October 1, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

GPL defenders say: See you in court

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"Most of the time we get a very immediate response to our notification of the issue, and the parties work in good faith to resolve it quietly, discreetly and respectfully," Ravicher said, adding that the center has handled more than 50 enforcement matters on behalf of BusyBox. Of the 35 or 40 free and open-source projects SFLC represents, BusyBox and the Free Software Foundation are the two busiest when it comes to license enforcement activities, he added.

Monsoon declined to comment beyond its earlier statement from Graham Radstone, chief operating officer: "Since we intend to and always intended to comply with all open-source software license requirements, we are confident that the matter will be quickly resolved."

There have been a few examples in which the GPL has been involved in court cases, but the Monsoon suit isn't part of a larger strategy to build GPL case law, Ravicher said.

"Our client's goal was not to get a GPL decision from a court. Our client's goal was to get people to abide by the terms of the license," he said.

But legal precedents will come out of such cases. "My prediction was there will be more of these lawsuits," Harvey said. "A lot more will become known with respect to the licenses and the way they're to be used by the development of case law. It's not a great system but it's the one we've got."

Assertions of GPL violation have been going on for years, and the Free Software Foundation often has led efforts to bring companies into compliance. Not everybody has been satisfied with the pace of enforcement, however, including German open-source programmer Harald Welte.

"Violators don't lose anything by first not complying and waiting for the FSF," Welte said in 2005. Consequently, the open-source project in which he's involved began its own legal actions, some of them successful.

But Welte is an exception. Many programmers apparently would rather code than confront companies, often in a distant country and speaking a different language, with license violations.

That's apparently changing. Through the SFLC, many programmers have recourse, and the Monsoon case indicates that the center is willing to go to the mat.

"The message would seem very clear. To this point, the SFLC had never filed a lawsuit, nor had anyone filed a lawsuit on behalf of FSF in connection with GPL 2 code. Now they have," Harvey said. "So no longer is someone able to engage in water cooler conversation and say there's never been a lawsuit over the GPL. Clearly there has now. People need to pay attention to that."

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34 comments

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Not quite right
If you make changes, that alone does not trigger the reciprocity requirement.

You also have to distribute it.

A company can take an OSS project, alter it for internal use and never have to release anything, unless they want to.

Really, is it difficult to get that right?

It is about time the FSLC take a hard line to those who try to steal others work.
Posted by The_Decider (3097 comments )
Reply Link Flag
whoops
Change OSS to GPL.

Maybe it is hard to get right :p
Posted by The_Decider (3097 comments )
Link Flag
Grammar
You mean WITH those don't you? Bad grammar yet again.
Posted by mikalg (195 comments )
Link Flag
High Impact? Ok, but old news
Why wasn't CNET reporting on this last week when everyone else was?
Posted by ittesi259 (727 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Those in Glass Houses...
and what goes around comes around. This group is propping up a baseless license, since the license itself violates over 235 know patents of Microsoft. They should count their lucky stars the Microsoft hasn't sued their constituency yet.
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Truly clueless
1 MS hasn't offered a shred of proof.

2. The GPL is a license not software. Those non-existent 235 infringing patents is alleged against Linux, not the GPL. You do realize there is a difference, don't you? Why are MS astroturfers so bleeding ignorant?

Once again you show everyone that you don't have clue one about computing.
Posted by The_Decider (3097 comments )
Link Flag
Name them.
I challenge you to name any of the 235 patents the GPL license (v2 or v3) itself violates.

If you CAN, I won't post here for a month.

If you CAN'T, then YOU can't post here for a month.

Those are the terms.
Posted by `WarpKat (275 comments )
Link Flag
...over 235 known patents of Microsoft.
How can a patent be known if Microsoft will not disclose what patents are violated. It is quite well known that most if not all Microsoft patents have prior art. Microsoft knows that if they publish the list of patents they claim are violated, those patents will be invalidated.

The solution to this problem is to invalidate all of Microsoft's IP. The OSS community as well as companies like IBM and Red Hat are acquiring IP that preexists Microsoft patents to use if Microsoft is stupid enough to bring any of this to court.

The next step would be to show Windows infringed the GNU license and force Microsoft to publish its source code.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag
Put up or shut up
(nt)
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
Link Flag
M$
If M$ had the laws in force at the time of it's inseption with IBM the software obtained would have certainly been in violation.

The code from Linux came from Unix not M$.M$ may claim those accusations of 235 pattents but they have not specified them.There intelectual property is broad and vague at best.
Posted by ibmorjamn (8 comments )
Link Flag
Name 'em.
Not even MSFT can do that.

QED: there are no violations until someone does, and can prove them.

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
the 235 patents don't relate to the GPL
I've covered the <a href="http://www.news.com/Report-Microsoft-says-open-source-violates-235-patents/2100-1014_3-6183437.html">235 patent issue</a> extensively; the Microsoft patents in question have nothing to do with the GPL itself but rather with some open-source projects that are in some cases are governed by the GPL. For example, the Linux kernel violates 42 patents, Microsoft argues. Don't expect them to tell anybody what the patents are, though; such information typically shows up only in lawsuits or confidential licensing discussions.
Posted by Shankland (1858 comments )
Link Flag
Retract Your Statement
First of all, since you obviously can't tell the difference between a license and source code, your statement is about as truthful as available beach-front property in Utah; and no, lake shores don't count.

Secondly, Microsoft is ALLEGING that the Linux kernel violates 235 of its patents. Which leads us to:

Thirdly, Microsoft has yet to prove, let alone provide a list of, any of its 235 patents that have been violated.

And since you've not accepted nor declined my challenge, I can safely assume that you will retract your statements as they are completely baseless, to coin your choice of words.
Posted by `WarpKat (275 comments )
Link Flag
Re: Glass Houses
Great trolling! You've got a lot of people worked up about a statement that's ridiculous on its face. You couldn't possibly be that ignorant.
Posted by alflanagan (115 comments )
Link Flag
The SLC tactic
This lawsuit isn?t even a copyright case. It is a breach of contract claim. The complaint
states, ?Defendant has distributed to the public copies of the Firmware in its Infringing Products and via its website without providing source code to BusyBox?. That is a breach of contract claim since ?failure" to distribute source code is not a violation of the Copyright Act.

The complaint states, ?As such, any rights Defendant may have had under the License to redistribute BusyBox were automatically terminated the instant that Defendant made non-compliant distribution of the Infringing Products or Firmware.? Here is what the federal courts say about New York law concerning this claim:

?. . . rescission of the contract only occurs upon affirmative acts by the licensor, and a breach by one party does not automatically result in rescission of a contract. Id. at 238 (?New York law does not presume the rescission or abandonment of a contract and the party asserting rescission or abandonment has the burden of proving it?).?; Atlantis Information Technology, Gmbh v, CA Inc.,, 2007 WL 1238716 (E.D.N.Y. April 30, 2007).

-- so much for ?automatic termination?. The plaintiffs named in the complaint have no standing to bring this action because the GPL requires distribution of source code to ?all third parties?. The plaintiffs are obviously not ?third party? beneficiaries to the GPL and hence have suffered no personal ?injury-in-fact? which is required for standing in a lawsuit.

This lawsuit is simply a propaganda move by the SFLC. The SFLC will file for dismissal of this action before any F.R.C.P. Rule 12 (Motion to Dismiss) is ever filed with the Court, since they would appear very foolish when the Court subsequently dismissed the case. The SFLC will dismiss and then trumpet ?The GPL won in court !?
Not.
Posted by gumout (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, not
If the GPL can't pass legal muster, then neither can the draconian licenses that slime like MS uses.

The SFLC is not pulling an SCO.
Posted by The_Decider (3097 comments )
Link Flag
I don't think so
"This lawsuit isn?t even a copyright case. It is a breach of contract claim."

There was no contract, so there is no breach. It is clearly a copyright case, it isn't anything else.

The defendant used copyrighted material in a manner not permitted by the copyright. Period. How hard is that to understand?
Posted by McBlayde (72 comments )
Link Flag
 

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