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You are here: Home FSF News The GPL tested in US courts - Wallace Vs FSF.

The GPL tested in US courts - Wallace Vs FSF.

by Matt Lee Contributions Published on Mar 22, 2006 07:33 PM
The GNU General Public License stands firm.
On Monday March 20, 2006 US Federal Judge John Daniel Tinder, dismissed the Sherman Act antitrust claims brought against the Free Software Foundation. The claims made by Plaintiff Daniel Wallace included: that the General Public License (GPL) constituted a contract, combination or conspiracy; that it created an unreasonable restraint of trade; and that the FSF conspired with IBM, Red Hat Inc., Novell and other individuals to pool and cross-license their copyrighted intellectual property in a predatory price fixing scheme.

Peter Brown, FSF Executive Director, responded to the news, "As the author of the GPL and copyright holder on the largest body of GPL'd covered free software, the FSF hears many theories of potential legal claims and challenges to the GPL. We hear the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) expressed, that the GPL has never been tested in court, and that somehow that is a sign of its weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth of course. Put quite simply, if you don't accept the terms of the GPL, then you have no rights to the copyrighted works it covers. What is there left to test? The GPL is a software license, it is not a contract. It gives permissions from the copyright holder. You don't want to accept those permissions? End of discussion."

On Monday, a US Federal Court Judge dismissed Daniel Wallace's case saying "[The GPL] acts as a means by which certain software may be copied, modified and redistributed without violating the software's copyright protection. As such, the GPL encourages, rather than discourages, free competition and the distribution of computer operating systems, the benefits of which directly pass to consumers. These benefits include lower prices, better access and more innovation."

Brown continued, "Let us all stop and consider the consequences of what this US Federal Judge has said. On being presented with the facts surrounding the GPL, he was able to define a range of benefits available to those that value the freedoms delivered by the GPL. The question we are all left with is, why would anyone put up with the inferred consequences of proprietary software?", and, "If you care about lower prices, better access to software, or more innovation, then GPL'd software is for you. Or as the Free Software would describe that, you value freedom".

Having dismissed the case, and finding in favor of the FSF and against Wallace, the Judge also allowed FSF costs against Wallace. Wallace now has thirty days to appeal the decision, but the FSF expects no further meaningful news on the matter.

About the Free Software Foundation
The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software - particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants - and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software. Their Web site, located at , is an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support their work can be made at Their headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.
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