Free software lawyers hit Best Buy et al with GPL 'violation' claim
In Boxing ring with BusyBox
US retail giant Best Buy and 13 other consumer electronics firms have been named in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed yesterday in New York by the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC).
The pro-free and open source software law firm said it had brought the complaint on behalf of the Software Freedom Conservancy, which is the "non-profit corporate home" of BusyBox.
According to the lawsuit filing, each of the defendants are charged with flogging products containing the BusyBox application in "violation of the terms of its GNU licence".
BusyBox, which has been dubbed "the Swiss army knife of embedded Linux", falls under the General Public Licence version 2 (GPLv2).
The suit (pdf) accuses Best Buy; Samsung; Westinghouse; JVC; Western Digital; Robert Bosch; Phoebe Micro; Humax USA; Comtrend; Dobbs-Stanford; Versa Technology; Zyxel Communications; Astak and GCI Technologies of copyright infringement.
None of the defendants could immediately be reached for comment at time of writing.
In the past few years several lawsuits have been filed on behalf of BusyBox's developers. An earlier lawsuit filed against speaker company Monsoon became the first test of the GPL in a US Court. The firm eventually settled out of court in October 2007.
Verizon was also hit with a similar claim from the SFLC. ®
They sue only as a last resort
They don't normally sue, until they've exhausted all other avenues for obtaining license compliance. Most such violations are unintentional, and the offending party is persuaded to release their source code once they have the violation drawn to their attention and have taken legal advice.
Methinks the organisations named are being particularly difficult, either out of pigheadedness, or because their firmware contains something that they want to hide (Spyware? Customer-monitoring-ware? Closed-source DRM? ) that they've linked into a GPL-derived work.
free as in freedom not as in price
You won't have too much trouble getting this kind of legal work done pro bono given that developers using these licenses want consumers to have access to source code to avoid freedom being compromised and the pool of talent which could contribute being depleted. Legal firms exist which have annual budgets concerning the amount of pro bono work they do, and this kind of case will come high up their criteria for support. I very much doubt Richard Stallman has ever had to find money to pay legal bills - he is setting an agenda very many people are keen to contribute substantially towards.
When, as a programmer, you are able to assign copyright to a suitably well funded software freedom organisation which pursues your agenda, then you obtain a strong ally in ensuring your objectives concerning distributee access to source code will be achievable.
Best Buy branded DVD player
Another report (no, I don't remember where) gave the model number of the Best Buy branded DVD player at issue. Their name is on the box, so they are on the hook for this. Their contract with the OEM may have an indemnification clause, but that just means the OEM gets to foot the bill.