Statement of Support: Open Source Licensing and Community Intent

Christoph Hellwig, supported by Software Freedom Conservancy (Conservancy), has initiated a lawsuit in Germany against VMware for alleged violations of the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2, an OSI approved license. If you aren’t following the case yet, it’s worth starting with the statements published by Conservancy, the Free Software Foundation, and VMware.

Open source software authors can choose among several OSI approved licenses to make sure their software can be freely used, changed and shared. Open source licenses are legal documents, but open source communities also view them as social contracts that express the expectations of software authors in terms of collaborative development.

OSI strongly supports compliance with the terms of open source licenses, including the one involved in this case, the GPL. OSI also encourages respectful collaboration as peers between downstream recipients of open source software and upstream software developers and believes that such collaboration is most effective if participants are mindful of both their legal obligations and community expectations. It is mainly thanks to balancing collaboration and compliance that open source software can thrive.

While litigation around open source licenses should always be a last resort to obtain license compliance, it’s sometimes necessary. OSI is following the development of this litigation closely as it may provide useful guidance about interpretation of the terms of the GPL.