[FoRK] GPL2 might get a day in court

Tom Higgins <tomhiggins at gmail.com> on Thu Sep 20 16:50:47 PDT 2007

Someone named Luis Villa posted this on a blog and such as. (as a
side, wahts the line on St Stallman quoted as saying this case is
wrong all around becuase it should be under gpl3 :)- I keed I keed and
take a chiller Stallaholics)


"Just read the complaint in the GPL violation lawsuit filed today on
behalf of Busybox. Couple things jumped out at me:

This is exactly what you think it is: a very straightforward "you are
distributing binaries without the source, which you are not licensed
to do" case. Nothing complicated here; if the license is valid,
Busybox wins, if the license is not valid, Busybox does not win. As a
result, the complaint is also a very straightforward document- here is
what the license says, here are their options, here is what the
license says must occur if the distributor of the copyrighted work
doesn't comply.

Traditionally FSF and others who have encountered GPL violation issues
have taken the slow and patient approach- working with the various
parties over a period of time to come to an amicable conclusion. In
contrast, this lawsuit is not only very public, but happened
incredibly quickly- the complaint says that the Defendants were first
notified that they were in violation on August 28th- not even a month
ago. It looks like the defendants have not responded at all, which if
I had to guess would be the reason the lawsuit was filed. Still, sort
of surprising (given how these things have gone in the past) that it
has happened so quickly- I would be interested to see if SFLC or
Busybox comments on why it worked out this way.

You can see a hint of how SFLC will pursue this in the very first
paragraph of the 'Factual Background'- besides the obvious legal
arguments about the validity of the license, the paragraph notes that
"BusyBox is … used in countless products sold by more than
 100 manufacturers all over the world, including IBM, Nokia,
Hewlett-Packard, and Siemens."

If this actually goes to trial, it is almost certain that those in the
courtroom will hear it noted repeatedly that many Fortune 500
companies use Busybox under the terms of the GPL, and profit from it.
A decision in favor of the GPL will be portrayed as being a decision
in favor of commerce and industry, not just a decision in favor of an
abstract license. Is this supposed to matter? No. Does it? Often, yes,
it does- judges and juries are only human."

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