Multiple consumer electronics companies hit with GPL lawsuit

Best Buy, Samsung and 12 others violate GPLv2, an open source law firm charges

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has brought a copyright lawsuit (PDF) against 14 consumer electronics companies for allegedly violating GNU General Public License (GPL) in the use of GPL-licensed software in their products. Among those named in the suit are Best Buy, JVC, Western Digital Technologies and Westinghouse.

The case has the largest number of defendants ever named in any single GPL-enforcement lawsuit, according to SFLC counsel Aaron Williamson. SFLC filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

At issue is the reuse of BusyBox software, which is licensed under version 2 of the GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2).

BusyBox is a compact set of Unix-based command line tools widely used in embedded systems. GPLv2 stipulates that the program code it covers can be free to reuse as long as the code, and any modifications, are made available to the users or customers of the product containing the code.

Among others, a Best Buy Insignia-branded DVD player, a Samsung high-definition television and a Western Digital media player all use the code, according to SFLC. But none of the companies have made the code available as per the conditions set forth by GPLv2.

"You have to provide the source code, whether or not you modified the program," Williamson said. "Just distributing the program, even if you haven't made any changes yourself, you still have an obligation to provide the source code."

Best Buy and Western Digital did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

SFLC found BusyBox used in 20 separate products across 14 different companies, without the corresponding code being made available. The law firm tried to contact each of the 14 defendants, but the companies were unresponsive, or did not take the claims seriously, in SFLC's view, Williamson said.

SFLC filed the suit on behalf of the Software Freedom Conservancy and BusyBox lead developer Erik Andersen.

The lawsuits are part of an ongoing SFLC project to police misuse of BusyBox, which has been in operation since 2007.

The BusyBox Web site provides an e-mail addresses for users to report products that seem to use BusyBox but whose manufacturers do not supply the source code. After the SFLC verifies the source code is not available, it contacts companies through multiple means, usually by overnight-mail, fax and e-mail, Williamson said.

This lawsuit includes a compendium of companies that did not respond, Williamson said.

Astak, Best Buy, Bosch, Comtrend, Dobbs-Stanford, GCI Technologies, Humax, JVC, Phoebe Micro, Samsung, Versa Technology, Western Digital Technologies, Westinghouse Digital and ZyXEL Communications are all named as defendants in the suit.

"Our hope is that all of these cases will settle rather than continue through the litigation process. But we're prepared to carry the lawsuit through as far as necessary to bring companies into compliance," Williamson said.

Tags GPL violationopen sourcegplsoftware licensinglegalSFLCFree Software Foundationlawsuitslicensing

More about AndersenAndersenCI TechnologiesHumaxInsigniaJVCNUSamsungWestern DigitalZyXEL

ARN Directory | Distributors relevant to this article

Comments

Comments are now closed

 

Latest News

04:00PM
Over a quarter of Australians won’t bank on their mobile: Kaspersky
Oct 31
HDS A/NZ Partner Summit 2014 in Noosa (+15 photos)
Oct 31
The Google shakeup continues: Andy Rubin is out
Oct 31
Impact Systems boss wants to buy 10 resellers
More News
05 Nov
LIVE Webcast: Lessons Learned from the Biggest Security Breaches
05 Nov
vForum 2014
10 Nov
Ascom Myco Launch Event
11 Nov
DCIM Certified Solutions Professional
View all events