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GPL Enforcement and Violations: Stockfish and More

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GNU
Legal
  • Our lawsuit against ChessBase

    The Stockfish project strongly believes in free and open-source software and data. Collaboration is what made this engine the strongest chess engine in the world. We license our software using the GNU General Public License, Version 3 (GPL) with the intent to guarantee all chess enthusiasts the freedom to use, share and change all versions of the program.

    Unfortunately, not everybody shares this vision of openness. We have come to realize that ChessBase concealed from their customers Stockfish as the true origin of key parts of their products (see also earlier blog posts by us and the joint Lichess, Leela Chess Zero, and Stockfish teams). Indeed, few customers know they obtained a modified version of Stockfish when they paid for Fat Fritz 2 or Houdini 6 - both Stockfish derivatives - and they thus have good reason to be upset. ChessBase repeatedly violated central obligations of the GPL, which ensures that the user of the software is informed of their rights. These rights are explicit in the license and include access to the corresponding sources, and the right to reproduce, modify and distribute GPLed programs royalty-free.

  • Stockfish sues ChessBase

    The Stockfish project, which distributes a chess engine under GPLv3, has announced the filing of a GPL-enforcement lawsuit against ChessBase, which has been (and evidently still is) distributing proprietary versions of the Stockfish code.

  • Are you compliant with open-source license obligations?

    A short answer is no. Your piece of software will not be open-source if it doesn’t have an open-source license. Under copyright law, such software is copyrighted by default, with all the restrictions that this implies.

    If you want anyone to use your code freely, you should ensure certain liberties commonly called “the four freedoms“. They say that OS software may be used, studied, modified, and distributed freely, as long as the license is respected.

    For the first three, there are no conditions of any kind; you are free to use, study, and modify the code for any purpose. If you move beyond that and decide to distribute your modified version (or the original), this is when open-source license compliance starts.

    Missing license texts are the number one cause of license infringement cases, which, as we’ve seen above, can lead to the loss of ownership rights and enforcement actions such as an interim injunction.

Stockfish Contributors Sue ChessBase for GPL Violations

  • Stockfish Contributors Sue ChessBase for GPL Violations

    A legal reckoning is brewing in the world of open source chess engines. Stockfish, a GPL-licensed chess engine widely recognized as one of the strongest in the world, has filed a lawsuit against ChessBase. The German-based company makes and sells chess software that relies heavily on the Stockfish engine, maintains a prominent chess news site, and runs a chess server for online games.

    [...]

    “This chess engine is a Stockfish derivative, with a few lines of code modification (engine name, authors list and a few parameters), and a new set of NNUE net weights considered proprietary,” current Stockfish maintainer Joost VandeVondele said. “ChessBase’s communication on Fat Fritz 2, claiming originality where there is none, has shocked our community. Furthermore, the engine Fat Fritz 2 fails to convince on independent rating lists, casting doubt on the usefulness of those modifications. Indeed, we feel that customers buying Fat Fritz 2 get very little added value for money. Claims to the contrary appear misleading.”

Stockfish Developers Sue Chessbase Claiming Copyright Violation

  • Stockfish Developers Sue Chessbase Claiming Copyright Violation

    The Stockfish team has filed a lawsuit against Chessbase, claiming that the German chess software company is selling their software without having the license to do so. The lawsuit, filed in a German court, was announced last Tuesday in a blog on the Stockfish website.

    The Stockfish team argues that Chessbase has "concealed from their customers Stockfish as the true origin of key parts of their products," namely Fat Fritz 2 and Houdini 6. According to the Stockfish team, Chessbase has "repeatedly violated central obligations of the GPL," which refers to informing software users of their rights. "These rights are explicit in the license and include access to the corresponding sources, and the right to reproduce, modify and distribute GPLed programs royalty-free," the Stockfish team writes.

  • GitHub Copilot sparks debates around open-source licenses

    A few weeks ago GitHub released its Copilot solution, which uses AI to suggest code to developers. Developers can write a comment in their code and Copilot will automatically write the code it thinks is appropriate. It’s an impressive example of the power of AI, but has many developers and members of the open-source community upset and worrying over what it means for the future of open source.

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