Software Freedom Conservancy

The time has come to stand up for the GPL.

Earlier this month, Conservancy announced Christoph Hellwig's lawsuit against VMware in Germany. Help us meet our anonymous match to support Conservancy's and Christoph's efforts in this area by becoming a Conservancy supporter or .

We were told to ask nicely and repeatedly, so we did.

We asked allies to help us make contact in friendly and professional ways.

Everyone asked us to give companies as many chances as possible and as much help as possible to comply with copyleft, so we did.

We've worked for years to help VMware comply with the GPL, but they refuse. Negotiations broke down for the last time when they insisted on an NDA just to discuss settlement terms!

Christoph is among the most active developers of Linux. As of Feburary 19, 2015, Christoph has contributed 279,653 lines of code to the Linux kernel, and ranks 20th among the 1,340 developers involved in the latest 3.19 kernel release. Christoph also ranks 4th among those who have reviewed third-party source code, tirelessly corrected and commented on other developers' contributions. Christoph licenses his code to the public under the terms of the GPL for practical and ideological reasons. VMware, a company with net revenue of over $1 billion and over 14,000 employees, ignored Christoph's choice. They took Christoph's code from Linux and modified it to work with their own kernel without releasing source code of the resulting complete work. This is precisely the kind of activity Christoph and other kernel developers seek to prevent by choosing the GPL. The GPL was written to prevent this specific scenario!

This is a matter of principle.

Free and open source software is everywhere and in everything; yet our software freedom is constantly eroded.

We want companies to incorporate our software into new products, but there are a few simple rules. Copylefted free software is so prevalent because there's no way a company can compete without using a significant amount of free software to bring products to market in reasonable time. They get so much benefit from our work. Allowing the whole community to review, use, improve and work with the code seems very little to ask in return. Copyleft also ensures competitors cannot undercut those who contribute. Without active enforcement, the GPL is effectively no different from a non-copyleft license.

What point is there for companies to make sure that they're compliant if there are no consequences when the GPL is violated? Many will continue to ignore the rules without enforcement. We know that there are so many companies that willingly comply and embrace GPL as part of their business. Some are temporarily out of compliance and need to be brought up to speed, but willingly comply once they realize there is an issue. Sadly, VMware sits in the rare but infamous class of perpetually non-compliant companies. VMware has been aware of their noncompliance for years but actively refuses to do the right thing. Help us do right by those who take the code in the spirit it was given and comply with copyleft, and stop those don't.

We know that copyleft isn't a favorite licensing strategy for some in our community. Even so, this case will help bring clarity on the question of combined and derivative works, and is essential to the future of all software freedom. This case deserves support from copyleft and non-copyleft free software communities alike.

Show you care

Bad actors have become complacent because they think you don't care. A strong show of public support for Conservancy and Christoph's position will help our legal case and demonstrate the interpretive context for it. Please to our campaign to enforce the GPL. Help Conservancy increase its number of individual donors, so we have clear evidence to show bad actors that the GPL matters to the individuals in our community. After you , go and tell the world: “Play by the rules, @VMware. I defend the #GPL with Christoph & @Conservancy. #DTRTvmware Help at https://sfconservancy.org/supporter/ ” on your blog or microblog.

Isn't the combined works and/or derivative works question a legal grey area?

We don't think so, but this case will let the court to decide that question. Either way, it's beneficial to our entire community to find out what the judges think. (Check out our FAQ to find out more information.)

Help us pay for this expensive lawsuit and to generally defend software freedom and the GPL. Help us show the world that copyleft matters. We are excited to announce an anonymous match for this campaign, where every dollar donated will be matched up to $50,000. Please donate now: by becoming a Conservancy Supporter or via .

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