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German Court Rules Users Can Modify Free Software

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Linux penguin

Advocates of free software are hailing a decision by a German court to prevent a DSL router vendor from blocking a software maker from altering the device's Linux kernel.

The legal dispute involves Germany's AVM and Cybits, which makes children's Web-filtering software, and both companies use a key piece of Linux-based free software, which is licensed under the General Public License.

AVM does not want any part of the firmware used in its routers to be modified, but Cybits says it needs to alter certain parts of the kernel for its filtering program to work. According to AVM, changing the kernel infringes on its copyright. However, a German district court ruled that users of embedded devices with pre-installed free software can make, install, run, and distribute modifications to the free software.

Harald Welte, who helped write the firewall code included in the Linux kernel, argued on behalf of Cybits and hailed the ruling. "Enabling and encouraging everyone to innovate based on existing software and products is a key aspect of the free software movement," Welte says.

From IDG News Service
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