Kernel contributions from organisations and individual privacy

Jeff Haran Jeff.Haran at
Tue Jun 16 12:23:00 EDT 2015

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Rik van Riel [mailto:riel at]
> Sent: Monday, June 15, 2015 4:56 PM
> To: Jeff Haran; Bjørn Mork
> Cc: kernelnewbies at
> Subject: Re: Kernel contributions from organisations and individual privacy
> On 06/15/2015 07:08 PM, Jeff Haran wrote:
> >> Jeff Haran <Jeff.Haran at> writes:
> >>
> >>> What is the downside to a large company for violating GPL?
> >>
> >> Losing all rights to the software in question forever is probably the
> >> largest downside.  If we talk about the Linux kernel (as I assume we
> >> do in this forum) then I have a hard time believing any company can
> survive that.
> >
> > Has this ever actually happened?
> >
> > Specifically has a company that violated Linux's GPL ever been sued over
> the violation, lost the case and as a result lost the ability to use the Linux
> kernel forever?
> No, but they have come close, in several lawsuits, mostly in Germany.
> All of the companies in question decided that coming into compliance with
> the GPL was a better option than losing the rights to use, copy, distribute,
> and modify Linux.

My original post concerned deterrence, not compliance. Sure, once they've violated, once they've been identified as violators, once their lawyers have received the cease and desist letter and decided to ignore it in hopes that you will go away, once they get their butts hauled into court and the lawyers start paying attention, once they figure out they will likely lose, once they've stalled court proceedings for years while engineering changes the code to no longer violate or they decide to GPL their code, then they comply with the law.

But there would seem to be little in the way of deterrence here, "deterrence" in the sense that they are dissuaded from violating in the first place because the eventual cost of doing so will be too high should they be prosecuted and found guilty. Seems like they can violate at will and so long as they eventually come around there is little downside to having done the original violation. And from their perspective if they get away with it they gain because they get to keep their IP secret, and to the bean counters that is tangible value even if it makes no sense technically.

Jeff Haran

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