Friday, 06 March 2015 11:10

Linux developer sues VMware, claims GPL violations Featured


Linux kernel developer Christoph Hellwig has sued virtualisation company VMware in Hamburg, claiming that the company has violated the General Public Licence under which the kernel is distributed.

The announcement was made by the Software Freedom Conservancy, a New York-based non-profit that helps promote, improve, develop, and defend free and open source projects. It will be financially backing the court action.

The GPLv2 states clearly that source code for any software developed under the licence has to be provided, along with any modifications, in the event that the software is being distributed.

Hellwig, the maintainer of the kernel's SCSI sub-storage system, has accused VMware of GPL violations since 2007.

According to a media release from the Conservancy, in 2011 it discovered that VMware had failed to provide or offer any source code for the version of BusyBox included in VMware's ESXi products.

In early 2012, the Conservancy began talks with VMware to seek compliance on all GPL components in the ESXi project but nothing of substance happened.

Hellwig joined the Conservancy's GPL Compliance for Linux Developers in late 2012 and helped to analyse VMware's current ESXi products. It was found that they infringed many of Hellwig's own copyrights.

Both the Conservancy and Hellwig say that VMware has combined copyrighted Linux code, licensed under the GPLv2, with their own proprietary code called "vmkernel" and distributed the entire combined work without providing or offering complete, corresponding source code.

Hellwig's legal counsel is Till Jaeger who has handled several lawsuits regarding GPL violations.

The Free Software Foundation, while not a party to the suit, has backed the Conservancy and Hellwig.

"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," John Sullivan, the executive director of the FSF said in a statement.

"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."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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