Hamburg court: GPL source and binary versions must be equal
According to a recent ruling of the District Court of Hamburg, sources released with a GPLv2-licensed program must have the same version as the corresponding binaries. The court ruled that hardware manufacturer Fantec had acted negligently in providing older versions of source code for some of its firmware, rather than providing the actual sources that the binaries were originally compiled from. The company was sued by Harald Welte's gpl-violations.org representing the iptables developers of the netfilter project.
The object of the lawsuit had been Fantec's 3DFHDL media player, which ships with Linux-based firmware that uses iptables 1.3.7 as part of its software. Fantec offered both the firmware and source code for download but did not reference the GPL nature of the code and did not include a licence notice. As part of the FSFE's Hacking for Compliance Workshop in 2012, hackers also discovered that the iptables version in the source code was older than the sources the firmware binaries were compiled from. According to the Hamburg court, this means that Fantec did not comply with the GPLv2's requirement to release the complete corresponding source code.
The court also ruled that Fantec can not use the defence that their Chinese supplier had developed the firmware and had assured them of the completeness of the source code. According to the court, the company should have checked the completeness of the sources themselves or with the help of experts, even if that would have incurred additional costs.