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Software firm settles GPL violation lawsuit

The UK subsidiary of security software firm Fortinet has settled an action brought against it because it was allegedly not complying with the terms of the General Public Licence (GPL), which underpins the distribution of most open source software.28 Apr 2005

Harald Welte, founder of the gpl-violations.org project, announced earlier this month that a German District Court had granted a preliminary injunction against Fortinet UK Ltd after the project sued, alleging that the security software firm had used GPL software in certain products and then used encryption technologies to hide the software.

The GPL is a licence commonly used for many free software projects, including the Linux operating system kernel. The GPL licenses software free of cost but requires any re-distributor to provide the full source code and a copy of the full licence text.

"This violation by Fortinet is especially egregious since the vendor not only violated the GPL, but actively tried to hide that violation," said Welte.

"We are not in any way opposed to the commercial use of Free and Open Source Software and there is no legal risk of using GPL licensed software in commercial products. But vendors have to comply with the licence terms, just like they would have to with any other software licence agreement," he added.

In terms of the settlement agreement, Fortinet UK Ltd will modify its End User Licensing Agreement (EULA), include the GPL licensing terms with all shipments, and make available the full corresponding source code of all GPL licensed software upon request.

The settlement agreement also provides that no Fortinet partners will be subject to legal action.

The settlement is the latest in a series of more than 30 out-of-court settlement that the project has managed to negotiate in the past 15 months.

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