Paris Court of Appeals on a GPL – related case

By EDRi · October 7, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Pariser Berufungsgerichtshof mit einem GPL-Fall |]

The Paris Court of Appeals published in September 2009 its decision on a
case that involved the distribution of the VNC Software, remote desktop
access software available under GPL GNU licence.

The case was brought forward by AFPA (Association for professional education
of adults) against Edu4, a commercial company. Edu4 won a contract in
2000 that foreseen the delivery of a software solution to AFPA. The
Association discovered that VNC was distributed with this equipment
without providing the source code or keeping the licence notices.

Free Software Foundation France presented the case like a landmark ruling
and stated: “Companies distributing the software have been given a strong
reminder that the license’s terms are enforceable under French law. 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.”

Unfortunately, the case is merely a contractual dispute between the two
parties that did not involve the GPL licence as such. Also, the court did
not specifically address the enforceability of the GPL Licence.

As the lawyer Martin von Willebrand explains on his blog “Not a single
claim (by either party), as cited in the court’s decision, is based on GPL
license, any interpretation of GPL as a contract or any copyright. The
decision cites GPL license a number of times, mostly to describe
VNC-software and also partly related to the discussion whether it was
allowed or not to include free software into the outcome of the project.”

The court decision considered that ” Edu4 has failed to fullfil its
contractual obligations delivering in December 2001 (…) a product which,
on the one hand, created privacy risks for EOF users and, on the other hand,
did not satisfy the terms of the GNU GPL licence, as Edu4 had replaced by
its own copyright the original VNC’s copyright notices regarding the
ownership of the two files and the text of the licence.”

Thus, this case can’t be considered a landmark ruling, with the GPL licence
playing a side role in the context of the entire case. However, it is worth
underlining that “the court habitually considers the software licensed under
the terms of GNU GPL and attaches legal significance to the terms” as von
Willebrand concludes.

Paris Court of Appeals condemns Edu4 for violating the GNU General Public
License (22.09.2009)

Recent Court Decision in Paris (referred as Paris GPL case) (1.10.2009)

Recent Court Decision in Paris (referred as Paris GPL case)

Court decision – Cour d’Appel de Paris, Pôle 5, Chambre 10, no: 294, (only
in French, 16.09.2009)