So if you get caught pirating a movie/music/software for personal use, you could be fined between $750 and $30,000 in statuary damages. If the infringement is found to be willful, damages could be as much as $150,000. 
On the other hand, Tesla is willfully pirating various software, which it then resells for profit. Tesla knows it’s doing this. It has been documented for years.
Why hasn’t this gone to court? I must be missing something?
With a few notable exceptions, the copyright holders of GPL software haven’t chosen to take GPL violators to court. Lawsuits are expensive and stressful. The early/landmark GPL cases mostly happened in association with the Software Freedom Law Centre.
I’m not a lawyer or an expert on the details, but as far as I understand Software Freedom Conservancy was founded by ex-SFLC employees and has a different philosophy that is more along the lines of attempting to cooperate with companies and educate them in order to make complying with GPL easier and less confrontational. Although they’ve also supported litigation in the past.
The blog post suggests they are losing patience with Tesla as the “carrot” approach has stalled…
Or more succinctly: your rights are only as strong as your ability and willingness to defend them.
I guess. Ability, in a realpolitik sense, seems like a big limiting factor.
I am sympathetic to what I see SFC doing to change the narrative around GPL compliance from “if you don’t do this then angry nerds will post angry pseudo-legal rants on the internet and someone might actually choose to sue you” into “GPL compliance is not that hard, here’s how to do it correctly. Also, doing it correctly saves you from legal liabilities now and in the future.”
It seems more pragmatic, and it takes into account the massive power imbalance between most GPL copyright holders (even SFC/SFLC as power-aggregating entities are small by comparison) and many GPL violating companies.
Legitimately interested to see where this Tesla thing goes.
There are still a bunch of companies out there that operate under the idea that any free software is a virus like the GPL.
They call it virus as due to various issues they are not prepared for disclosing any sourcecode or may not even be able to do so.
Why would you still want them to use the GPL ? Because you don’t want them to re-invent the wheel X times again (crypto here we come) and rather use software that is stable. Because you want them to start adopting free software that isn’t GPL licensed so they may get used to using the GPL and one day start contributing back and opensourcing own stuff.
There are also just people working and they’d also like to use for example some bootstrap for the website instead of having to copy stuff over.
Because you don’t want people to ditch things like linux in favour of some other big kernel which allows non GPL code, so you’re stuck again without any vendor support for hardware and such.
Making lawsuits here will scare away even more of these companies, showing them that apparently you should never use free or even worse GPL software (and here you already expect them to differentiate between GPL and other license, which they mostly don’t do).
This already starts with the question whether such companies will use GCC (and thus compatible code) or Rust as they are under a free license. So if you really try you will be able to damage things even here.
Because no one cares about GPL and every time it took to the the court it was only to show off or to let FSF fsck off. No company has gotten into any sort of serious trouble due to that, except minor fatigue and additional paperwork for lawyers.
It looks like it generally holds up in court: https://wiki.fsfe.org/Migrated/GPL%20Enforcement%20Cases
It doesn’t look like any of those cases have been so clearly willful, open, and as ongoing as Tesla’s case, either.
Thankfully, that has seen an alternate resolution and VMWare is moving to GPL compliance:
Thankfully? They’ve built their whole business on ESX with GPL code and only now they can afford to rewrite the drivers.
Truth is that Tesla picked Linux because that’s what was chosen by the junior devs who started building this a long long time ago. This problem would not exist if more young developers were exposed to BSD and had a course about open source licensing.
It strikes me that we need licences with arbitration clauses to allow easier enforcement
You’ll then have a different issue: Validity of the arbitration clause. Many countries in continental Europe have special provisions for general terms and conditions, under the assumptions they’re never actually read. This could make for some very interesting constellations and differentiations between individual developers and professional developers writing for a company.
By all means, try it. Do the world a favor and take it to court in a couple of places though.
All major commercial jurisdictions are arbitration-friendly. By which I mean Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, USA, UK. I last checked this about 2013.
In all those cases the law of the seat determines validity of the award (subject to exceptions not relevant here). For enforcement against large commercial organizations this should be unproblematic.