Statement in support of Software Freedom Conservancy and Christoph Hellwig, GPL enforcement lawsuit
On Thursday, March 5, 2015, Christoph Hellwig, with support from the Software Freedom Conservancy, filed suit in Hamburg, Germany against VMware Global, Inc. Hellwig is a prominent contributor to the kernel Linux, releasing his contributions under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2. VMware, like everyone, is free to use, modify, and distribute such software under the GPL, so long as they make available the human-readable source code corresponding to their version of the software when they distribute it.
This simple and fair obligation is the cornerstone of the successful cooperation we've seen for decades between organizations both for-profit and non-profit, users, and developers—the same cooperation which has given us the GNU/Linux operating system and inspired a wealth of free software programs for nearly every imaginable use.
Unfortunately, VMware has broken this promise by not releasing the source code for the version of the operating system kernel they distribute with their ESXi software. Now, after many years of trying to work with VMware amicably, the Software Freedom Conservancy and Hellwig have sought the help of German courts to resolve the matter. While the Free Software Foundation (FSF) is not directly involved in the suit, we support the effort.
"From our conversations with the Software Freedom Conservancy, I know that they have been completely reasonable in their expectations with VMware and have taken all appropriate steps to address this failure before resorting to the courts. Their motivation is to stand up for the rights of computer users and developers worldwide, the very same rights VMware has enjoyed as a distributor of GPL-covered software. The point of the GPL is that nobody can claim those rights and then kick away the ladder to prevent others from also receiving them. We hope VMware will step up and do the right thing," said John Sullivan, FSF's executive director.
The suit and preceding GPL compliance process undertaken by Conservancy mirror the work that the FSF does in its own Licensing and Compliance Lab. Both the FSF and Conservancy take a fair, non-profit approach to GPL enforcement, favoring education and collaboration as a means of helping others properly distribute free software. Lawsuits are always a last resort.
You can support Conservancy's work on this case by making a donation.
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