Friday, December 7, 2007

SFLC to Verizon: Can you hear me now?

There's no question that the number of lawsuits involving Open Source licenses, especially the GPL, is increasing in number and scale. Verizon is the highest-profile target so far: this week the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) slapped the company with a GPL copyright lawsuit over its router software. SFLC says that the router software used with Verizon's new FiOS broadband service uses software based upon BusyBox, which the developers licensed under GPLv2. In such case, the SFLC contends, Verizon must make the source code available – something Verizon has steadfastly refused to do. Meanwhile, the SFPC has also filed three other lawsuits on behalf of BusyBox since the beginning of November.

As Mark Radcliffe first noted on his blog in November, the suits filed on behalf of BusyBox highlight the SFLC's aggressive new GPL enforcement strategy. For the SFLC, failure to release the source code for software based on GPLv2-licensed code is the trigger.

“SLFC consistently takes the position that the failure to comply with all of the terms of the GPL 'terminates' the permission in the license and the licensee becomes a copyright infringer,” Radcliffe writes. He goes on to give companies contacted by SFLC some advice: “The clear lesson from these suits is to respond quickly if SFLC contacts your company and try to resolve the issue promptly.”

For its part, Verizon has had no comment on the case. Now we wait to see what other companies run afoul SFLC and get the worst of all holiday presents – a lawsuit.

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