A man from the Netherlands is being sued by RealNetworks for linking to a freeware application. The application, RealAlternative, is considered by some to be a competitive product to software from RealNetworks. RealNetworks alleges that the software in question is infringing on its trademarks and is demanding the accused hand over all computer equipment in its investigation.
Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes
Software developers can create freeware for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s to test their development skills, other times, it’s to make everyone’s lives a little bit easier with no financial incentives. Many site owners like freeware because they sometimes come with licenses that allow them to be redistributed or linked to without any worry about copyright problems.
That might be what Hilbrand Edskes thought until he received a legal notice from RealNetworks.
According to PCAdvisor, codecpack.nl was linking to software known as RealAlternative. From the report:
To date there have been two court sessions, and in December Edskes will have to testify under oath.
There is a heavy pricetag attached to the case. So far Edskes has incurred more than â‚¬66,000 in legal fees. He says the costs cut his savings, hindering him from buying his own house. If he loses the case Dutch law requires him to cover all legal fees of RealNetworks. According to documents Webwereld.nl has studied these costs are nearly â‚¬75,000.
I think this is absolutely ridiculous. What’s next? Microsoft suing every website that contains links to Linux OS distributions? Adobe suing every website that links to GIMP? I really wonder if this is the kind of software that would be censored if the PROTECT-IP Act. I mean, don’t like your competition? Order ISPs to censor them. We’re already seeing something like this with RealNetworks, what’s to stop other companies from adopting similar policies of using copyright and trademark laws to crush all competition?