GPL violation by Skype re-affirmed by court
In appeals negotiations over last year's ruling that it violated the GPL, Skype withdrew its appeal and accepted the ruling. In July 2007, a district court in Munich ruled that Skype had violated the GPL when it sold an SMC Networks Linux-based VoIP telephone, since the source code of the software was not provided with the phone. The suit was filed by Harald Welte of gpl-violations.org, holders of some of the rights to the Linux kernel.
In its appeal of the ruling, negotiated before the anti-trust senate of the appellate court in Munich, Skype argued that the GPL contradicted German anti-trust laws. At the outset of the negotiations, the court stated that it considered the appeal unfounded. It pointed out that even if the GPL was not valid under German law, Skype still did not have a right to use the software, since no rights at all were granted to the company. Skype's legal counsel then withdrew the appeal, making last summer's ruling valid.
Harald Welte's lawyer, Till Jaeger, explained to heise open that an out-of-court settlement had been reached with telephone manufacturer SMC Networks. There are two important aspects to the standing ruling: on the one hand, this is the first time a foreign company has been found guilty of a GPL violation in Germany. On the other hand, the court has set a very high standard by interpreting the GPL to the letter of the license text. The court ruled that providing the source code on the internet was not adequate in the case of a VoIP telephone and that a general note regarding the GPL and LGPL software was not specific enough.