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29 May 2012, 16:15

GPL policing efforts expand to include Linux and Samba

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GPL icon The Software Freedom Conservancy has announced that it is heading up a "unified effort" among a number of its member projects to ensure compliance with the free software licences they are distributed under. The conservancy is also launching the GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers, which will see Linux kernel contributors request that the Conservancy pursue GPL violators over the Linux kernel.

Historically, the Conservancy has pursued many GPL compliance cases, successfully, on behalf of member project BusyBox, but there has been a desire within the Conservancy to see more projects – including the most successful free software project, Linux – commit to compliance efforts. Projects that are already under the care of the Conservancy include Samba, which has been ensuring compliance with its GPL licence since the 1990s, and is officially putting the Conservancy in charge of compliance efforts. Other projects following this path include the Evergreen library system, Inkscape vector graphics, Mercurial revision control, Sugar Labs and Wine.

Linux kernel developers signing on for the Linux developer compliance project include Matthew Garrett who has put forward his Linux kernel copyrights to go under the protection of the project. Garrett said that many Linux copyright holders had offered their moral support to the Conservancy's efforts with BusyBox, but that the new initiative allowed them to formalise that support. Garrett has already been joined by six other kernel developers. The Linux Developers Compliance project will be run as a collaboration between the copyright contributing developers to ensure that the Conservancy will be working with their full support.

Bradley Kuhn, Executive Director of the Software Freedom Conservancy, said he is "excited that so many projects have joined BusyBox to show their commitment to compliance efforts. I look forward to working with this large team to improve compliance with Free Software licences throughout the software industry".

To comply with the GPL, companies who distribute products based on GPL code must make the source code of the GPL components and any changes they have made available to, at least, customers of their products. This fundamental requirement of the GPL licence is designed to ensure that organisations must share changes and thus keep the software free. When a company fails to do this, the copyright holder, or their agent, can pursue them to either come into compliance or be taken to court for copyright violation.


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