Companies accused of violating the GPL

Thirteen companies, including Motorola and Acer, have been handed letters claiming they have failed to comply with the GNU General Public License

A number of major IT vendors have been accused of misusing software licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

Harald Welte, a Linux kernel developer who runs gpl-violations.org, personally handed over warning letters to 13 technology companies at CeBIT this week, including telecoms giant Motorola and PC manufacturer Acer.

Welte claimed that the binary code of the companies' products appears to have used GPL code, but that they have not made source code available as required by the GPL. The letter warned companies that this might be the case, but did not mark the start of legal action, according to Welte.

"While the free and open source community is very happy to see more and more vendors adopt Linux and other GPL-licensed software, it is of great importance that those vendors comply with the respective liceDefender of the Linux faithnce conditions, just like with any other software," said Welte in a statement. "The warning notice gives them a chance to fix their products before they get into legal trouble."

Other companies that received a warning letter from Welte included Buffalo Technology, X-Micro Technology, Micronet, Trendware, Level One, Minitar and Ovislink.

Motorola, Acer, Buffalo and Trendware were unable to comment in time for this article.

Welte told ZDNet UK that he had already received a good response from Taiwanese company X-Micro, which was apparently not aware of the requirements of the GPL.

"When I went to the X-Micro booth, I met the vice-president of X-Micro and we sat down and discussed the issue," said Welte. "What he said confirmed my impression of what's going on in Taiwan — people there are not aware of their obligations as they don't have a tradition of copyright in Taiwan."

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