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Linux switch vendor sued over GPL

Jul 22, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has filed yet another copyright infringement lawsuit on behalf of the developers of the Linux-based BusyBox utility suite. This time the lawsuit claims that networking vendor Extreme Networks violated redistribution stipulations of the GNU General Public License (GPL).

The latest BusyBox-related lawsuit addresses Extreme Networks's Summit X450 switch (pictured above, left). The 1RU-format switch offers 24 gigabit Ethernet ports or optional dual 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports, says the company.

One would never know the X450 incorporated open-source Linux from reading the web page, which says only that the switch offers “the revolutionary ExtremeXOS core-class operating system.” Such re-branding is of course fully compliant with the GPL 2.0 license used by both Linux and Busybox. However, the license obliges those distributing GPL-licensed binaries commercially to “accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code,” or else “a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party … a complete machine-readable copy.”

In practice, no one has yet been sued for failing to distribute at least a written offer of source code with their product. However, several companies have been taken to court after multiple requests for a copy of the source code resulted in no action. So it went with Extreme Networks, according to the SFLC.

The SFLC says it first contacted Extreme Networks back in February, and gave the company plenty of opportunities to remedy the alleged violations in private, but the vendor was unresponsive. The complaint was filed July 17 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The suit requested that an injunction be issued against the defendant, and that damages and litigation costs be awarded to the plaintiffs, BusyBox developers Erik Andersen and Rob Landley.

The SFLC filed its first GPL lawsuit, on behalf of BusyBox in September against Monsoon Multimedia, which then settled on October 30th. In November, the SFLC and BusyBox brought suit against Xterasys and High-Gain Antennas. In December, the SFLC filed a similar suit against its most formidable litigation target, Verizon Communications. In early March Xterasys and High-Gain both settled, and later that month, the SFLC reached an agreement with Verizon. In early June, the SFLC filed suit against Bell Microproducts and SuperMicro Computer.

Stated Aaron Williamson, SFLC Counsel, “We attempted to negotiate with Extreme Networks, but they ultimately ignored us. Like too many other companies we have contacted, they treated GPL compliance as an afterthought.”

A copy of the complaint against Extreme Networks should be available here.

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