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20 August 2008, 15:51

Dealing with the GPL

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The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has published A Practical Guide to GPL Compliance. The guide provides a basic legal overview of the GNU General Public Licence and related licences and gives practical advice to businesses on how they can comply with the licence.

To assist in avoiding GPL violations, the authors describe the best practices in the development processes and software acquisition to take account of open source licences. It also details the best way for companies to co-operate when the authors of GPL software report that a company is violating the GPL. The SFLC hope that publication of the paper will reduce GPL violations and avoid negative outcomes when GPL violations do occur.

The Software Freedom Law Center is a provider of pro-bono legal services for free and open source projects and it has sued a number of companies for GPL violations. In recent months, both SuperMicro and Verizon came to agreements with the SFLC. A case is still pending against Extreme Networks. In most cases, the issue surrounded the companies' use of the GPL licensed BusyBox software in network and embedded devices; BusyBox provides a large number of Linux/Unix commands in a compact file that makes it ideal for these devices.

In the paper the SFLC says "The companies we contact about GPL violations often respond with: We didn’t know there was GPL’d stuff in there".


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