December 7, 2006

Linux.com's coverage becomes part of arguments in Israeli GPL case

Author: Bruce Byfield

Linux.com's previous coverage of an alleged violation of the GNU General Public License (GPL) by IChessu in Israel has become part of the legal arguments in the case. Just what part, however, depends on who is talking. According to Alexander Maryanovsky, who filed the case, Linux.com's coverage has become the means of moving the case forward. By contrast, lawyers for the defendants discount its relevance.

The case was brought against IChessu and its CEO Alexander Rabinovitch by Alexander Maryanovsky, the developer of Jin, a Java-based chess client. According to Maryanovsky, the defendants developed their own client from Jin, but have violated the GPL in a number of ways, including releasing their version under a restrictive EULA, failing to release derivative works under the GPL, and neglecting to preserve copyright. In addition, Maryanovsky claims that screenshots of the client on the IChessu site are a violation of his copyright. Rabinovitch does not deny that IChessU's client is based on Jin, but denies any violations of the GPL.

When Linux.com last reported on the case in September, judgment was delayed because Rabinovitch had moved to Canada and could not be served notice of the case. Now, legal arguments are unfolding over whether Rabinovitch's comments to Linux.com can be accepted in lieu of serving him notice in person. The previous article included several comments by Rabinovitch showing that he was aware of the case, such as, "Mr. Maryanovsky's claim is ruled much more by his greediness and vulnerable ego than by any legal essence" and his description of the case as "ridiculous" and "a blackmail strategy."

According to Maryanovsky, such comments were "enough evidence to prove to the court that Rabinovitch knows about the lawsuit, which is an adequate substitute according to Israeli law." When Rabinovitch failed to file a counter-claim, in late October Maryanovksy filed a request for default judgment written in Hebrew, asking for settlement of the case at the end of 30 days.

However, in late October, Jonathan J. Klinger, Maryanovksy's lawyer, received word that IChessu and Rabinovitch were now being represented by Haim Ravia, a leading Israeli lawyer whose specialties include intellectual property and the Internet. On November 29, Klinger also heard that the District Court of Tel Aviv had accepted the request for judgment, but was giving Ravia 20 days to file arguments against the decision.

Contacted by Linux.com, Ravia makes clear that he does not consider Rabinovitch's comments in the previous Linux.com story a substitute for serving notice. Instead, he suggests that Klinger should have tried harder to serve notice in traditional ways. "The plaintiff failed to serve the statement of claim to the defendants," Ravia says. "He could have asked the court to authorize alternative methods of delivery, but chose not to."

When his company was hired to represent the defendants, Ravia says, it should have received the plaintiff's submissions to the court. "Nevertheless," he says, "the plaintiff insists that the court should issue a default judgment, arguing that no statement of defense was submitted (of course, it could not have been -- nor should have been -- submitted since the defendants did not receive the statement of claim). We believe that [this] insistence is an attempt to avoid proving the substantial arguments of [the] case."

Ravia does not mention the Linux.com story directly in his comments. However, given their importance in the plaintiff's position, arguments on its relevance seem unavoidable before a judgment is delivered later this month.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for NewsForge, Linux.com, and IT Manager's Journal.

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