German court convicts Skype of GPL breach

Court has ruled that the VoIP company has violated version 2 of the General Public License through its sales of SMC's Linux-based handset

A German court has ruled that Skype violated the General Public License version 2 by selling a Linux-based phone without access to the source code.

Skype sells the WSKP100 phone, made by SMC, in various countries, including the UK and Germany, but it does not give every user access to the source code, as the GPLv2 open-source licence would require.

In response to legal action from the project, a website run by software developer Harald Welte, Skype included a flyer in the package giving a web link to the source code, but it was still not strictly in compliance with GPLv2, the court in Munich ruled — apparently because it did not include the GPL licence itself.

The minor breach will not take Skype off the air, or even cause it to stop selling the phone, but it must make minor changes to the way it sells the phone. is also apparently taking action against SMC itself. The phone in question is sold in the UK by Skype and Wi-Fi hotspot operator The Cloud, among others.

Welte's organisation has contested hundreds of similar breaches of the GPL in products including attached storage and laptops. Most cases have been settled out of court, with the vendor paying's costs, and mending its ways. Welte leads netfilter, the packet-filtering framework inside the Linux 2.4.x and 2.6.x kernel.

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