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The Courts Government Businesses GNU is Not Unix Networking News

FSF Settles Suit Against Cisco 194

Posted by timothy
from the good-on-them dept.
Saint Aardvark writes "The Free Software Foundation has announced that they've settled their lawsuit with Cisco (reported earlier here). In the announcement, they say that Cisco has agreed to appoint a Free Software Director for Linksys, who will report periodically to the FSF; to notify Linksys customers of their rights; and to make a monetary donation to the FSF. An accompanying blog entry explains further: 'Whenever we talk about the work we do to handle violations, we say over and over again that getting compliance with the licenses is always our top priority. The reason this is so important is not only because it provides a goal for us to reach, but also because it gives us a clear guide to choosing our tactics. This is the first time we've had to go to court over a license violation.'"
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FSF Settles Suit Against Cisco

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  • by fermion (181285) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @04:19PM (#28030607) Homepage Journal
    This is the way that software should be handled. If someone is not in compliance, work with them to get them in compliance.

    Compare this to what the BSA is advocating [pcmag.com]. Essentially any disgruntled employee can put unlicensed commercial software on a computer and then report the violation to the BSA for a reward. Sure companies can put millions of dollars of safeguards to prevent harassment from inefficient employees, but why bother. Just make it a policy to only use free software, and when the BSA comes knocking, show them the policy and the minimal cost efforts that makes all other software the responsibility of the user.

    This will also help long term interpretability, as OSS has minimal incentives to obstificate the data to force users to continue to pay the ransom to access said data.

  • Re:Fear (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tomhath (637240) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @04:34PM (#28030777)
    The only time a company I worked for ran into licensing issues was with a proprietary runtime executable. We had a "freely redistributable" license under 7.0 for the runtime. We upgraded to 8.0, which had a runtime with the same name, but we didn't read the fine print in the new license until later when we were told by the vendor that we owed them a five-figure royalty fee for redistributing the 8.0 version.
  • Re:FSFAA! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Volante3192 (953645) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @04:53PM (#28031093)

    So, by that logic, music given away as a promotion can be freely copied because it was obtained at zero cost to the recipient?

  • by cenc (1310167) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @04:58PM (#28031195) Homepage

    My father, an attorney for many years had variation on that.

    A good lawyer goes to court and gets their client off. A great lawyer makes sure the client never goes to court in the first place.

  • by bzzfzz (1542813) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @05:00PM (#28031239)

    The GPL is a license, not a contract. Failure to comply with the GPL cannot result in having to give out source code that you wrote. On the other hand, it may result in a suit for infringement. In contrast, most commercial products are covered by contractual agreements that don't have that safety valve.

    Licenses for closed-source commercial products are no better, just different. There are all kinds of restrictions on what and how you can distribute from the Microsoft Visual Studio tools. There are termination clauses in the contract. And despite all the M$ bashing, that contract is relatively liberal and lightly enforced compared to most commercial software tools, particularly those for phones and embedded devices.

    I used to work for a Fortune 100 company that allowed us to use GPL code with less red tape than certain commercial products. The difference? The commercial products had an enforceable indemnification provision that could have cost millions of dollars had things gone badly.

  • by SL Baur (19540) <steve@xemacs.org> on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @05:13PM (#28031461) Homepage Journal

    Or maybe the FSF (unlike some other IP-related litigants out there) only wants people to comply with the GPL, and will settle once the defendant agrees to do so (as opposed to extorting money out of the defendants)?

    I am pleased that this got settled quickly and in a manner that supports the GPL.

    Kudos to the FSF for going for what's right rather than what's rich.

    Ditto. Credit where credit is due.

    And kudos to Cisco for supporting the GPL in the end, even if a few hard-headed managers had to get larted.

    Disclaimer: I am a supporter of the GPL, but I am not a friend of the FSF and although I am a Cisco employee, I do not write for Cisco.

  • Re:Fear (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:06PM (#28032215)

    You haven't done enough reading I think.

    The people who make the mostly closed-source programming language REBOL(pronounced rebel) at one time and maybe still do had something in their license that if you made a program that you started selling, you'd have to work out a per unit licensing fee with the creators of Rebol.

    I wish that were a joke but it is the main reason I'm using Ruby instead of Rebol right now. They also wanted $500 for an SDK(which apparently allows compilation, etc.) for Linux and another $500 for Win32 and another for Solaris and another for BSD....Rebol might be easier but Ruby won't charge me extra $$$(actually NONE) if I need to use it on another platform.

    You have to do a lot of questioning to get them to admit the licensing thing over commercial use but you can find people complaining about it on their list.

    So what was your problem with open source again? Hidden terms and conditions? Shit, I'll take that any day over what Rebol wanted.

  • Amen to that. I have two WRT54G routers, both with DD-WRT24sp1. I just upgraded the one I'm using from v24; the other is a version 5 unit which can only run micro, but that's what's on it. Comb your local flea markets :)

  • by Magic5Ball (188725) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @09:26PM (#28034479)

    In the last 10,000 years, science and engineering have done pretty well for enhancing themselves and have let anyone else do the same by not encumbering their algorithms in legal protections. Even with modern patents, the maximum duration of exclusivity over an algorithm is less than 20 years, after which anyone can muck around as they please for fun and profit.

    Algorithms such as cola recipes do not need to be protected in the first place (our society demonstrates this by the fact that anyone can implement and sell a liquid with the same formula as the one that Coke sells, they just can't call it Coke for very good consumer protection and trademark reasons). However, it's a very good thing to be able to protect exclusivity over specific implementations since there are valuable social and monetary assets tied to particular meatspace implementations of algorithms, just as there should be the ability to protect exclusivity over particular non-meatspace implementations of algorithms. When I purchase a DVD labeled Apple OS X 10.5, I do not want something containing a QNX installer.

    But that's not the kind of protection GPL adds for the producer or consumer. GPL for software tries to prevent particular implementations of algorithms (products) from being used in unauthorized ways, and does not claim to protect any particular algorithms (otherwise it would have the same conceptual failings as business process patents). So clearly, GPL is not intended to protect algorithms, but possibly to protect particular implementations or rights of their implementers.

    GPL's restrictions on how an implementation may be redistributed (must include a link/copy of the GPL and distribute code if redistributing) would be analogous to Coke prohibiting the redistribution of remixed products such as cola-battered chocolate crumbles unless each cola-battered chocolate crumbles comes with a copy of the recipe, no matter how the redistributor of the instance of Coke used came to acquire that instance of the Coke, even if the chocolate crumbles are not advertised as being a Coke-containing product. If the waste products from the production of cola-battered chocolate crumbles ends up being sold in commercial compost, a copy of the recipe for the compost would then have to accompany each bag of compost, even if the compost is not advertised as being a Coke-containing product. Ad nauseum. In this simple instance, GPL would add nothing to actively protect a particular implementation or its implementer, so the kinds of things it protects are not analogous to tangible goods, nor are the freedoms it enhances related to those tangible goods.

    So what does it protect and what freedoms does it enhance? Copyrights perhaps? If we consider software to be like books or artwork, where each licensed copy is protected, a number of issues arise:
    1) If copyright terms remain related to the life of the creator, at what point should a particular version of GPL-licensed software fall into the public domain? If GPL requires tracking the providence of each contributor to a work to determine length of copyright before I can use a work which falls into the public domain, GPL-licensed code has the effect of being more difficult to re-use than code protected under copyright alone, or code in the public domain.
    2) If GPL claims to be an enhanced copyright protection, the doctrine of first sale says I can buy a copy of a book, make a derivative work by pasting/cutting from it, and then resell that copy without restriction as long as I'm not representing the altered work as an original. Does GPL permit me to obtain one copy of GPL-licensed source code, modify it, and then install that instance to a router to be distributed without a copy of the modified source code? If not, GPL has the effect of being less free than code protected by copyright alone, or code in the public domain.
    3) If GPL claims to be an enhanced product labeling or consumer protection, it does no better than existing consumer protection legislation in terms of disclo

  • by Fred Ferrigno (122319) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:20PM (#28034975)

    Linksys always intended to release the code. By and large, they already have. If you follow all the way to the original complaint [fsf.org], it's all about modified GNU tools, not any core router components that Linksys might want to keep secret. Also, they usually would release the source, only they made a lot of mistakes in the process. They'd release the source late, release the wrong version of the source, or forget to include all the necessary tools to build the source, etc.

    Even though in most cases Linksys did eventually come into compliance with the GPL, the FSF got tired of having to hold Linksys' feet to the fire. Now the idea is that Linksys will have an internal watchdog instead who will ensure that releases are compliant with the GPL the first time around.

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