First U.S. GPL lawsuit filed

From Linux Watch:

For the first time in the U.S., a company and software vendor, Monsoon Multimedia, is being taken to court for a GPL violation. Previously, alleged GPL violations have all been settled by letters from the FSF (Free Software Foundation) or other open-source organizations, pointing out the violation.

The SFLC (Software Freedom Law Center) announced on Sept. 20 that it had just filed the first ever U.S. copyright infringement lawsuit based on a violation of the GNU General Public License (GPL) on behalf of its clients. The group’s clients are the two principal developers of BusyBox. BusyBox is a small-footprint application that implements a lightweight set of standard Unix utilities. It is commonly used in embedded systems, and is open-source software licensed under the GPL version 2.

The developers of BusyBox came to the SFLC after trying to talk Monsoon into honoring the conditions of the GPLv2. Unsuccessful with this, the SFLC has filed suit on the developers’ behalf against Monsoon.

As you can guess, this news has been swirling around the blogosphere. While it is the first lawsuit to be filed, it looks unlikely that it will go to trial. It is interesting to note that the complaint asks not just for injunction (which has always been the presumed remedy for GPL infringement) but for financial damages. That could make the settlement a bit trickier. At any rate, while I find the attitude of the company’s rep odd, it seems clear they want to set things straight. Why odd you ask? He says:

I’ll have to contact the engineering team and see what the expected scope (level of effort) is and then balance it against our other development tasks. And when I know I will let you know.

You cannot balance legal obligations with development tasks. Looking at the entire thread, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he was still learning the GPL (and the repercussion of breaking it). How the company responds in the next couple of days should give a pretty clear indication of how this is going to unfold. Let’s hope they do the right thing.

On a side note, I find it odd (or better put… disheartening, but not surprising) how many devices take advantage of Linux and Open Source without actually supporting Linux or Open Source from a product perspective. The HAVA product looks quite nice, but not nice enough for me to get Microsoft Media Center or a Windows Mobile 5 device ;) A shame, really.


One Response to First U.S. GPL lawsuit filed

  1. Pingback: BusyBox Developers and Monsoon Multimedia Agree to Dismiss GPL Lawsuit at Jeremy’s Blog

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