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The device behind the GPL’s first U.S. legal test

Sep 20, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Monsoon Multimedia has used embedded Linux to build a consumer DVR (digital video recorder) with remote multimedia file serving capabilities. The Hava — recently implicated in a GPL violation court case — aims to let the user access live and recorded TV content from broadband-connected locations.

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Like the original Linux-based TiVo DVR, the Hava offers “time-shifting” capabilities, such as the capability to pause live television, or record it for asynchronous playback. And, like the BSD-based SlingBox, it offers integrated multimedia file serving capabilities aimed at “place-shifting” content, letting users consume live or recorded content from any PC on the LAN, with no tuner or capture card required, or from any PC or device connected to the Internet via broadband.

Monsoon Multimedia makes at least three versions of the Hava, priced from $130 to $250, and differentiated by their support for high-definition video, WiFi, and ability to record content onto a PC hard drive or DVD. Additionally, the high-end model includes a coaxial input and a built-in TV tuner.

The high-end HD-capable Hava

All three models are designed for installation between a TV and a video source, such as a set-top box. Once installed, all three allow users to access live TV content from PCs running the MCE (Media Center Edition) versions of Microsoft Windows XP of Vista. They also appear to allow remote control of the TV from the PC. A client application for Windows Mobile devices is also available, as shown below.

Hava's Windows UI includes remote control and TV viewer windows
(Click to enlarge)

In addition to an embedded Linux operating system, the Hava devices are believed to run Busybox 1.0. BusyBox is a single, small executable that provides minimalist versions of common UNIX utilities for resource-constrained systems.

The alleged use of BusyBox outside the terms of its license conditions led the SFLC (Software Freedom Law Center) to file suit against Monsoon Multimedia on behalf of BusyBox copyright holders Erik Anderson and Rob Landley.

As one of the most popular embedded applications, BusyBox may also be among the most abused GPL programs. The project has long maintained a hall of shame page listing alleged GPL license violators. And, in April of 2006, BusyBox joined a conservancy started by the SFLC to protect the rights of free software projects.

Asked about the lawsuit against Monsoon, long-time BusyBox maintainer Erik Anderson said, “You'll have to talk with the SFLC. We've asked them to represent our rights. That frees us to focus on what's most important to us, which is developing software.”


The Monsoon Multimedia Hava devices are currently available. They are priced from $130 to $250.

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