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Biggest legal victory ever for GPL

March 17th, 2008 · 2 Comments

For decades, almost no one challenged the General Public License in legal matters. In fact, no one has even dared to try to break it in court. That record remains unsullied as the biggest company to date–Verizon–that had been accused of a GPL violation opted to settle out of court.

The Software Freedom Law Center filed a copyright infringement lawsuit on Dec. 6 against Verizon Communications on behalf of its clients, the two principal developers of BusyBox. The suit alleged that Verizon violated the GNU GPLv2 by distributing Actiontec MI424WR wireless routers–which contained unsanctioned GPLv2 code–that were used with Verizon’s fiber-optic Internet and television service, aka FiOS.

On March 17, the SFLC announced that Verizon has come to an agreement with the SFLC and the BusyBox developers, which enables them to dismiss the GPL enforcement lawsuit. BusyBox is a lightweight set of standard Unix utilities commonly used in embedded systems. The popular development tool kit is licensed under GPL. Verizon and Actiontec violated the GPL condition that redistributors of BusyBox are required to ensure that every user of the code, or a device containing the code, must be provided access to the program’s source code.

In return for the SFLC and the BusyBox developers dismissing the lawsuit and giving Actiontec and its customer, Verizon, the right to distribute BusyBox, Actiontec will appoint an open-source compliance officer; publish the BusyBox source code on its Web site, and, according to the press release, “undertake substantial efforts to notify previous recipients of BusyBox from Actiontec and its customers, including Verizon, of their rights to the software under the GPL. The settlement also includes an undisclosed amount of financial consideration paid to the plaintiffs by Actiontec.”

“We are happy to have settled this matter in a way that upholds the GPL and the interests of our clients,” said Dan Ravicher, the SFLC’s legal director, in a statement.

“Actiontec takes great pride in providing innovative, quality products to its customers, while respecting the intellectual property rights of third parties,” said Dean Chang, Actiontec’s president and CEO, in a statement. “We appreciate the value of the technological contributions of the open-source community, and look forward with renewed commitment to working cooperatively with them.”

In an interview with Linux-Watch, Jim Garrison, the SFLC’s public relations coordinator, added, “The settlement also includes an undisclosed amount of financial consideration paid to the plaintiffs by Actiontec.”

A version of this story was published in Linux-Watch.

Tags: Business · Development · Legal · Linux · Open Source

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Viola el GPL bajo tu Propio Riesgo « Entre geeks te veas // Jun 11, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    […] Este fue un caso en donde Bell Microproducts Inc. y Super Micro Computer Inc. usaron el BusyBox, el cual es un programa open source, sin dar credito a sus creadores, eliminando los comentarios de autoria, etc. ambas compañias han distribuido ilegalmente este producto sin el codigo fuente completo. Por las reglas de la GPLv2, la cual es el tipo de licensia al cual pertenece el BusyBox, dice que cada download point del programa debera de proveer el acceso al codigo fuente, en otras palabras, cada paquete que bajes, consigas, etc debera de tener al menos el link para poder bajar el codigo fuente del mismo. La Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC para los compas) contacto a cada una de estas compañias, pero estas lo ignoraron….. Una mala jugada, perderan casi lo mismo que Verizon. […]

  • 2 links for 2008-06-12 « My place // Jun 12, 2008 at 12:37 am

    […] Practical Technology » Biggest legal victory ever for GPL For decades,almost no one challenged the GPL in legal matters.In fact,no one has even dared to try to break it in court.That record remains unsullied as the biggest company to date–Verizon–that had been accused of a GPL violation opted to settle out-c (tags: gpl open source free software legals) […]