December 14, 2009
New York, NY, December 14, 2009//Best Buy, Samsung, Westinghouse, and JVC are among the 14 consumer electronics companies named in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed today in New York by the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC).
The SFLC is a non-profit law firm established in 2005 to provide pro-bono legal services to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) developers. The suit was filed on behalf of the Software Freedom Conservancy (Conservancy), the non-profit corporate home of the popular software application BusyBox and many other FOSS projects, and Erik Andersen, one of the program’s principal developers and copyright holders.
The suit charges each of the defendants with selling products containing BusyBox in violation of the terms of its license, the GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2).
Known as the “Swiss Army Knife” for Linux, BusyBox is a common component of a growing number of household devices, including Best Buy’s Insignia Blu Ray DVD Player, Samsung HDTVs, Westinghouse’s 52-inch LCD Television, and more than a dozen other products that the defendants have continued to sell without the permission of the software’s copyright holders. Under the terms of the GPLv2, anyone can view, modify, and use the program for free on the condition that they distribute the source code to customers.
The SFLC confirmed BusyBox violations in nearly 20 separate products cited in the complaint and gave each defendant ample time to comply with the requirements of the license. “We try very hard to resolve these types of issues privately with companies, as we always prefer cooperation” said SFLC counsel Aaron Williamson. “We brought this suit as a last resort after each of these defendants ignored us or failed to meaningfully respond to our requests that they release the source code”.
The First Rule of GPL Compliance: “Be Responsive When Contacted”
The SFLC has dealt with over a hundred compliance matters since its inception on behalf of various clients, including BusyBox and developers of significant portions of the GNU/Linux operating system. The vast majority of these matters usually end with violators voluntarily coming into compliance. In the rare cases when a company refuses to cooperate in good faith, the SFLC has been forced to take legal action on behalf of its clients to enforce FOSS requirements.
Since 2007, the SFLC has sued six companies, including Verizon and Cisco, for selling products with embedded FOSS programs in violation of the GPL. Though the scope of this lawsuit is unprecedented in that it includes 14 defendants, the SFLC’s primary goal is to encourage companies to join the software freedom movement, said Bradley M. Kuhn, Conservancy’s president and the SFLC’s technology director. “As embedded computer systems become more commonplace in everyday consumer electronics and more companies recognize the zero-cost licensing of Free Software over proprietary alternatives, it is more important than ever for manufacturers to learn to comply with the GPL”, Kuhn explained.
“The SFLC’s objective, on behalf of its clients, is not only to ensure the freedom of FOSS code but to see that BusyBox’s users get the full benefit of the software” Williamson added.
The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and will be heard by Judge Shira A. Scheindlin.
For additional information or to arrange interviews, please contact SFLC communications director, Lysandra Ohrstrom, at (212) 461-1915 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.