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Open source software license enforcement actions on the rise

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What do Verizon, Cisco Systems, Bell Microproducts, Super Micro Computer, Monsoon Multimedia, Xterasys Corp, High-Gain Antennas and Extreme Networks have in common? All of these companies were sued by the FSF or SFLC for open source software license violations.

The FSF, SFLC and other licensors have recently taken a more active approach to enforcement of open source software licenses, leading to a host of enforcement actions against companies that incorporate open source software into their products.

Recent Open Source Software Enforcement Actions

In late 2007 and early 2008, the SFLC filed and settled a series of lawsuits on behalf of the principal developers of BusyBox software (BB Software). These cases are notable for being the first litigation involving enforcement of the General Public License (GPL). BB Software is licensed under the GPLv2, which requires that redistributors provide end users with access to the BB Software source code. Plaintiffs in these actions accused the defendants of failing to do so. Each defendant settled for an undisclosed amount of money and also agreed to comply with the GPL, undertake “substantial” efforts to notify previous recipients of defendants’ products of their violation of the GPL and appoint an “Open Source Compliance Officer” within their organizations to monitor and ensure GPL compliance. The FSF filed a similar lawsuit against Cisco Systems, Inc. in December 2008, which settled on May 20, 2009 on similar terms.

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