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A Court of Appeal condemns for violating the GNU GPL license

PARIS, France -- Monday, September 22, 2009

In a landmark ruling that will set legal precedent [1], the Paris Court of Appeals decided last week that the company Edu4 [2] violated the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) when it distributed binary copies of the remote desktop access software VNC [3] but denied users access to its corresponding source code. The suit was filed by Association pour la formation professionnelle des adultes (AFPA [4]), a French education organization.

"This decision should raise awareness about free software licensing for everyone involved with it," said Olivier Hugot, attorney of Free Software Foundation France. "Companies distributing the software have been given a strong reminder that the license's terms are real and enforceable. And users in France can rest assured that, if need be, they can avail themselves of the legal system to see violations addressed and their rights respected."

The events of the case go back to early 2000, when Edu4 was hired to provide new computer equipment in AFPA's classrooms. Shortly thereafter, AFPA discovered that VNC was distributed with this equipment. Despite repeated requests, with mediation from the Free Software Foundation France, Edu4 refused to provide AFPA with the source code to this version of VNC. Furthermore, FSF France later discovered that Edu4 had removed copyright and license notices in the software. All of these activities violate the terms of the GNU GPL. AFPA filed suit in 2002 to protect its rights and obtain the source code.

"We've long said the GNU GPL is enforceable, and of course we're pleased to see another court reaffirm that fact," said Loic Dachary, president of FSF France. "But what makes this ruling unique is the fact that the suit was filed by a user of the software, instead of a copyright holder. It's a commonly held belief that only the copyright holder of a work can enforce its license - but that's not true in France."


[1] - Judgement, September 16th 2009, Court of Appeals of Paris, Pole 5 Section 10, RG n 04/24298 [...] the society EDU 4 didn't transmit to AFPA the source code of the VNC software that it had modified [...] that therefore, it is in vain that the company EDU4 alleges that AFPA had received a conforming product [...] it is clear from all of these elements that EDU 4 violated its contractual obligations by delivering in December 2001, when compliance was assessed, a product [...] that does not meet the terms of the GNU GPL because EDU4 had totally deleted the original VNC copyright [...] replacing it with its own and deleted the text of the license.

[2] - Edu4 http://www.edu4.com/

[3] - Virtual Network Computing (VNC) is a free software program to connect to a remote computer. It allows users to transmit keystrokes and mouse clicks from one computer to another via a computer network.

[4] - AFPA

About Free Software Foundation France

The FSF France (http://www.fsffrance.org/) is a non-profit organization dedicated to all aspects of Free Software. Access to software determines who may participate in a digital society. Therefore the freedoms to use, copy, modify and redistribute software - as described in the Free Software definition - allow equal participation in the information age. Creating awareness for these issues, securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving people freedom by supporting development of Free Software are central issues of the FSF France.

Press contacts

Loïc Dachary. E-mail : loic@gnu.org Phone : +33 6 64 03 29 07

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Updated: $Date: 2005-12-06 11:47:46 +0100 (Tue, 06 Dec 2005) $ $Author: mad $