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.

Media Contact

John Sullivan
Executive Director
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942

Source: Free Software