A German Linux programmer has obtained a preliminary injunction against United States security firm Fortinet for violating the General Public Licence (GPL) that governs the legal distribution of open-source software such as Linux. Harald Welte, who runs website gpl-violations.org, accused the firm of using cryptographic techniques to conceal Linux code in its FortiGate and FortiWifi products and not releasing its source code under the terms of the GPL. Open-source software is free for anybody to use provided they include the source code in the release. The case highlights the risk facing companies of violating software licensing agreements by mixing their proprietary code with software governed by the GPL or other open-source licences. Most companies guard their own source code the way Coca-Cola guards the formula for its famous drink. Fortinet director of public relations Michelle Splover said all issues had been rectified. 'Fortinet has actively taken steps to ensure that its products are compliant with GPL requirements and is continuing its efforts to expeditiously resolve this matter with Mr Welte. All new Fortinet product shipments now include a modified end-user licence agreement and GPL licensing agreement, thereby making [comply with] GPL requirements.' Mr Welte said the legal action was to make the company comply with the rules: to 'make sure that all products and firmware updates are distributed in compliance with the GPL worldwide immediately'. He also wants the firms to 'make a public statement that they regret their mistake and that they want to comply with the licence from now on and to stop distributing lies about me'. Mr Welte said Fortinet had sent an 'action response plan' to their resellers in which they claimed his goal was a cash settlement. Andrew Powner, a partner with Hong Kong law firm Haldanes, said the German decision could have implications here. Having won his case in Germany, Mr Welte would have little to do to win anywhere else, regardless of reciprocity laws. 'It opens the door to the Linux community to try it elsewhere. The general principle still applies. It opens you to the risk of being sued globally. Even if they do not have reciprocity, they can re-litigate. They have all the papers ready,' he said. Mr Welte said he would pursue the case outside Germany if he remained unsatisfied with Fortinet's efforts.