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GPL Compliance Lawsuits

by Brett Smith Contributions Published on Nov 29, 2007 01:37 PM

There's been a lot of news coverage recently about the lawsuits Busybox has filed against GPL violators. They're getting a lot of attention because analysts are interested in seeing if the GPL will be tested in a U.S. court. But that's not all the big news in the world of GPL enforcement: there's also a case in France over the Freebox that's starting up. The Freebox is a very popular cable box in France, so it's a high-profile case that's taking a lot of effort and coordination.

Because so much has happened so quickly, some people have speculated that developers' attitudes about GPL enforcement have changed. In reality, I don't think that's the case. To put it simply, filing lawsuits isn't fun. It takes a lot of time and energy that most people would rather spend elsewhere. These are all cases where the developers have tried hard to amicably work with the violators for compliance, and have been met with stonewalling and resistance. Compliance efforts around Freebox have been going on for years, to no avail.

One of the major goals of the GPL, and one of the main reasons so many software authors choose it, is to create a commons of software that everyone can share and build upon. All these developers would be satisfied just to see these companies follow the GPL's rules and contribute to that commons. Unfortunately, when a company fails to do that and won't respond to polite requests, legal action is the only major option left to address the problem. These lawsuits only demonstrate how serious we all are about protecting software freedom.

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