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GPL to be tested in Berlin case

A manufacturer of DSL routers is taking a maker of web-filtering software to court in Berlin today, in what is a case that revolves around the GNU General Public Licence.

AVM Computersystems is seeking to obtain legal sanction to prevent Cybits from making changes to the code that is used in its routers. This code comes from the Linux kernel, according to statements by the Free Software Foundation Europe and Harald Welte, the founder of gpl-violations.org and a copyright holder of some kernel code.

Said Weite, an intervener in the case: "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."

AVM filed two actions against Cybits last year, claiming that when people installed Cybits' filtering software on AVM routers, it changed the routers' firmware, and, hence, infringed on AVM's copyright.

According to the FSFE statement, AVM claims that even making changes in the components of the firmware drawn from the Linux kernel is not permitted.

The Court of Appeals in Berlin granted a preliminary injunction in September last year after Welte intervened in the case as a side intervener. He has applied for like status in the main case which is set to be begin in the District Court of Berlin later today.

Welte's lawyer, Till Jaeger from JBB Rechtsanwälte, was quoted as saying: "This case has far reaching consequences for the future of Free Software and the GNU GPL. The GNU GPL is a legal license (sic) set by the original authors of the software. These terms are not optional."

Comment has been sought from AVM.

The Berlin-based AVM manufactures the popular FRITZBox, an all-in-one IPv6-compatible device for use on broadband connections. It is one of the top makers of broadband devices in Europe and the largest in Germany with turnover of €200 million in fiscal 2010.



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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.