News

Second Round of GPL Infringement Lawsuits Filed on Behalf of BusyBox Developers

Non-profit Law Firm Continues to Enforce Free Software License

November 20, 2007

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) today announced that it has filed two more copyright infringement lawsuits on behalf of its clients, two principal developers of BusyBox, alleging violation of the GNU General Public License (GPL). The defendants in the lawsuits are Xterasys Corporation and High-Gain Antennas, LLC. BusyBox is a lightweight set of standard Unix utilities commonly used in embedded systems and is open source software licensed 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. According to the lawsuits filed yesterday, both companies have continued to distribute BusyBox illegally without source code, despite having been contacted by SFLC.

The complaints request that an injunction be issued against each company and that damages and litigation costs be awarded to the plaintiffs. Copies of the complaints are available at http://www.softwarefreedom.org/news/2007/nov/20/busybox/

"When we learn of an instance of GPL infringement, we prefer to work with the company involved to help them come into compliance," said Dan Ravicher, Legal Director of SFLC. "If they are unwilling to work with us, then our only choice is to go to court to ensure that they respect the GPL."

These are the second and third GPL enforcement lawsuits filed by SFLC on behalf of BusyBox developers Erik Andersen and Rob Landley. The first, against Monsoon Multimedia, was settled out of court on October 30, with Monsoon agreeing to remedy its prior violation, ensure future compliance, and financially compensate the plaintiffs.

If either case filed yesterday is heard before a judge, it will become the first time that a GPL infringement lawsuit has gone to trial in the United States.

"We've asked the SFLC to file these lawsuits to ensure that every user has the same freedom to access BusyBox under GPL version 2, which requires access to source code," said Rob Landley, a developer of BusyBox and a named plaintiff in the lawsuit. "We let companies do what they like with BusyBox on their hardware, and what we asked in return was that they let us reproduce what they've done with BusyBox on our hardware. That's the deal embodied in the GPL."

Both lawsuits were filed November 19 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

About the Software Freedom Law Center

The Software Freedom Law Center -- directed by Eben Moglen, one of the world's leading experts on copyright law as applied to software -- provides legal representation and other law-related services to protect and advance Free and Open Source Software. The Law Center is dedicated to assisting non-profit open source developers and projects. Visit SFLC at http://www.softwarefreedom.org.


The lawsuit "Erik Andersen and Rob Landley v. High Gain Antennas, LLC," case number 07-CV-10456, will be heard by Judge Leonard B. Sand. The lawsuit "Erik Andersen and Rob Landley v. Xterasys Corporation," case number 07-CV-10455, will be heard by Judge P. Kevin Castel.

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