Verizon GPL settlement is a biggie

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has settled its GPL lawsuit with telecommunications and wireless giant Verizon, bringing to a compliant close all four recent U.S. lawsuits filed on the basis of the free and open source software license. In its suit, the SFLC alleged Verizon, which distributes GPL-licensed BusyBox software to customers via wireless routers from Actiontec Electronics, had failed to provide the source code as obligated by the GNU GPL.

As in other cases, the settlement consists of Actiontec’s agreement (likely encouraged by their larger partner) to appoint an open source compliance officer, to publish the BusyBox source code as required and to notify recipients of the software, including Verizon, of their GPL rights to the code. Also similar to the previous three settlements, Actiontec is paying an undisclosed sum to the BusyBox developers who were the plaintiffs.

I thought this would be the case, based on a few things. First, the GPL is not some exotic, first-of-its kind license, document or legal doctrine. Actually, it is based largely on U.S. copyright law, particularly in the case of GPLv2, which is the BusyBox license. It amazes me that some people think the GPL will be refuted, defeated or ‘thrown out of court.’ That would mean ‘throwing out’ U.S. copyright law, and I don’t see that happening, ever. Second, when considering the cost of compliance (actually sharing the code, a compliance officer and a payment to the BusyBox developers) to the cost of court, it surely makes sense to settle. Third, and perhaps most important, Verizon did not stand to gain by protracting the case. Nor did the company have much stake in defending itself on principle. It’s much easier to simply work with the people suing you to find out how you can come into compliance. Besides, who wants to be the next SCO?

The GPL lawsuits and subsequent settlements and compliance, which came from some of the smallest GPL violators and now, from one of the largest companies in the world, all serve to bolster the GPL. More companies large and small are now on GPL notice and if they’re smart, are making sure they are complying with the rules and regulations of free and open source software.

7 comments ↓

#1 Blogging Hyperic » The GPL as IP Protection Tool on 03.17.08 at 5:12 pm

[…] Via 451 CAOS Theory, just learned that the Software Freedom Law Center settled its GPL infringement suit with Verizon. I’ll leave the details of the case as an exercise for the reader, but it basically involves a company not adhering to the terms of the GPL. […]

#2 Profoss news on 03.18.08 at 9:26 am

BusyBox-Verizon settlement in GPL lawsuit…

#3 Verizon Settles GPL Infringement Suit - Open for Business on 06.12.08 at 2:42 pm

[…] filed and settled several lawsuits on behalf of BusyBox creators. The latest settlement, however, may be the biggest victory yet for open source. On Monday, SFLC announced that BusyBox creators have settled their lawsuit against […]

#4 451 CAOS Theory » Will Cisco settle or battle? on 12.17.08 at 6:20 pm

[…] lawsuits and resulting settlements involving free and open source software proponents, including a suit and settlement with telco giant Verizon, I think the more likely result is some type of settlement this time […]

#5 451 CAOS Theory » Cisco settles, but why did we go here? on 05.27.09 at 5:16 pm

[…] end the involved parties are on. This was part of my reasoning that, similar to what we saw with Verizon, we would see a settlement from Cisco. However, Rosen raises the question of how and why it got to […]

#6 451 CAOS Theory » Separating the leeches from the potential contributors on 06.24.09 at 5:11 pm

[…] of the first group are being dealt with one at a time by the SFLC. With reference to the second group it is important to note that contributing […]

#7 451 CAOS Theory » New GPL suits and an open source imbalance on 12.16.09 at 4:41 pm

[…] big names in electronics and IT. We’ve long covered these series of GPL-based suits and settlements, but this latest round comes at an interesting time for open source software and its […]