German Court Says CEO Of Open Source Company Liable For 'Illegal' Functions Submitted By Community
from the unclear-on-the-concept dept
And now it appears that a court in Hamburg has gone even further, saying that the CEO of Appwork, a company that offers the open source JDownloader software can be held personally liable for "illegal" code that was submitted by an anonymous programmer, and which automatically showed up in the nightly build of the JDownloader 2 beta (not the officially released product). The code in question allowed JDownloader to record certain copy-protect streams, violating an anti-circumvention law. Appwork made it clear that it had no idea the functionality had been added, that anyone can contribute to the source and that it goes out automatically in the nightly build of the beta. Furthermore, the company carefully reviews the code and features of any official releases, and would have blocked such functionality from appearing in that code. All of this would lead most people to realize that it's crazy to blame Appwork (and even crazier to blame the CEO).
But not the court, apparently. The court relied on the bizarre argument that since Appwork offers the product commercially, that makes it automatically liable for anything that appears in the open source beta. Basically, such a ruling will make it exceptionally difficult to have a commercial open source product in Germany, since you could face liability if someone contributes code that somehow is considered illegal. If these kinds of secondary liability rulings keep cropping up in Germany, the hot startup scene in Berlin may realize that the country's outdated laws make it quite difficult to do anything all that innovative, especially if it involves any contributions from outside the company. Given how important community contributions are these days, that cuts off a huge amount of internet innovation from the German market.