Practical Technology

for practical people.

SFLC Keeps on the GPL Case: Sues Extreme Networks


You’d think the electronics vendors who keep breaking the GPL by using the BusyBox Unix utilities would finally learn that they can’t get away with it. It doesn’t look like they have though. This time the SFLC (Software Freedom Law Center) is taking on Extreme Networks, a major network hardware provider.

The SFLC announced on July 21st that it had filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Extreme Networks on behalf of its clients, BusyBox’s two principal developers, Erik Andersen and Rob Landley, on the grounds that Extreme had illegally included the GPL-protected BusyBox code in its products.

BusyBox, a lightweight set of standard Unix utilities used for developing embedded systems applications, is often used in data communication equipment. All a vendor needs to do to avoid trouble is to make the BusyBox code accessible to downstream users. Unfortunately, many vendors, including in the past, Bell Microproducts Inc. and Super Micro Computer Inc and Verizon have refused to do so and have suffered the consequences.

According to Jim Garrison, the SFLC’s Public Relations Coordinator, the SFLC “contacted Extreme Networks in February, but the company continues to distribute BusyBox in violation of the GPL. The complaint requests that an injunction be issued against the defendant and that damages and litigation costs be awarded to the plaintiffs. A copy of the complaint, as filed July 17 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.”

“We attempted to negotiate with Extreme Networks, but they ultimately ignored us,” said Aaron Williamson, SFLC Counsel in a statement. “Like too many other companies we have contacted, they treated GPL compliance as an afterthought. That is not acceptable to us or our clients.”

That’s a mistake. To date, the SFLC has filed four cases for the BusyBox developers and each of them has ended in, according to the SFLC, “out-of-court settlements requiring the defendants to distribute source code in compliance with the GPL.”


Leave a Reply