Fortinet settles GPL violation suit

Fortinet settles GPL violation suit

Summary: Fortinet has decided that complying with the GPL is a relatively small price to pay for using the Linux kernel in its products


Security vendor Fortinet has agreed to make some of its source code available, following accusations that it violated the GPL, the company said on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, founder Harald Welte obtained a court injunction against Fortinet, banning the company from distributing its products until it complied with the conditions of the GPL. Welte claimed that Fortinet not only misused GPL-licensed code, but also tried to hide its use of GPL code by using cryptographic techniques.

Fortinet has now agreed to provide the source code of the Linux kernel and other GPL-licensed components to any interested party. The code is available on request, for the cost of distribution, from the Fortinet Web site. The company has also agreed to modify its licensing agreement to include the GPL licensing terms with all Fortinet shipments.

This is the latest in a string of victories for the project. Since starting the project in 2004, Welte has negotiated more than 30 out-of-court settlement agreements.

ZDNet UK recently spoke to Welte about his methods and the motivation behind You can read the full interview here.

Topics: Apps, Software Development

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  • What this means:

    Fortinet had the *option* of publishing some of their product's source code - specifically their modifications to the Linux kernel - to comply with the GPL.

    They had other options, including withdrawing the product, re-engineering the product to be compliant, or anything else they could negotiate with the launchers of the suit.

    In other words, they were not simply forced to open up their code - they chose that as the least problematic course of action to fix a legal problem they had got themselves into by ignoring the license on the source code they were using.

    It's just the same as if you ignore the license on a commercial library - for example, licensing it for just one product then using it in another. You must fix the problem - you can license the library, remove it from your code, etc, as negotiated with the rights holder.

    The GPL can not magically "make your code GPL" - but you can do that yourself if you decide it's the best way out of an infringement. It sounds to me like that's what Fortinet did.

    Of course, all this is just my understanding of the situation as an IT professional. I'm no lawyer, and you'd be a fool to take my words for more than a personal viewpoint.
  • So, not only were they knowledgeable of their GPL violation, but they deliberately and purposefully attempted to hide it. That, friends, is called LYING. If Microsoft's licenses had been violated so flagrantly by someone, that someone would have nothing left after Microsoft got through suing (possibly literally) the pants off of them.

    Fortinet should've been fined severely for their willful attempts to hide their license violation. I certainly wouldn't buy anything from them.
  • Thes guys must be really stupid. Whenever you read an article by Laura Didio of Yankee Group or Rob Enderle they cleary point out the GPL never have been tested in court. So why do thay comply? Or could it be that these analysts doesn't know what they are talking about.
  • Keep in mind that analyst has the root word "Anal" in it. This is from the state of thier heads- that body part's placed in their anal canal and solidly locked in place.
    Seriously, though, they tend to be actually rather clueless about what actually IS going on in the industry and what actually IS reality in general. There's a reason why Didio has picked up the pet name "Didiot"- she's pretty damn clueless about the bulk of what she's commented on (especially about the SCO trial proceedings...) and keeps spouting off even though she's been shown to be completely clueless time and time again. I've been alternately amazed and appalled for years at the fact that execs of companies even listen to these moronic twits in the first place.
  • I think is great they are frying these people so it will drive people away from using opensource and back to the closed model where the money is. Keep up the lawsuits to dirve people away.
  • People won't go away from GPL. It allows big companies such as IBM, HP, oracle... to share code and inovations and work together to create a high quality OS for their hardware or software. Moreover, it's open source, so anybody can fix that code. The only restriction in GPL'ed code is that if you modify it, you must make the modifications available. It's much more expensive for fortinet to make an entire OS for their hardware than to modify the linux kernel according to their needs and distribute the modifications..
  • Well 'Sum Yung Gai' - you don't see the point in all this litigation (or threats thereof). You don't want to scare companies away or drive them out of business, you want to make them comply. Most of the time this is accomplished via out-of-court settlements because it's cheap and everyone walks away happy and can get on with business. Dragging things into court is the worst option and always the last - in a court battle, only the lawyers are the winners - both defendant and plaintiff lose. Think 'SCO' - could they possibly be happy with the way their ridiculous case is going? How about IBM - do you think they're happy using what would otherwise be profits to fight SCO? Yup - you are a bit young. I've seen young gung-ho guys have a go at closing down factories because of a few episodes where emissions exceeded limits and a few existing practises didn't comply with guidelines. Why put 300 people out of work for something that can be fixed without doing anyone any harm? You're far too litigious - and that doesn't benefit anyone. Welte goes about defending the GPL with the right attitude - everyone keeps their jobs and happily go about earning money and meeting the terms of the GPL. These cases also prove that the GPL will not destroy your business via the "viral nature" which Microsoft spokesmonkeys always yap about.