[clug] Fwd: [LINK] Software Freedom Law Center files first US GPL infringement suit

steve jenkin sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au
Mon Sep 24 03:55:21 GMT 2007

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-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	[LINK] Software Freedom Law Center files first US GPL
infringement suit
Date: 	Mon, 24 Sep 2007 13:48:57 +1000
From: 	Roger Clarke
To: 	link at anu.edu.au


Software Freedom Law Center files first US GPL infringement suit
By Ryan Paul | Published: September 21, 2007 - 02:10PM CT

The Software Freedom Law Center announced yesterday that it is filing a
copyright infringement lawsuit against Monsoon Multimedia on behalf of
the open-source BusyBox project, which is distributed under the Free
Software Foundation's General Public License (GPL).

This is the first time that a company has been sued in the United States
for failing to fulfill the copyleft obligations imposed by the license.
Monsoon is accused of including BusyBox in the firmware for a video
streaming device that is distributed under a proprietary license that
isn't compatible with the terms of the GPL. The GPL grants end users the
right to modify and redistribute licensed code and requires that
derivatives are distributed under the same license. Distributors who
provide GPL software in binary form must also make the source code
available to the public.

BusyBox is a collection of essential Linux command-line utilities
bundled together in a single executable. It is widely used in mobile and
embedded Linux solutions, like several routers, handheld computers, and
network storage devices, because it's designed to be highly compact and
portable. A number of prominent companies that use BusyBox, including
HP, IBM, and Nokia, comply with the licensing requirements stipulated by
the GPL.

The BusyBox developers decided to pursue legal action after Monsoon
confirmed last month that BusyBox is indeed included in one of its
products but declined numerous requests to comply with the GPL.

"We licensed BusyBox under the GPL to give users the freedom to access
and modify its source code," said BusyBox developer Erik Andersen in a
statement. "If companies will not abide by the fair terms of our
license, then we have no choice but to ask our attorneys to go to court
to force them to do so."

According to a complaint filed in a New York district court by the
Software Freedom Law Center and seen by Ars, the plaintiffs accuse
Monsoon of copyright infringement and seek damages and injunctive
relief. "[U]nder the License, any party that redistributes BusyBox in a
manner that does not comply with the terms of the License immediately
and automatically loses all rights granted under it," the complaint
says. "As such, any rights Defendant may have had under the License to
redistribute BusyBox were automatically terminated the instant that
Defendant made non-compliant distribution of the Infringing Products or
Firmware. Since that time, Defendant has had no right to distribute
BusyBox, or a modified version of BusyBox, under any circumstances or

In a blog entry, DLA Piper senior partner Mark Radcliffe explains how
the outcome of this case will influence future open-source license
enforcement litigation. "This case is very important because it will
establish what type of remedies (either contract or copyright) are
available to licensors for breach of the GPLv2," writes Radcliffe.

In most cases of this nature, the participants settle before going to
trial. If this suit does escalate into a trial, it will mark the first
time that the GPL's copyleft requirements are tested in court.

Roger Clarke                  http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/

Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                   Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in Info Science & Eng  Australian National University
Visiting Professor in the eCommerce Program      University of Hong Kong
Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW
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Steve Jenkin, Info Tech, Systems and Design Specialist.
0412 786 915 (+61 412 786 915)
PO Box 48, Kippax ACT 2615, AUSTRALIA

sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au http://members.tip.net.au/~sjenkin

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