Open Source

First lawsuit on GPL violation filed

Network World has news of what may well be the first lawsuit of its kind in the United States. <br /><br /> <a href="https://ssl.cnb.cnet.com/blogs/tech-news/wp-admin/Network%20World%20has%20news%20of%20what%20may%20well%20be%20the%20first%20lawsuit%20of%20its%20kind%20in%20the%20U.S." target="_blank">Excerpt from the article</a>: <blockquote>The SFLC filed the suit on Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Monsoon Multimedia Inc., on behalf of the developers of BusyBox, Erik Andersen and Rob Landley. The suit charges Monsoon with using BusyBox under the GNU General Public License version 2 but failing to publish its source code. Under the terms of the license, distributors of software that uses the licensed software must make their source code available. Failing to do so is considered copyright infringement.</blockquote>

Network World has news of what may well be the first lawsuit of its kind in the United States.

Excerpt from the article:

The SFLC filed the suit on Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Monsoon Multimedia Inc., on behalf of the developers of BusyBox, Erik Andersen, and Rob Landley. The suit charges Monsoon with using BusyBox under the GNU General Public License version 2 but failing to publish its source code. Under the terms of the license, distributors of software that uses the licensed software must make their source code available. Failing to do so is considered copyright infringement.

Despite reminders from BusyBox, members of the public, and the SFLC legal team notifying Monsoon of its responsibilities, the requisite code has yet to be published.

Says Dan Ravicher, legal director of SFLC, "While it is relatively common for licensees to neglect to share their code, parties typically work through the issues without having to go to court."

From a legal perspective, he adds that the suit is necessary since copyright owners can start to lose rights if they don't act to protect them. He believes this is the first ever such case filed in the United States in order to enforce an open-source license.

With the increasing prevalence of open source, it is a near certainty that this case will be closely watched from various quarters.

In the meantime, perhaps you might like to share with us the guidelines in your company with regards to the use and/or modification of open-sourced products.

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

26 comments
Jaqui
Jaqui

It is spurious. under the GNU-GPL v2 you can use open source code and modify it in the process. you are NOT required to release those modifications. It is strongly encouraged to release them, but it is not required. The only source code that the GNU-GPL can force Monsoon Multimedia to make available is the original code base of busybox that they used. This lawsuit supports the misconeption that the GNU-GPL is viral in nature, which is bad for open source software over all, as well as being supportive of MS' market hype against open source.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

I'm not surprised at the lawsuit. Indian owned companies seem to think the law doesn't apply to them and run very sloppy and outright shoddy establishments on the most part. I'm glad Monsoon is being sued because this should be a wakeup call to any corporation looking to outsource to India or deal with Indian organizations.

paulmah
paulmah

Share with us the guidelines in your company with regards to the use and/or modification of open-sourced products.

zatnktelaus
zatnktelaus

It is just the (god dam land way Americian way) they are not happy unless they are sueing some one they should change there name to USA the sueing nation

raynebc
raynebc

Excerpt from GNU's FAQ http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#GPLRequireSourcePostedPublic *Does the GPL require that source code of modified versions be posted to the public?* The GPL does not require you to release your modified version. You are free to make modifications and use them privately, without ever releasing them. This applies to organizations (including companies), too; an organization can make a modified version and use it internally without ever releasing it outside the organization. But if you release the modified version to the public in some way, the GPL requires you to make the modified source code available to the program's users, under the GPL. Thus, the GPL gives permission to release the modified program in certain ways, and not in other ways; but the decision of whether to release it is up to you. -------- I'm no lawyer, Jaqui, but GNU doesn't seem to agree with your statement. If Monsoon provides a product that they sell to the public, the GPL demands the customers receive the source code in full for the product.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I see, it must be because they are Indian owned. No none Indian owned company has ever done such a thing so that must be it. Maybe I missed the small print where "the land of the free" states (as long as your just like me). You almost had a valid point until you based it on a racial judgment. That simple fact destroys any value that may have existed in the comment. By all means, share information; debate, disagree, argue. Please though, keep your prejudicial bias to yourself. Making a judgment and sharing an opinion based purely on a racial group you disagree with is just ignorant and unnecessary. All you do is remind us of the land of the free's past and present indescressions. Let's stick to a technical basis for discussion shall we Jacky boy?

normhaga
normhaga

If you start with GPL and modify it, then does not the code become "new" code not necessarily covered by GPL but rather as intellectual property?

raynebc
raynebc

Americans may be sue happy, but this is for a just cause. The open source software community is protecting itself because a third party company is stealing their work and trying to sell it as part of their product. It was only brought to court after that company repeatedly refused polite warnings to comply with the GPL. You either don't understand what's going on here, or you're such a coporate whore that you condone it.

jdclyde
jdclyde

It is not unreasonable to point out something if it is true. As pointed out here, there are MANY countries that do not respect our laws here, and India is just one of them. It is not racist to point a fact out. now it would be racist to say ALL Indians are a certain way, but that ISN'T what was said.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Companies based in India and China are notorious for their lack of respect of intellectual property laws. Yes, companies in other countries are guilty of this also, but note that Jack is only expressing a lack of surprise.

Inkling
Inkling

do not equal racism. Unless, of course, your name is Jesse Jackson. In which case, [b]EVERYTHING[/b] is racism.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

I simply stated my OPINION and what I have personally seen from experience. Was I using racial slurs or poking fun at their culture? You need to stop pulling the race card because in no way was my comment racist. If you want political correctness, you're barking up the wrong tree because I am anything but politically correct. I tell it like I see it.

raynebc
raynebc

It's considered a derived work. The GPL says that modified version of code released under the terms of the GPL likewise falls under the terms as well, and its source code has to be released.

Absolutely
Absolutely

The law is the civilized means of settling those differences. [i]...all i ever hear is sco sueing IBM some one sueing micro$soft ...[/i] The major players in this industry are American. The majority of lawsuits are bound to be as well. Now, if you intend to include events like the hot coffee at the McDonald's drive-thru window, we all think that's ridiculous. I honestly don't know how that happens, but I suspect the juries are not acting quite honestly when they award millions of dollars for a minor burn that's treated with a few dollars worth of First Aid Kit supplies. But I digress.

raynebc
raynebc

The company was warned they'd be sued, and they ignored it. This was the only thing that could have been done to make them comply with the law.

zatnktelaus
zatnktelaus

in autralia we do not sue people over anything all i ever hear is sco sueing IBM some one sueing micro$soft some one sueing some one over little petty things this stuff just does not go on in australia because you live in USA you may not think anything about it you may here once every 2 years or so about one person sueing some one but in the usa it goes on all the time how do you think it sounds to people from other countries i know the GPL needs to be enforced but also the company is now releaseing the source now all you needed to do is say we will sue you and it would have worked out there is way to much hate in this world how about people playing nice for once PS: i don't have a web page maybe the techrepublic could make one up

Absolutely
Absolutely

[i]there other ways than just sueing them you could get companies to black list them not buy there products...[/i] Great idea! Where's your web page?

zatnktelaus
zatnktelaus

there other ways than just sueing them you could get companies to black list them not buy there products i always here about americans sueing americans just look at sco and ibm that has failed but look at all the money and time wasted in cort and novel own the unix ip anyway and there are other companies doing the samething like 2 companies ripping off the sme server (e-smith) i am just sick of the sueing nation the USA you will sue over anything the laws need to change in the USA and no I do not condone what they are doing but there are other ways seing people is a nasty way of doing things there are other ways

Absolutely
Absolutely

if we have to read that clearly to avoid such a drastic misinterpretation, it's reasonable to conclude that Jack could have stated his opinion better, too. Providing some of the personal experiences that are the basis of his opinion would have helped a lot to clarify his reasoning, and exactly what opinion he was expressing.

zatnktelaus
zatnktelaus

i live in australia but i should come to the USA and make some money for sueing some one like i could sue some one for kiliing my pet ant because they walked on it and kill it

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

They thought europe and the other close continents where all the land in the world (literally). It makes perfect sense if you believe the heritical idea that the world is round rather than flat; go the other way and end up around the other side. The only people who knew there was a continent in the way of that idea where the norse who stumbled across north america a hundred years earlier. Still, that's some blind luck for such a screwup. "what? This isn't India? Oh, the king (queen?) is going to kill me; quick, tell them we found a new world."

jdclyde
jdclyde

Would landing on a completely different continent really be considered a screwup? It is one heck of an "oops", that is for sure.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

When I speak of Indians, I am refer to those from India the country (you know...the one next to Pakistan), not what our founding fathers stupidly called Native American tribal people because Columbus made a huge navigational screwup on his journeys thinking he landed in India the country.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Seems I read that comment wrong. I read it to mean all Indian owned companies are crooked based on being Indian owned rather than being crooked owned. There was also a moment of confusion between native American versus eastern. That error was all mine. If the company violated the GPL then they should definately be held responsible regardless of who the parent company is. If the legal infraction is in another country then your limited to those laws; luckily, this infraction is in a country that has copyright law. Seems my comments are getting a little punchy; must be time for another break from posting while I read a technical manual. (sidenote); Who is al sharpton? Now i have too go look that up but i'm guessing he's some overzealous politition from the context. (edit); I just looked up Al Sharpton. yup, totally not what I was going for at all. In rereading the post, your title line threw me off. One of the reasons I post is for peer review (normally on more technical topics where I can help it) and in this case I was definitely out of line.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

Sorry, but that won't work here because no racism was being portrayed.

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