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Linux row goes to court

by on21 June 2011

Wear a tux
Today a case opens in the District Court of Berlin which may have bit effect on the way that Open Sauce software is developed and distributed.

On one side is the manufacturer and distributor of DSL routers AVM and on the other is  Cybits  (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.

AVM wanted to stop Cybits from changing any parts of the firmware used in AVM's routers, including the Linux kernel. However The Free Software Foundation Europeand 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.

AVM filed two actions against Cybits. It claimed that when their customers install Cybits' filtering software on AVM routers it changes the routers' firmware and consequently infringes on its copyright.

It seems to think that even changing the Linux kernel components of the firmware is not allowed. The Court of Appeals of Berlin said that this was daft September 2010 and refused to grant an injunction. Now, the District Court of Berlin will have to decide on the issue again, this time in the main proceedings.

If AVM succeeds, it will  break the legal rights of the authors of the programs, who decided that software freedom was more important to them than directly receiving license fees.

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