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GPL scores historic court compliance victory

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Open sourcers have scored a major victory in a US court over violation of the GPL.

The Software Freedom Conservancy has secured $90,000 in damages for willful infringement of GPLv2, plus nearly $50,000 in costs from Westinghouse Digital Electronics over its illegal distribution of the Unix utility BusyBox. The company has also been ordered to stop shipping product loaded with BusyBox.

It's the first time a US court has awarded an injunction ordering a GPL violator to permanently stop distribution of out-of-compliance GPL'd software.

It might not be the last. The action is one of 14 that SFC has filed against the same number of consumer electronics manufactures and retailers for GPL violations, including Best Buy, Samsung Electronics America, and JVC Americas.

Westinghouse was pulled up for copying, modifying, and distributing BusyBox in firmware for its HDTV products and in software intended for use in HDTV without complying with the GPL license.

As part of the settlement, SFC has also secured the right to compel Westinghouse to hand over all unsold products loaded with BusyBox for donation to charity.

The company's costs could have been lower, but the New-York district court hearing the case took a dim view of the fact that Westinghouse's legal team failed to appear for the discovery phase.

Westinghouse is currently in General Assignment, an alternative to bankruptcy under California state law, and declined to defend itself. That means SFC and BusyBox's creator must now apply to Westinghouse's administrators as creditors in order to receive payment — and probably to get their HDTV kit. ®

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