly receiving license fees. Moreover,
there are also significant economic and business implications. First, it will
give device manufacturers the chance to veto software from third parties on
their products, resulting in worse products for the user and them being
locked-in to purchasing future products from a particular vendor.
Second, it will give companies like AVM an unfair advantage over their
competitors who are in compliance with the Free Software licenses which they use.
Third, it will threaten the cooperative software development model,
which has been successfully used by many companies worldwide for three decades.</p>
<p>"AVM is attacking the very foundations of Free Software: They want to take away
freedom from others. We have to act when a company sues others for
executing their right to modify Free Software. AVM's behaviour must not be
tolerated. If they are successful in court it will be disastrous for the
global market for embedded devices, which includes mobile phones, network
hardware, and other Linux based products" says Matthias Kirschner, FSFE's
German Coordinator.</p>
<p>"Ironically, by preventing others from enacting the rights granted by the GNU GPL,
AVM itself is in violation of the license terms. Therefore they have no right
to distribute the software" says Till Jaeger.</p>
<p>FSFE and 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 <a
href="/activities/ftf/useful-tips-for-vendors.html">FSFE's compliance
<li><strong><a href="/activities/avm-gpl-violation/avm-gpl-violation.html">Link to Background Information</a></strong></li>
<li><a href="">Court decision 2nd instance (pdf, German)</a></li>
<li><a href="/activities/ftf/avm-nebenintervention.pdf">Intervention by Harald Welte (pdf, German)</a></li>
<li><a href="/activities/ftf/ftf.html">FSFE's legal page</a></li>
<li><a href="/activities/ftf/documentation.html">FSFE's legal team maintains a collection of documentation on Free Software Legal and Licensing topics. It also produces guides and handbooks.</a></li>
<li><a href="">Frequently Asked Questions about the GNU Licenses</a></li>
<li><a href="">GNU GPL version 2</a> and <a href="">unofficial translations</a></li>
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