Judge Agrees: Just Because You Dislike Open Source, Doesn't Make It Illegal

from the in-case-you-were-wondering dept

About a year ago, we noted a bizarre lawsuit by someone claiming that the concept of the GPL (General Public License) was a violation of anti-trust law as it was illegal price fixing that made it impossible to compete. It seemed laughable at the time, and it appears that a judge has agreed, throwing out the case and making the guy pay the legal fees of the Free Software Foundation for its troubles (found via Digg). The judge dismissed the case because the plaintiff completely failed to show specific anti-trust related injury as resulting from the GPL — which suggests others could still go after the GPL under the same argument if they could present a better case. However, it still seems fairly ridiculous, since the GPL is simply a license choice. In fact, the judge even noted: “the GPL encourages, rather than discourages, free competition and the distribution of computer operating systems, the benefits of which directly pass to consumers. These benefits include lower prices, better access and more innovation.” Just because something is given away free, it doesn’t automatically make it anti-competitive. In many cases, it’s actually much more competitive. It just means that the business model may be different or non-existent.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Judge Agrees: Just Because You Dislike Open Source, Doesn't Make It Illegal”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe they have a point. If I made non-gpl software, and gave it away for free, and crushed the competition, and then used my newfound superiority to be bastardish (e.g. IE), i would look forward to getting smacked down for antitrustish behaviors. The GPL doesnt change any of that–it just requires that the software, once given away for free, stays free. So what? If it required that you pick your nose before you use it that would change just as much about the anticompetitiveness.

Nick says:

Re: the redistribution rights in the GPL allow competi

If you make GPL software, and I want to compete with you, I can take your code, improve it, and supply it to my clients and there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it (so long as I give my clients the source code).

Since my clients aren’t going to be software companies making the same tools I am, they aren’t going to be competing with me, so giving them the source isn’t a masive risk for me.

My clients not only get the source code, they also have the fact that you’re still around to use as leverage against me when negotiating their contract. Not as lucrative for me as being able to abuse a monopoly, but at least I’m still in business.

If, however, you were taking a loss on a proprietary product in order to give it to everyone for free and destroy my market, then there’s nothing I can do – without access to the source and the right to modify and redistribute it, there is no way I can compete with you.

Charles Griswold says:

Re: Re:

The GPL doesnt change any of that–it just requires that the software, once given away for free, stays free.

It’s already been said numerous times, but it’s worth saying again. The GPL isn’t, never has been, and never will be about how much you pay for the software. It’s about re-use of code. Yes, you can sell GPLed code. Red Hat (for instance) does it all the time, and is quite successful at it.

Liveman says:

A must have

A GPL is there for the people or groups who do not have an unlimited budget. If I wanted a software I would look for a free version first but most of the time its better to go with the paying version because of its quality, and the GPL software ensures that the quality will be much greater or you won’t buy it. Remember GPL’s are not for companies its for the consumer!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...