January 20, 2021
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News Brief: Best Buy and CE Vendors Sued over GPL Software

  • By Sean Michael Kerner
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If you use GPL licensed software, it's a good idea to make sure that you're compliant with the license terms.

In a lawsuit filed today, the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) is taking aim at alleged GPL license violation by 14 consumers electronics vendors including retail giant Best Buy.

The violations are related to the GPL licensed BusyBox collection of utilities which are found in products sold by Best Buy and included by multiple consumer electronics vendors including Samsung, Westinghouse, and JVC. BusyBox is a collection of Unix utilities that have been optimized for size and are most commonly used in embedded environments such as TV sets and DVD players.

"Each Defendant distributed and continues to copy, modify, or distribute Plaintiffs' copyrighted BusyBox software without Plaintiffs' permission and despite the fact that Plaintiffs notified each Defendant of its unlawful activity," the SFLC lawsuit states. "Since each Defendant has infringed Plaintiffs' copyrights, and since that infringement is ongoing, Plaintiffs seek damages, injunctive relief, attorneys' fees, and all other appropriate remedies available under the law."

This isn't the first time that the SLFC has launched a lawsuit on behalf of BusyBox. To date, the SFLC has settled at least four publicly disclosed lawsuits regarding BusyBox GPL license compliance issues. SFLC has now settled with Monsoon Multimedia, Xterasys, High-Gain Antennas and Verizon.

In the case of Verizon, the settlement came by way of a supplier to Verizon. Router vendor Actiontec, had been distributing wireless routers to Verizon's FiOS high speed Internet customers without properly making the BusyBox code available (the routers included BusyBox code). All of the settled SFLC cases to date have involved the appointment of an Open Source Compliance Officer as well as an undisclosed financial payment to the SFLC.

"As embedded computer systems become more commonplace in everyday consumer electronics and more companies recognize the zero-cost licensing of Free Software over proprietary alternatives, it is more important than ever for manufacturers to learn to comply with the GPL," Bradley M. Kuhn the SFLC's technology director said in a statement.

This article was originally published on December 15, 2009

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