Enforcement of the GNU GPL in Germany and Europe

GPL enforcement is successful in Europe. In several court decisions and out of court settlements the license conditions of the GPL have been successfully enforced. In particular, embedded systems are the main focus of such compliance activities. The article describes the practice of enforcement activities and the legal prerequisites under the application of German law.

A. Rationale for enforcement of the GPL

At present, the enforcement of the GPL license conditions is driven by single developers and organizations supporting Free Software. Most famous is Mr. Harald Welte, former maintainer of the Netfilter/Iptables project, who is running the enforcement project gpl-violations.org. Some years ago, Mr. Welte became aware of the fact that many manufacturers use the Linux kernel in their products without complying with the GPL conditions, and give the necessary credit to the Free Software community. His letters to the companies remained mostly unanswered or negotiations were so protracted that by the time the source code was eventually published, the relevant product was no longer available for sale. Therefore, he decided to take legal action in a more formal way.

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