Software Freedom Conservancy Announces End to VMware Lawsuit

Apr 03, 2019

VMware agrees to remove the offending code in a future release.

Linux developer Christoph Hellwig has announced that he is discontinuing his lawsuit against VMware for non-compliance with the terms of the GPL. Hellwig and the Software Freedom Conservancy accused VMware of including GPLed code associated with vmklinux into VMware’s proprietary vSphere product. A German appeals court dismissed the case on February 28. Hellwig and the Software Freedom Conservancy have decided they will not appeal the case further in German courts.

The judge appears to have decided the case on procedural grounds without taking on the larger questions related to the GPL and the power of the copyleft protection. The questions hinged around whether the plaintiffs had successfully proven that the code was present in VMware’s code base and that the use of the code was non-compliant. VMware maintains that the vmklinux code is a separate component that does not force release of vSphere under the copyleft requirement.

Software Freedom Conservancy executive director Karen Sandler expressed disappointment, “VMware knew what they were doing was wrong but continued to generate revenue by infringing copyrights in Linux, while slowly working toward non-infringement.”

The Free Software community has always been more focused on achieving compliance than on punishment or punitive damages. By that standard, the case appears to have succeeded despite the outcome. Vmware announced that it will remove vmklinux from vSphere and hopes to accomplish this “...in an upcoming major release.”

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