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First open source GPL violation lawsuit filed in US

Antony Savvas

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has filed the first ever US lawsuit for the alleged violation of the open source GNU General Public Licence (GPL).

The lawsuit has been issued on behalf of two clients who are the principal developers of BusyBox, against digital media firm Monsoon Multimedia. BusyBox is a lightweight set of standard Unix utilities commonly used in embedded systems, and is open source software licenced under GPL version 2.

One of the conditions of the GPL is that re-distributors of BusyBox are required to ensure that each downstream recipient is provided access to the source code of the program.

On the company's own website, said the SFLC, Monsoon Multimedia has publicly acknowledged that its products and firmware contain BusyBox. However, it has not provided any recipients with access to the underlying source code, as is required by the GPL, it said.

"We licenced BusyBox under the GPL to give users the freedom to access and modify its source code," said Erik Andersen, a developer of BusyBox and a named plaintiff in the lawsuit filed this week in Manhattan Federal District Court.

"If companies will not abide by the fair terms of our licence, then we have no choice but to ask our attorneys to go to court to force them to do so," he said.

The complaint filed by SFLC on behalf of the BusyBox developers requests that an injunction be issued against Monsoon Multimedia. It also requests that damages and litigation costs be awarded to the plaintiffs.

"Free software licences such as the GPL exist to protect the freedom of computer users. If we do not ensure that these licences are respected, then they will not be able to achieve their goal," said Eben Moglen, founding director of SFLC.


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