RealTime IT News

Open Source Group is 4 For 4 on GPL Lawsuits

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) is claiming victory in yet another infringement lawsuit over the use of the open source GPL license.

The case hinges on Verizon's distribution of a wireless router.

Although the original lawsuit, which was filed in December of 2007 , named Verizon as the plaintiff, the settlement involves concessions by wireless router vendor Actiontec.

"We are satisfied with the resolution but don't have further comment at this time," Verizon spokesperson Christy Reap wrote in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

Verizon also declined comment on whether it planned any policy changes as a result of the settlement.

The SFLC's filed the lawsuit against Verizon on behalf of open source software developer BusyBox. The complaint alleged that Verizon infringed on BusyBox's copyrights by distributing the Actiontec MI424WR wireless routers to Verizon's FiOS high speed Internet customers without properly making the BusyBox code available.

GPL is a reciprocal license requiring license users to make the software available to end-users.

BusyBox is a collection of Unix utilities that have been optimized for size and are most commonly used in embedded environments. [cob:Special_Report]

As part of the settlement, Actiontec plans to appoint an Open Source Software Compliance Officer. Additionally, Actiontec is expected to pay a settlement. It did not disclose the amount.

The actual settlement with Verizon, according to SFLC Legal Director Dan Ravicher, involves agreements with both Verizon and Actiontec.

"However, since the boxes involved are Actiontec's, they chose to take responsibility for remedying both their own and Verizon's past violations and ensuring compliance in the future," Ravicher told InternetNews.com.

Even though it is Actiontec that is paying the financial payment in this settlement, Ravicher noted that Verizon is also part of the settlement.

"Both Verizon and Actiontec violated the GPL in their respective distributions of BusyBox," Ravicher explained. "Actiontec when it distributed to Verizon, and then Verizon when it distributed to its customers. Again, though, since the boxes involved are Actiontec's, they chose to take responsibility for remedying both their own and Verizon's past violations and ensuring compliance in the future."

The settlement of the case makes if 4 for 4 for the SFLC's legal actions on behalf of BusyBox. SFLC has now settled with Monsoon Multimedia, Xterasys Corporation and High-Gain Antennas. All four cases have involved +is+the appointment of an Open Source Compliance Officer as well as an undisclosed financial payment.

Ravicher noted that the SFLC is never happy to have to file lawsuits against anyone.

"But, to the extent that we have to do so in order to protect the GPL and our clients' rights, then we're pleased that we've been able to resolve each quickly and in a way that accomplishes our goals, which is indeed all that we hope for," Ravicher said.

In terms of the wider implications of the settlements on behalf of BusyBox, Ravicher is also optimistic.

"My instinct, along with some anecdotal evidence, leads me to believe that these matters have somewhat raised awareness of the importance of ensuring one complies with the applicable license when using open source."

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