A recent judgement of the District Court of Munich confirmed again that the General Public License (GPL) is valid in Germany and has to be obeyed when using Open Source Software.
The purpose of GPL is to ensure that free software distributed under the GPL remains open for free and unrestricted use even as it advances into further modifications, adoptions or combinations.
The District Court of Munich decided in its judgement of July 12, 2007 (case no. 7 O 5245/07) that a company has to cease and desist using Open Source Software if it – against the explicit wording of the GPL - does not provide the source code and does not refer to the GPL when distributing its software to the public.
As in an earlier judgment from 2004 the court considered the GPL as a copyright related condition of use. If the user of Open Source Software ignores the terms of the GPL he will not obtain any right of use and is subject to an action for an injunction. An Open Source Software is not per se free to use. Under the GPL an Open Source Software is licensed free of charge provided that and as long as the user keeps to the conditions of the GPL.
The judgement of the District Court of Munich strengthens the position of the Open Source Community. It is another milestone in demonstrating that the GPL can work as an effective legal tool to secure the concept of Open Source.