German court rejects AVM´s claims opposing third party modifications of GPL software
On 8th November the Berlin Regional Court issued its decision in the case AVM Computersysteme Vertriebs GmbH (AVM) v. Cybits AG (Cybits) (news passim). In this case, AVM was essentially trying to stop Cybits from modifying GNU GPL licensed free software inside of their AVM Fritz!Box products. Yesterday, the court dismissed this principal claim. Thus, it also confirmed that users of embedded devices with pre-installed free software have the legal freedom to make, install, run and distribute modifications to free software. The decision has been welcomed by both the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and gpl-violations.org.
Although the written decision is not available yet, it is clear that the court rejected AVM’s claims according to which no third party shall be permitted to alter their products’ firmware, even if the GNU GPL components are concerned. Thus, Cybits or anyone else may perform such modifications. Furthermore, under the judgement, Cybits is not prohibited from distributing its software that assists users in making and installing modifications to GNU GPL licensed software (the Linux kernel used in the Fritz!Box device).
“I am extremely pleased that the court turned down any request by AVM to control any modification to the GNU GPL licensed components of the Fritz!Box firmware. Enabling and encouraging everyone to innovate based on existing software and products is a key aspect of the Free Software movement”, says Harald Welte, founder of gpl-violations.org.
Moreover, the court upheld an auxiliary claim raised by AVM. In its ruling, it enjoins Cybits from distributing the software only in case it causes the web interface to display a wrong status of the internet connection and web filtering software. “But this is a side issue, the important part is: Free Software gives everybody the right to use, study, share and improve it. Nobody should be allowed to prevent others from executing those rights”, says Matthias Kirschner, FSFE’s German co-ordinator.
Both parties in the case have one month in which to appeal against the court’s decision.