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The Courts Government Businesses GNU is Not Unix Networking News

FSF Settles Suit Against Cisco 194

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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  • A lawyer friend of mine once said that once you go to court anything can happen.
  • Re:Fear (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @04:26PM (#28030699)

    You mean this MIT license []? The one which says "do whatever you like, just don't sue and provide this notice"? The old Apache license [] is similar, and 2.0 [] even includes patent provisions.

    Looks like the FUD already worked on you. Not all licenses are the same, nor are all OSS licenses viral.

  • Re:Fear (Score:3, Informative)

    by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @04:31PM (#28030745) Homepage

    Buying a license doesn't buy you legal safety. Look at Apple's license agreements for developers and tell me how "safe" you feel legally developing code for their platforms.

  • Re:Fear (Score:5, Informative)

    by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @04:40PM (#28030877)

    First, find a new lawyer (assuming you're not just trolling).

    Second, if your organization is allowing developers to throw in libraries from all over, without checking licenses, you've got some pretty big problems, and you're probably better off if they're using OSI-approved licenses (which at least allow commercial use). That still doesn't mean that the libraries are appropriate or of good quality, which is why I'd be a bit slower to worry about the legal issues.

    Third, if you think commercial licenses are easier to work with, you need to read a few. It's very, very common to have little exclusions and conditions in them. There aren't all that many OSI-approved licenses, and you can come up with a list of approved ones for certain projects fairly easily. Besides, the commercial places employ nastier lawyers.

    Fourth, there is no risk of having to publish source code, even if you've wrongly linked it with GPLed code and distributed it. That isn't a legal remedy, and no court will order you to do it.

  • Freedom (Score:5, Informative)

    by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @04:43PM (#28030935) Journal

    GNU is about freedom. Let's say I wanted to punch you in the face. I have the freedom to do so, unless you have the power to stop me. But trying to stop me is taking away my freedom to swing my fist, under your definition of freedom. Under my definition of freedom, your right not to get hit in the face outweighs my freedom to swing my fist wherever I like.

    The GPL and the FSF help protect developers and end users from getting punched in the face by companies like Cisco. The GPL and the FSF help protect freedom, unless you define freedom as 'I get to do whatever the hell I want and screw the rest of you.'

  • Re:Consider this (Score:4, Informative)

    by Presto Vivace ( 882157 ) <> on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @05:11PM (#28031447) Homepage Journal
    GNU thing started because a large corporation refused to give specs of a printer. I know. []
  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @05:34PM (#28031763) Homepage Journal

    I think everyone settles because the license is pretty clear. You don't like the license, then you don't ship the software.
    Most companies are willing to made a deal because it's still cheaper than paying commercial royalties the old fashion way. If you can suffer the GNU viral license, you can also have a very quick time to market compared to writing everything from scratch. It's pretty obvious that many companies are willing to make sacrifices to get the benefits. Having worked at Cisco, in groups that use Linux, we understood the sacrifices before we started, but it was never that easy to transmit that information up the chain of command in a way that would result in appropriate action being taken.

    Many times it is just incompetence with key decision makers that results in GPL (and other) license violations. And every corporations I've worked for in the valley has a fair amount of incompetence and ignorance in the key decision making positions.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:25PM (#28032501) Homepage Journal

    Free Software is about the software remaining free. It is actually a more descriptive term than saying "free software" when you mean you don't have to pay. The end result is more freedom for the user, if not the programmer. The user is more important.

  • by jbn-o ( 555068 ) <> on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:50PM (#28032859) Homepage

    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.

    This cannot be said enough, particularly amongst a crowd that discusses the latest goings-on with the corporate media lobbyists they (justifiably) hate: Unlike the major corporate media copyright holders, the FSF sues and gets license compliance which is what they're really after. You'll notice that the FSF isn't seeking to bankrupt Cisco (even while recognizing that corporations aren't people). This is a far cry from what the MPAA, RIAA, and other corporate copyright holders pursue with the public—economic domination.

    And, as I've said before [], violating the GPL is not like violating other licenses and here's another way in which that is the case: GPLv3 has language which makes the situation better for violators who correct their behavior. As the plain language guide to the GPL [] explains, under GPLv2 a violator had to beg the copyright holder to have their rights under the GPL restored because those rights vanished instantly and permanently upon license violation. Under GPLv3 section 8 [] violators catch a break: "if you violate the license, you'll get your rights back once you stop the violation, unless a copyright holder contacts you within 60 days. After you receive such a notice, you can have your rights fully restored if you're a first-time violator and correct the violation within 30 days.". Other free software licenses have no similarly forgiving language; it appears that under the new BSD license if one violates any of the 3 conditions listed in the license one loses permission to "[redistribute] and use [the covered program] in source and binary forms" because the violator reverts to the default state of copyright: no permission to copy, share, or modify.

  • by dopodot ( 1559063 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:17PM (#28034931)
    They're only releasing source code related to the Linksys products, which were in violation. Cisco acquired Linksys a few years ago -- Linksys still operates mostly as their own company. Cisco proper already has people responsible for ensuring source license compliance and they seem to have done a good job. I don't think there's any GPL code in IOS, which is what it sounds like you're worried about. There's lots of BSD-style code though.
  • by jbn-o ( 555068 ) <> on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:17PM (#28034941) Homepage

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

    I wouldn't be so quick to hand out these kudos; the non-compliance can return. This, I suspect, is why Cisco needs a Free Software Director who regularly reports back to the FSF. As the FSF's Compliance Engineer Brett Smith pointed out in 2008 [], "Despite our best efforts, Cisco seems unwilling to take the steps that are necessary to come into compliance and stay in compliance." (emphasis mine). Smith wrote that 5 years after the FSF learned that Cisco was not complying with the GPL and the FSF had been getting nowhere with its attempt to silently get Cisco to comply—what Smith called "a five-years-running game of Whack-a-Mole". Cisco and the FSF recently arrived at their agreement. It will take years to convince the public that Cisco is compliant and will remain compliant with those that treat Cisco so nicely as to share their work in whole with Cisco. "The end" you refer to is nowhere near here. Good will to correct wrongdoing on this scale takes time to sow.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.