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16 December 2009, 11:12

Creator of BusyBox critical of SFLC GPL litigation - Update

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Bruce Perens, former Debian project leader and co-founder of the Open Source Initiative, has been critical of the most recent GPL infringement lawsuits filed by the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC). On behalf of several BusyBox developers, the SFLC sued 14 vendors over devices running embedded Linux and including the BusyBox tool. Perens is the author of the first few versions of BusyBox.

In his blog, Perens says that there is no excuse for using General Public License software in ways that infringe on the conditions stated in the license, and that he is generally in favour of taking action against such cases. However, the developer said that, as the creator of BusyBox who still holds rights to the program, so far, the SFLC had not contacted him. He also said that the SFLC seems to have been selective when choosing the BusyBox developers it represents, and that it has been "guarded or hostile" in its correspondence with other affected developers.

Perens said that Erik Andersen, one of the current developers of BusyBox on whose behalf the SFLC has brought action, is by no means the only person holding rights to BusyBox. The developer added that Andersen and Robert Landley, another BusyBox developer who has been represented by the SFLC in the past, have allegedly removed copyright notices from the BusyBox program code. According to the blog posting, Landley, who has maintained BusyBox since 2006, has claimed that all the code written by Perens has been removed from BusyBox – which Perens thinks is untrue.

Update - When asked by The H about Perens comments, Aaron Williamson, SFLC Counsel, said "Bruce Perens is a very important figure in the free software community, but he is not our client. Many developers have contributed to the development of BusyBox and hold copyright in the program, including Bruce Perens. Whether, or to what extent, Mr. Perens holds copyright in any version of BusyBox is irrelevant to the lawsuits we have filed; a developer need not hold a "majority interest" of copyright in a program in order to bring a claim for infringement against a third party."


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