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First-Ever GPL-based Lawsuit Filed

September 22, 2007

eWeek's Linux Watch reports that The SFLC (Software Freedom Law Center) has announced it has filed what it believes is the first-ever U.S. copyright infringement lawsuit based on a violation of the GNU General Public License (GPL).

The group's clients are the two principal developers of BusyBox. BusyBox is a small-footprint application that implements a lightweight set of standard Unix utilities commonly used in embedded systems, and is open-source software licensed under the GPL version 2.

eWeek notes the SFLC says the developers of BusyBox came to the body after BusyBox tried to talk sofware vendor Monsoon Media into honoring the GPLv2 and its conditions

The developers of BusyBox came to the SFLC after trying to talk Monsoon into honoring the conditions of the GPLv2. Unsuccessful with this, the SFLC has filed suit on the developers' behalf against Monsoon.

BusyBox says it is making its claim under stipulations of GPL that it believes dictate that re-distributors of BusyBox most ensure that each downstream recipient is provided access to the source code of the program. BusyBox beleives that Monsoon has failed to provide this.

"We licensed BusyBox under the GPL to give users the freedom to access and modify its source code," said Erik Andersen, a developer of BusyBox and a named plaintiff in the lawsuit filed Sept. 19 in Manhattan Federal District Court. "If companies will not abide by the fair terms of our license, then we have no choice but to ask our attorneys to go to court to force them to do so."

The lawsuit, "Erik Andersen and Rob Landley v. Monsoon Multimedia Inc.," case number 07-CV-8205, will be heard by Senior District Judge John E. Sprizzo of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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