The Perens v. Grsecurity Lawsuit

Updated: March 30, 2020

On February 6, 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rendered its decision in the defamation matter of Open Source Security (OSS) v. Perens. As you may be aware, I represented OSS, the maker of the grsecurity Linux security patches.

As a reminder to the reader, Bruce Perens had alleged that OSS was infringing and violating the GNU Public License version 2 (GPL) since the company was reserving the right to withhold access to future versions from users who exercised their GPL rights. OSS filed a defamation lawsuit against Bruce Perens claiming, and still maintaining, that it can objectively be determined that the  GPL does not apply on future versions of any software released under the license. The court, however, decided not make any determination on the substantive issue.

Instead, it held that Bruce Perens’s statements were not facts, but mere opinion and that the truthfulness of the statements could not be proven or disproven, based on its previous ruling in the matter of Coastal Abstract Serv., Inc. v. First Am. Title Ins. Co., 173 F.3d 725, 730-31 (9th Cir. 1999).

Although, it is disappointing that the Court refused to make a determination about something that can easily and objectively be verified, OSS decided not to pursue this matter further.

I feel compelled to remind the public that a nonlawyer, that is, one who does not practice law professionally—no matter how qualified—should never be considered as a viable alternative to a licensed attorney.  As far as it relates to matters of law, personally, I am unaware of any US jurisdiction that recognizes a nonlawyer to be qualified as a ‘specialist’ or ‘advisor’ to attorneys.

Those who start a legal commentary with the disclaimer “IANAL,” might find it interesting to note that the Merriam-Webster  dictionary, while defining nonlawyer, states:

It asserts that a nonlawyer doing his own legal problem-solving has a fool for a client.

— Martin S. Harris, Jr.

Note: these are not my words.

But I digress.

In public interest, I am willing to discuss this further, free of cost, with the legal counsel of any business entity that is considering to replicate OSS’s business model, or those who would like to be OSS’s customers and enhance the security of their Linux based servers by utilizing the grsecurity patch.

Rohit Chhabra