Marcus V. Welser

Rechtsfragen der Open Source Software – über den Versuch, Linux zu monetarisieren

Jahrgang 9 () / Heft 4, S. 570-588 (19)

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Open Source Software is software whose source code is public and can be viewed, used and changed by anyone under certain conditions. The most popular open-source operating system is Linux. The Linux Kernel, the core of the Linux operating system, is licensed under version 2 of the General Public License (GPLv2). The GPLv2 was drafted according to the requirements of US law. For many years now, efforts have been made in the open source community to monitor compliance with the GPLv2 to ensure that the source code remains actually free. Although the enforcement of GPLv2 compliance was generally not done by legal means, in some cases law suits were filed. A relatively new phenomenon, on the other hand, is the approach of individuals who attempt to monetize Linux by asserting that they own copyrights in the Linux Kernel. Warning letters which are sent out because of the use of Linux in the case of insufficient GPL compliance present new challenges for companies using Linux. In cases where a broad contractual obligation to cease and desist from using the Linux Kernel without complying with the terms of the GPLv2 is requested signing a cease-and-desist declaration is not recommendable. Instead of submitting a cease-and-desist declaration two processes are to be initiated from the company's point of view. On the one hand the technical process of ensuring complete open source license compliance. This includes an analysis of all open source components used in the own software and compliance with all resulting contractual obligations. On the other hand the preparation against a possible legal attack, for example by submitting a protective letter with the court. In addition to substantive law issues, the main focus here is on the prevention of an overly broad and unclear operative part of the judgment. Seit einigen Jahren versuchen einzelne Linux-Entwickler, ihre Beiträge zum Linux-Betriebssystem zu monetarisieren, indem sie Unternehmen abmahnen, die Linux verwenden, ohne dabei die Bestimmungen der entsprechenden Open Source Lizenz vollständig umgesetzt zu haben. Der Beitrag untersucht die Möglichkeiten, sich gegen solche Abmahnungen zur Wehr zu setzen.

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