(attorney Lawrence Rosen
) writes with a response to an article that appeared on Opensource.com late last month, detailing a court case that arose between Versata Software and Ameriprise Financial Services
; part of the resulting dispute hinges on Versata's use of GPL'd software (parsing utility VTD-X, from Ximpleware
), though without acknowledging the license. According to the article's author, attorney Aaron Williamson (former staff attorney for the Software Freedom Law Center), "Lawyers for commercial software vendors have feared a claim like this for essentially the entire 20-odd-year lifetime of the GPL: a vendor incorporates some GPL-licensed code into a product—maybe naively, maybe willfully—and could be compelled to freely license the entire product as a result. The documents filed by Amerprise in the case reflect this fearful atmosphere, adopting the classically fear-mongering characterization of the GPL as a 'viral' license that 'infects' its host and 'requires it to become open source, too.'" Rosen writes: I want to acknowledge Aaron's main points: This lawsuit challenges certain assumptions about GPLv2 licensing, and it also emphasizes the effects of patents on the FOSS (and commercial) software ecosystem. I also want to acknowledge that I have been consulted as an expert by the plaintiff in this litigation (Ximpleware vs. Versata, et al.) and so some of what I say below they may also say in court.
Read on for the rest (and Williamson's article, too, for a better understanding of this reaction to it). An important take-away: it's not just the license that matters.