Skype Dumps GPL Jump

Skype, the beleaguered VOIP provider-cum-white elephant owned — and if they could line up a buyer, unloaded — by eBay, gave up on a GPL-compliance lawsuit has been fighting in Germany today, signaling another victory for the forces of Free Software everywhere.

The lawsuit, brought by — Europe's version of the U.S.'s Software Freedom Law Center — concerned Skype's bundling of GPLv2-licensed Linux with one of their VOIP phones without including the source code as required, or a copy of the GPL itself, an essential part of utilizing the license. The company had argued that the GPL itself was in violation of and incompatible with German anti-trust laws — a novel claim, indeed — but suffered defeat, which they then appealed. Although the court hearing the appeal was eager to see the parties compromise, the GPL-side stood firm; eventually, the court suggested it would rule against Skype if forced to issue a decision, at which point Skype gave up rather than suffer another spanking.

Considering the history of GPL-compliance litigation — which were, until last year, merely an exercise in legal speculation — Skype was wise to get out when it did. Unless the German court takes a very different path than its American counterparts, Skype will likely absorb the cost of the case and be forced to comply in future. Such has been the case with the GPL suits handled by the SFLC on behalf of BusyBox, which have targeted companies as large as Verizon and have all been quickly settled in the GPL's favor.

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