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German Court Rules That Free Software Can Be Modified as Users Wish

PCW - A major challenge to the principles of free software was thrown out of a German district court on Tuesday.

German DSL router vendor AVM had attempted to stop Cybits, which produces children's Web-filtering software, from modifying any part of the firmware used in its routers, including a key piece of Linux-based free software.

Both companies use the Linux kernel, which is licensed under the General Public License (GPL). In order for the Cybits filtering program to work, it needs to alter certain parts of this kernel (removing some updates that were added by AVM). AVM claimed that changing the kernel infringed AVM's copyright.

However, in its ruling the court apparently sided with Cybits, saying that users of embedded devices with pre-installed free software have the legal freedom to make, install, run and distribute modifications to this free software.