[nSLUG] Nexuiz and the GPL Violation

Ben Armstrong synrg at sanctuary.nslug.ns.ca
Mon Feb 14 10:21:32 AST 2011

On 02/14/2011 09:42 AM, sheldon Tower wrote:
> Maybe this is old news, but I've just found out that Lee Vermeulen,
> founder of the open source, GPL'ed, first person shooter game, Nexuiz,
> was able to sell the source code and game content to Illfonic, a console
> game developer. I don't understand how Mr. Vermeulen was able to do
> this, but it's made me question wether or not the GPL has any real legal
> merit, and if this could happen again to other projects. If large,
> closed source software developers don't have some respect for the GPL,
> many other open source projects could be at risk. Who's to say that the
> Linux Kernel it's self couldn't be snatched away, and closed right under us?

Provided you are the copyright holder, nothing prevents you from
relicensing your previously GPLed work at a later date. That is not, in
and of itself, a violation of the GPL. With the Linux kernel this is
never going to happen because there are far too many copyright holders
to make it practical to do so (i.e. you would need to have agreement of
all of the copyright holders to do this legally, and that's not ever
going to happen).

The question is, did Mr. Vermeulen have the agreement of all of the
copyright holders when he did this? If he did not, did he ensure that
any code written be anyone who objected was removed ? I know far too
little about what went on to be able to judge in this matter whether
there was a GPL violation or not ...

But if there was a violation, who is taking it to the courts, then? If
these hypothetical copyright holders whose license has been violated
haven't taken action, that's regrettable, but nothing that should cause
fear throughout the free software community. Nobody attempting to
"snatch away" the kernel could ever do this without opposition, and if
they were opposed, I am confident the law would uphold the GPL.


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