Netfilter developers defended collective decision-making in violation of the GPL

The current developers of the Netfilter kernel subsystem through the court achieved an agreement with Patrick McHardy, the former leader of the Netfilter project, which for many years discredited free software and the community with attacks on GPLv2 violators, similar to blackmail and undertaken for the purpose of personal enrichment. In 2016, McHardy was removed from the core Netfilter development team for ethical violations, but continued to profit from the fact that his code is in the Linux kernel.

McHardy drove the GPLv2 requirements to the point of absurdity and for minor violations by companies using the Linux kernel in their products, requested large sums (up to 1.8 million euros), not giving time to eliminate the violation and presenting ridiculous conditions. For example, he demanded from smartphone manufacturers to send paper printouts of code for automatically delivered OTA firmware updates, or interpreted the expression “equivalent code access” so that servers for the code should provide download speeds not lower than servers for downloading binary assemblies.

The main leverage in such proceedings was the immediate revocation of the license from the violator, provided for in GPLv2, which allowed non-compliance with GPLv2 to be treated as a breach of contract, for which monetary compensation could be obtained from the court. To counter this aggression, which undermined the reputation of Linux, some of the kernel developers and companies whose code is used in the kernel have taken the initiative to adapt the GPLv3 rules for the kernel to revoke the license. These rules make it possible to eliminate identified problems with the publication of the code within 30 days from the date of receipt of the notification, if violations were detected for the first time. In this case, the rights to the GPL license are restored and the license is not completely revoked (the contract remains intact).

It was not possible to peacefully resolve the conflict with McHardy and he stopped communicating after being expelled from the main Netfilter team. In 2020, participants Netfilter Core Team appealed to a German court and in 2021 achieved a conclusion with McHardy agreements, which is defined as legally binding and governs any enforcement actions related to the code of the netfilter/iptables project included in the core or distributed as separate applications and libraries.

Under the agreement, all decisions related to responding to GPL violations and enforcing GPL license requirements in Netfilter’s code must be made collectively. The decision will be approved only if the majority of active members of the Core Team vote for it. The agreement not only covers new violations, but can also be applied to past proceedings. In doing so, the Netfilter project does not abandon the need to enforce the GPL, but will adhere to principlesoriented to action in the interests of the community and the provision of time to correct the violation.

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Before starting GamingDeputy, I used to spend my day modding games and searching for new wallpapers. A vivid writer and a blogger. I enjoy giving tech support to people in help (mostly my brother). Racing, MMO, RTS games are my favs.