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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.”


  1. What if Extreme Networks was attempting to comply with GPL in every way and responded to ALL
    of SFLC’s requests? What would that say about $FLC and the real intent regarding the lawsuit?

    I’ve been working in Silicon Vally for close to 30yrs. and have worked on many a S/W project
    that included OpenSource GPL code. Now that I’ve seen how SFLC lawyers work from the receiving
    end I’m appalled.

    If you now have BusyBox in your commercial product(s) get rid of it as soon as possible and do
    NOT assume you are immune from a lawsuit. They already know that many companies will settle
    out of court to try and save $$$ and in the process make themselves and their BusyBox clients

    SFLC will undoubtedly be talking to other OpenSource authors about how to cash in so don’t
    think this will remain a BusyBox thang.

    Oh well…

  2. Scotch,

    You appear to possess a certain disconnect from reality with your rant about GPL greed. It’s too bad you don’t recognize that you’re spouting nonsense.

    You try to setup a straw man to make your point :

    “What if Extreme Networks was attempting to comply with GPL in every way and responded to ALL
    of SFLC’s requests? What would that say about $FLC and the real intent regarding the lawsuit?”

    But instead end up making a fool out of yourself in the process. It’s really simple. If Extreme had gone out of their way to comply, there would be no lawsuit and no money would exchange hands. The whole point of the GPL is its open source policy of being free. You should read the license sometime. There are a number of companies that make the point to comply, and have gpl download pages on their sites for all their products that use GPL code. It’s a great benefit for these companies, as it brings the hardware deployed to the attention of the linux hobbyists who have created a whole cottage industry of creating 3rd party firmware.

    You sound as ignorant as a PR person from Extreme Networks completely devoid of the purpose and history of the GPL. The purpose with the lawsuits is not to make money, but to force compliance so the public can improve the products that these companies release. The suit requests compliance and court expenses, and the plaintiffs have always been reasonable should a company change their tune. You should research the history of these suits before broadcasting your ignorance for all to ridicule.

    You might also want to consider retirement, as you seem extraordinarily out of touch with your own industry.

  3. Scott, your question looked very familiar. Then I realized it had been posted verbatim to at least three different sites

    Where would you prefer to get replies? 😉 I already relpied to LWN thread with

    “I requested the source code by snail mail in 2006, numerous emails in 2006-2008 and now sent
    email to the address mentioned on that site on 13 Jun 2008. I have got no reply and they never
    returned my phone call.”

  4. Scotch,

    After following lindi’s links, it is apparent that you are a stooge for ExtremeNetworks trying to pose as an objective observer on the sidelines.

    May I suggest again to do your company and the rest of us a favor by retiring, as you are obviously very ill informed about the legalities of this matter.

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