* Posts by Mark Levitt

1 publicly visible post • joined 22 Sep 2007

Start-up sued in US courts over GPL 'violation'

Mark Levitt

Copyright law defines the damages owed

Simpson wrote "Unless the GPL spells out specific monetary damages for each copy distributed, I do not see the risk for a company. $0 X 100 copies or $0 X 1,000,000 copies still = $0"

Wrong. The GPL (and any other copyright license) does not need to spell out damages for distributing the code without permission. The US copyright law allows copyright holders to collect $750 to $30,000 per work distributed. If the copyright holder can show that the infringement was wilful, the amount rises to $150,000 per work. This amount is unrelated to the cost of the actual copy.

Given that a representative of the company admited on their forum that they were distributing the blackbox software without compliance with the license, they are going to have a hard time arguing that their infringement wasn't wilful. (Wilful means they knowingly did it).

Put simply, the GPL grants permission to distribute the copyrighted work. In absence of permission, copyright law says you have no right to distribute a work and, if you do, you owe at least $750 per work distributed.