18 December 2009

GPL enforcer brandish their sword in a lawsuit


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The Software Freedom Law Center has undertaken proceedings against 14 hardware vendors, among which Samsung, Best Buy and JVC, for their alleged infringement of the GPL‘s license terms. Pursuant to claimant’s press release they attempted to approach the defendants giving them the opportunity to comply with the GPL prior to starting court proceedings, but those attempts were in vain.

The claimant asserted that the companies in suit have sold products containing BusyBox in violation of the terms of its license, the GPL (v2). In particular, the defendants faced the charge that they have distributed their products or firmware that contain BusyBox without claimant’s approval or authorization, since defendants had made the BusyBox in their distributions available in object code only. The defendants thus failed to include either (i) the “complete corresponding machine-readable source code” or (ii) a “written offer … to give any third party … a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code.” Interestingly, the claimant forborne to question the interaction between the firmware and the BusyBox, especially as to whether the firmware were to be considered a “derivative work” of the BusyBox.

BusyBox has been referred by many to as the “Swiss Army Knife” for Linux and is thus a common component of numerous household devices that employ Linux as an operating system. Not surprisingly, the present lawsuit discovers how many commercially offered devices and appliances embody open source software.