Templates for letters to vendors
west at fsfeurope.org
Mon Mar 2 01:07:44 CET 2009
Dear Ole, Ian and all,
On Sunday 01 March 2009 02:58:43 Ole Tange wrote:
> >> Here are my draft for hardware. Please help improving it.
> >> http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=df65rjng_124czmbptgp&invite=g2tnvfw
> The intention of the letter is to give a tool to the many
> GPL-violation spotters, who are not the authors of the software in
> question. The goal of the letters should be to get the vendor to
While I think the general idea of giving people the tools to contact vendors
about incompliant behaviour is a good thing - and I applaud your efforts - I
have to say that some sections of the suggested letter exhibit a tone, and
contain content, which is not very helpful. Because of this, in its present
form, it will have the effect of hindering rather than helping the achievement
of license compliance.
This is for two reasons.
1. It looks (and some of it reads) like a cease-and-desist or other legal
demand, and for this reason may have unintended consequences for both you and
2. It contains threatening language in some sections.
Let me explain.
In most jurisdictions that I'm aware of, only copyright holders may send a
cease and desist, and they should only do so in consultation with a qualified
lawyer. This looks like a cease and desist, and so we shouldn't be
encouraging people to use it as a template.
>If I have your answer within 14 days, I will not contact THE AUTHORS
>about this possible infringement of their copyright.
...is a problem. It's a threat. If you send a letter like this, the vendor
will send it straight to their legal counsel, and you'll find yourself
negotiating with a lawyer rather than helping the company understand
It's also pretty meaningless. If they get back to you within fourteen days
with a letter from their legal counsel, as a non-copyright holder, your
options are very limited. You can't enforce other people's rights.
>This is to avoid damages in a
>potential lawsuit: Continued willful infringement is usually punished
>harder than accidental first time infringement.
This sounds like a statement of law ('wilful infringement'), which:
a) may not apply, given jurisdictional differences
b) the reporter is probably not qualified to make
c) is not constructive in explaining how to achieve compliance. Again, tone
>To understand the seriousness of this matter, you may want to
>familiarize yourself with the injunction that Sitecom got, stopping
>them from selling their device, the Free Software Foundation's
>case against Cisco, or some of the other cases.
This section is entirely unnecessary and it also continues the aggressive tone
which will only result in the vendor becoming defensive.
> > A customised version of the letters, referring to the law in the country
> > in question may be an idea.
Again, you should not make any statement that sounds like interpretation of
I would suggest you take a look at this document:
FTF: Reporting and fixing license violations
The important thing to take from that document is that it recommends that you
convey the facts to the vendor as you see them, and why you believe a
violation may exist. You can only - and should only - ask for a response, not
The FTF reporting violations guide does not, for very good reason, suggest
explaining copyright law to vendors or suggest that they might end up served
with a lawsuit like Cisco. Many compliance issues are caused by
misunderstandings and honest mis-interpretations of the licenses. Even when
this is not the case and deliberate infringement has occurred, threats will
get you precisely nowhere.
I would suggest that whole second half of the document should be deleted. In
fact, the first paragraph:
>I have bought <<device>> (hereafter THE DEVICE) at <<store>> on
><<date>>. THE DEVICE seems to include <<GPL softwarepackages>>
>(hereafter THE SOFTWARE). If that is not the case, I hope you will
>kindly let me know.
contain most the information a reporter should be conveying to a vendor. In
other words, the letter should say:
"I bought product X from vendor Y. Product X appears to contain a copy of
Project Y. Project Y is available from [site] and is distributed under
[license], which requires [basic outline of potentially breached requirement].
This requirement does not appear to have been fulfilled in the case of Product
I would be grateful if you could clarify whether Product X is in compliance
with Project Y's license terms. In the event that this is not the case, I
would welcome steps toward resolution of this matter.
Because the only purpose of this type of communication is to communicate the
facts of the case as you see them, it might be that a template is unnecessary.
If in doubt regarding a specific case, please contact us at FSFE's Freedom Task
ftf at fsfeurope.org
Also, before reporting anything to a vendor, you should probably also contact
the project concerned to see if they are already aware of the potential
Intern, Zürich office
Freedom Task Force
Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) (http://fsfeurope.org)
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