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You are here: Home FSF News FSF to be deposed in SFC v Vizio, updates relevant FAQ entry

FSF to be deposed in SFC v Vizio, updates relevant FAQ entry

by Free Software Foundation Contributions Published on Apr 29, 2024 11:46 AM

For nearly 25 years, the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) "Frequently Asked Questions about the GNU Licenses" have been an important educational resource about the GNU General Public Licenses (GPL).

Unfortunately, Vizio, Inc., an American publicly traded company that designs and sells televisions, sound bars, viewer data, and advertising, has attempted to exploit the FSF's FAQs to the detriment of software freedom in the case Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), Inc. vs. Vizio, Inc. (case no. 30-2021-01226723-CU-BC-CJC). In this case, SFC is requesting that Vizio provide source code to programs on some Vizio devices that are covered by the GNU General Public License v2 (GPL) and GNU Lesser General Public License v2.1 (LGPL). In response, Vizio has argued that SFC cannot enforce a request for source code if it does not hold copyright to the underlying software. In support of that argument, Vizio has made reference to an FAQ that is captioned "Who has the power to enforce the GPL."

Vizio has now subpoenaed FSF to testify at a deposition in this case.

FSF has always intended for the GNU licenses to promote the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change, and improve software — which requires that source code be shared with users.

Vizio's attempt to leverage an FSF FAQ to avoid being held accountable under the GNU GPL is both malicious and ironic. Users should be free to enforce their right to source code under the GNU GPL licenses through any available legal mechanism, without having to rely on a copyright holder to take action.

In that spirit, we have updated the above FAQ to read as follows:

Q: Who has the power to enforce the GPL?

A: Since the GPL is a copyright license, it can be enforced by the copyright holders of the software. If you see a violation of the GPL, you should inform the developers of the GPL-covered software involved. They either are the copyright holders, or are connected with the copyright holders.

In addition, we encourage the use of any legal mechanism available to users for obtaining complete and corresponding source code, as is their right, and enforcing full compliance with the GNU GPL. After all, we developed the GNU GPL to make software free for all its users.

The update better reflects the intention of the GNU GPL licenses.

We are preparing to deliver deposition testimony in response to Vizio's subpoena. We will continue to closely monitor the case, and we support the SFC in their efforts. Needless to say, a court decision confirming users' standing to enforce their right to source code under the GNU GPL licenses would be a great help in ensuring software freedom.

The FSF invests much of our limited resources in activities that safeguard enforcement of the GNU GPL licenses, which includes extensive preparation for this deposition with legal counsel. Please consider making a financial contribution to enable us to continue doing this work. If you don't have the financial means, you can also contribute to the GNU Project, or help investigate possible GPL violations.

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