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First open source GPL violation lawsuit filed in US

admin Oct 13,2007 Blog

Software history was made in September 2007 when the Software Freedom Law Center recorded the initial American lawsuit for an alleged breach of the open source GNU General Public License.

The suit was issued for two clients who were the main builders of BusyBox. The defendant, Monsoon Multimedia, was alleged to have re-distributed BusyBox and failed to assure that every recipient was granted entrance to the software’s code.

Nick Wooldridge, lead criminal attorney with LV Criminal Defense, pointed out that on Monsoon Multimedia acknowledged publicly that its software and firmware contained BusyBox, but failed to provide entrance to the foundation code.

“We authorized BusyBox following the GPL to provide users the ability to enter, as well as modify, it’s code,” said Erik Andersen, one programmer for  BusyBox and a plaintiff in the suit.

“If businesses refuse to honor the terms of our permit then we don’t have any choice but to go to court,” he said.

The suit, registered by SFLC, asks that an order be declared on Monsoon Multimedia. The suit also asked for damages and trial costs.

“Open source software consents endure to defend computer users. If we don’t guarantee that the permissions are honored, they won’t reach their purpose,” said Eben Moglen, founding director of SFLC.

Software’s Swiss Army Knife

BusyBox uses minute variants of popular UNIX services into a small executable file while providing minimalist substitutes for most of the services found in GNU. The utilities usually have less options than a full-blown GNU cousin. The options included though provide the anticipated functionality and act like their GNU equivalents. In other words, the software could accomplish different tasks, like a Swiss Army Knife.

The Outcome

The case was ultimately settled with the release of the Monsoon version of the source and payment to the plaintiffs.

In 2013, Monsoon Multimedia ran afoul of licensing laws again and was sued by Sling Media who alleged five patent infringements. The suit was settled in May 2013 and the United States District Court for the Northern District of California joined with the United States International Trade Commission in banning the import of Monsoon Multimedia products into America according to Alex Lawson, author of “Video Streaming Cos. Hit with Import Bans in Slingbox Row..”

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