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Cisco settles with FSF on GPL violations

May 21, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 94 views

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) have announced an agreement that will end their lawsuit against Cisco/Linksys regarding GPL violations. Cisco Systems has agreed to comply with free-software license requirements at Linksys and pay a fee to the FSF.

The lawsuit was filed by the SFLC on behalf of the FSF in December, in the Southern District of New York. The suit claimed several violations of the GNU General Public License (GPL) and Lesser GPL (LGPL) in a variety of Linux-equipped Linksys routers and other devices. The suit further alleged that Cisco distributed several FSF-copyrighted GNU/Linux programs, including GCC, binutils, and the GNU C Library, without providing complete source code, as required by the GPL and LGPL.

The Linksys devices covered in the lawsuit included the popular Linksys WRT54GL WiFi router (pictured above). (For more background, and full lists of both the software and the offending devices, see our original coverage, here.)

In exchange for the FSF dropping the lawsuit, Cisco has agreed to make a monetary contribution to the FSF and appoint a Free Software Director for Linksys to supervise its compliance with the requirements of free software licenses, says the SFLC. The director will also report periodically to the FSF.

In addition, Cisco vows to notify previous recipients of Linksys products containing FSF programs of their GPL and LGPL rights, as well as publish a licensing notice on the Linksys website and in a separate publication, says the group. Finally, Cisco will continue to freely publish the complete and corresponding source code for versions of FSF programs used with current Linksys products.

For its part, the FSF will “continue to independently monitor Linksys' compliance with these licenses, and work with Linksys to resolve any new issues that may arise,” says the SFLC.

The long road to compliance

The FSF has been asking Cisco to publish source code for the Linksys products since 2003. At the time, open source expert Bruce Perens suggested that Cisco was unaware of the problem, which originated with an overseas subcontractor working for Linksys before it was acquired by Cisco. Indeed, the company initially pledged to work with the FSF on a compliance plan, according to the FSF, but little progress has been made over five years.

After won several GPL cases in Germany, including a successful suit against Skype, the SFLC has inspired a number of settlements in lawsuits on behalf of the developers of BusyBox. Verizon settled with the SFLC when it was discovered that Actiontec's MI424WR wireless router, used by Verizon's FiOS customers, violated the GPL. Most recently, the SFLC sued Extreme Networks. This is the first time the group, which recently published a GPL compliance guide, has sued on behalf of any group except for BusyBox.

Stated Peter Brown, Executive Director of the FSF, “We are glad that Cisco has affirmed its commitment to the free software community by implementing additional measures within its compliance program and dedicating appropriate resources to them, further reassuring the users' freedoms under the GPL.”

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