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GPLv2 copyright suit targets 14 firms

Dec 14, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 9 views

On behalf of the developers of the BusyBox embedded utilities collection, the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) filed suit against 14 consumer electronics companies for violating GPLv2 licensing requirements. The lawsuit covers almost 20 Linux-based products, from companies including Best Buy, Samsung, Westinghouse, and JVC, says the SFLC.

The SFLC filed its copyright infringement lawsuit in New York today on behalf of the Software Freedom Conservancy, the "non-profit corporate home" of the BusyBox application, among other FOSS projects, as well as on behalf of Erik Andersen, one of the principal BusyBox developers and copyright holders. The suit charges each of the defendants with selling products containing BusyBox in violation of the terms of its GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2) license, principally by not publishing source code for the product.

The suit is the latest of several lawsuits filed by the SFLC in recent years on behalf of the open source BusyBox, a collection of utilities that is widely used in embedded Linux devices. As far as we know, all of the suits have been settled out of court in favor of the plaintiffs (see farther below for background). This is the first such SFLC suit, however, to target so many different companies and products at once, says the pro bono legal organization.

Best Buy's Insignia NS-WBRDVD Blu-ray Disc Player

The companies being sued, and the Linux-based products covered, listed here in the order of their listing in the lawsuit, are said to include:

  • Best Buy — Insignia NS-WBRDVD Blu-ray Disc Player
  • Samsung Electronics America — LN52A650 and LA26A450 LCD HDTVs
  • Westinghouse Digital Electronics — TX-52F480S LCD HDTV
  • JVC Americas — LT-42P789 LCD HDTV and VN-C20U IP Network Camera
  • Western Digital Technologies — WDBABF0000NBK WD TV HD Media Player
  • Robert Bosch — DVR4C Security System DVR
  • Phoebe Micro — Airlink101 AR670W and AR690W wireless routers and Airlink101 AICAP650W IP Motion Wireless Camera
  • Humax USA — iCord HD HDTV DVR
  • Comtrend — CT-5621 and NexusLink 5631/ 5631E ADSL2+ bonded modems
  • Dobbs-Stanford — Frame Jazz EyeZone B1080P-2 digital media player
  • Versa Technology — PS-730 ITS Gateway and VX-BW2250 weatherproof dual radio outdoor wireless access point
  • Zyxel Communications — P-663H-51 ADSL 2+ Bonded 4 Port Router
  • Astak — CM-818DVR4V security camera system with DVR and CM-04DE and CM-04DEV security system DVR devices
  • GCI Technologies — Cortex HDC-3000 digital music controller

According to the SFLC, which is also a member of OIN's Linux Defenders program, the organization gave each defendant plenty of time to comply with the requirements of the license. The SFLC claims to have involved itself in over a hundred GPL compliance matters, and says that "the vast majority" end with violators voluntarily coming into compliance without the need for a lawsuit.

Stated SFLC counsel Aaron Williamson, "We try very hard to resolve these types of issues privately with companies, as we always prefer cooperation. We brought this suit as a last resort after each of these defendants ignored us or failed to meaningfully respond to our requests that they release the source code."

We last heard from the SFLC in May when the organization announced that Cisco had settled a previous lawsuit the SFLC had filed regarding GPL violations. The lawsuit, which covered Linksys brand devices, including the popular, Linux-based Linksys WRT54GL WiFi router, was notable in that it was the only such suit filed by the SFLC that did not mention BusyBox as a principal plaintiff, and the only one filed on behalf of the Free Software Foundation (FSF).

Previous lawsuits encouraged a number of settlements by several other heavy-hitting firms. For example, Verizon settled with the SFLC when it was discovered that Actiontec's MI424WR wireless router, used by Verizon's FiOS customers, violated the GPL. Other recent SFLC lawsuits have included suits against Extreme Networks, and a separate multi-company suit against Bell Microproducts and SuperMicro Computer, among others.


More information on today's lawsuit, "Software Freedom Conservancy et al. v. Best Buy et al., 09-cv-10155-SAS," which was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, may be found in a PDF of the filing, here.

More information on the SFLC and its various programs and publications designed to encourage open source licensing compliance may be found at their web-site, here.

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