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Cisco sued for Linksys GPL violation

Dec 12, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 109 views

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has filed another GPL lawsuit, and for the first time on behalf of the Free Software Foundation (FSF). The suit alleges that Cisco Systems violated the GNU General Public License (GPL) and Lesser GPL (LGPL) in several Linux-equipped Linksys devices.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in the Southern District of New York, claims that Cisco distributed several FSF-copyrighted GNU/Linux programs, including GCC, binutils, and the GNU C Library (see list below), without providing complete source code, as required by the GPL and LGPL. The FSF has requested that an injunction be issued against Cisco and that damages and litigation costs be awarded. The Linksys devices covered in the lawsuit (see list farther below) include the popular Linksys WRT54GL WiFi router (pictured above).

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.

Busted: Actiontec MI424WR
wireless router

(Click for details)

After won several GPL cases in Germany, including a successful suit against Skype, the SFLC has racked up one GPL settlement after another on behalf of the developers of BusyBox. Even Verizon settled with the SFLC when it was discovered that Actiontec's MI424WR wireless router (pictured at right), 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.

Linksys models covered in the SFLC/FSF suit against Cisco are said to include:

  • EFG120
  • EFG250
  • NAS200
  • SPA400
  • WAG300N
  • WAP4400N
  • WIP300
  • WMA11B
  • WRV54G
  • WRT54GL
  • WRV200
  • WRV54G
  • WVC54GC
  • Quick-VPN software

FSF-licensed GNU software covered in the Cisco complaint includes:

  • GNU C Library
  • GNU Coreutils
  • GNU Readline
  • GNU Parted
  • GNU Wget
  • GNU Compiler Collection
  • GNU Binutils
  • GNU Debugger

Stated Richard Stallman, president and founder of the FSF, and the original developer of GNU back in 1983, “Our licenses are designed to ensure that everyone who uses the software can change it. We are enforcing our licenses to protect the rights that everyone should have with all software: to use it, share it, and modify it as they see fit.”

Stated Brett Smith, licensing compliance engineer at the FSF, “We began working with Cisco in 2003 to help them establish a process for complying with our software licenses, and the initial changes were very promising. Unfortunately, they never put in the effort that was necessary to finish the process, and now five years later we have still not seen a plan for compliance.”

Stated Peter Brown, executive director of the FSF, “In the fifteen years we've spent enforcing our licenses, we've never gone to court before. But at the end of the day, we're also willing to take the legal action necessary to ensure users have the rights that our licenses guarantee.”

A PDF copy of the complaint, filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, should be available here.

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