Wednesday, June 19, 2024

VMware Sued over Alleged Open Source License Violation in Linux

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VMware is being sued in a new legal action over alleged violations of GPL (GNU Public License) open-source licensed code from the Linux kernel. The legal action is being served in the district court of Hamburg in Hamburg, Germany and is backed by the Software Freedom Conservancy in support of leading Linux kernel software developer Christoph Hellwig.

“Conservancy and Hellwig specifically assert that VMware has combined copyrighted Linux code, licensed under GPLv2, with their own proprietary code called ‘vmkernel’ and distributed the entire combined work without providing nor offering complete, corresponding source code for that combined work under terms of the GPLv2,” The Conservacy states. “Hellwig is an extensive copyright holder in the portions of Linux that VMware misappropriated and used together in a single, new work without permission.”

The Conservancy also claims that in discussions with VMware’s legal counsel in 2014, it became clear that VMware was not going to comply with the terms of the GPL.

For its’ part, VMware denies that it has done anything wrong.

“We believe the lawsuit is without merit,” a VMware spokesperson told Datamation. “VMware embraces, participates in, and is committed to the open source community. We believe we will prevail on all issues through the judicial process in Germany.”

The GPL is a reciprocal open-source license that requires users to contribute code back when they use GPL licensed code. The Linux Foundation has been a key proponent of the GPL and helping organization to understand how to comply with it requirements.

The Linux Foundation emailed a statement to Datamation noting that it has been consistent in its message to companies to take their compliance responsibilities seriously. According to the Linux Foundation, the GPL license is a strong contributing factor to the overall success of Linux.

“We are committed to the development of rich suites of compliance resources through our Open Compliance Program to support all companies in their compliance programs,” the Linux Foundation stated. “We can’t comment on what led to this litigation being filed, but we do hope the parties can still pursue a cooperative process to resolve any compliance failures that might have occurred.”

The Conservancy notes in its complaint that it has been trying to work with VMware since at least 2012 to help being them into compliance with the GPL.

Sadly, VMware sits in the rare but infamous class of perpetually non-compliant companies,” the Conserancy stated. “VMware has been aware of their noncompliance for years but actively refuses to do the right thing. “

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Datamation and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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