Linux kernel maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman and several other senior Linux figures have published a “Linux Kernel Community Enforcement Statement” to be included in future Linux documentation, in order to ensure contributions to the kernel don’t fall foul of copyright claims that have already seen a single developer win “at least a few million Euros.”
In a post released on Monday, October 16th, Kroah-Hartman explained the Statement’s needed because not everyone who contributes to the kernel understands the obligations the GNU Public Licence 2.0 (GPL 2.0), and the licence has “ambiguities … that no one in our community has ever considered part of compliance.”
Those ambiguities, he writes, have been used by a developer named Patrick McHardy to run multiple copyright enforcement lawsuits.
McHardy is a former contributor to a project called Netfilter that brings useful networking functionality such as network address translation to Linux. However the project suspended him from its core team in 2016 over “license enforcement activities” that contravened the project’s own policies. He’s also been criticised by the Software Freedom Conservancy for “prioritizing financial gain over compliance.”
Lawyer Heather Meeker believes that McHardy wrote “well under .25% of the code in the kernel” but has parlayed that into around 50 copyright complaints about Linux companies’ use of Netfilter. Most of his actions take place in Germany, where local law makes such claims easier to mount.
Submitted by: Arnfried Walbrecht