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14 December 2009, 17:01

SFC and SFLC sues Samsung, Zyxel, Western Digital and others over GPL violations

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The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) have, with the assistance of the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), launched legal action against fourteen makers of consumer electronics. The defendants include Best Buy, Samsung Electronics America, Westinghouse Digital, JVC America, Western Digital, Zyxel and other makers of household electronics who are alleged to have violated version 2 of the GNU General Public License (GPLv2).

The issue, according to the SFLC, is the use of the GPLv2 licensed BusyBox. BusyBox provides a compact set of common utilities, and it has become a much used component in many consumer electronics devices. The Software Freedom Conservancy acts as the non-profit corporate home of BusyBox (and other open source projects) and it is on their behalf that the SFLC have filed suit. The SFLC says it has noted 20 separate products where it identified GPL non-compliance with respect to BusyBox, and says it gave each defendant in the case "ample time to comply with the requirements" of the GPLv2 licence. SFLC counsel Aaron Williamson says "We brought this suit as a last resort after each of these defendants ignored us or failed to meaningfully respond to our requests that they release the source code”.

Bradley Kuhn, president of the SFC and SFLC technology director added "As embedded computer systems become more commonplace in everyday consumer electronics and more companies recognize the zero-cost licensing of Free Software over proprietary alternatives, it is more important than ever for manufacturers to learn to comply with the GPL". The case has been filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York and a copy of the complaintPDF is available.

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