September 20, 2007
The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) today announced that it has filed the first ever U.S. copyright infringement lawsuit based on a violation of the GNU General Public License (GPL) on behalf of its clients, two principal developers of BusyBox, against Monsoon Multimedia, Inc. 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. On the company's own Web site, 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.
"We licensed 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 yesterday in Manhattan Federal District Court. "If companies will not abide by the fair terms of our license, then we have no choice but to ask our attorneys to go to court to force them to do so."
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. A copy of the complaint is available at http://www.softwarefreedom.org/news/2007/sep/20/busybox/complaint.pdf
"Free software licenses such as the GPL exist to protect the freedom of computer users. If we don't ensure that these licenses are respected, then they will not be able to achieve their goal," said Eben Moglen, Founding Director of SFLC. "Our goal is simply to ensure that Monsoon Multimedia complies with the terms of the GPL."
The lawsuit, "Erik Andersen and Rob Landley v. Monsoon Multimedia Inc.," case number 07-CV-8205, will be heard by Senior District Judge John E. Sprizzo of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.