Multiple consumer electronics companies hit with GPL lawsuit

Best Buy, Samsung and 12 others violate GPLv2, an open source law firm charges

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has brought a copyright lawsuit (PDF) against 14 consumer electronics companies for allegedly violating GNU General Public License (GPL) in the use of GPL-licensed software in their products. Among those named in the suit are Best Buy, JVC, Western Digital Technologies and Westinghouse.

The case has the largest number of defendants ever named in any single GPL-enforcement lawsuit, according to SFLC counsel Aaron Williamson. SFLC filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

At issue is the reuse of BusyBox software, which is licensed under version 2 of the GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2).

BusyBox is a compact set of Unix-based command line tools widely used in embedded systems. GPLv2 stipulates that the program code it covers can be free to reuse as long as the code, and any modifications, are made available to the users or customers of the product containing the code.

Among others, a Best Buy Insignia-branded DVD player, a Samsung high-definition television and a Western Digital media player all use the code, according to SFLC. But none of the companies have made the code available as per the conditions set forth by GPLv2.

"You have to provide the source code, whether or not you modified the program," Williamson said. "Just distributing the program, even if you haven't made any changes yourself, you still have an obligation to provide the source code."

Best Buy and Western Digital did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

SFLC found BusyBox used in 20 separate products across 14 different companies, without the corresponding code being made available. The law firm tried to contact each of the 14 defendants, but the companies were unresponsive, or did not take the claims seriously, in SFLC's view, Williamson said.

SFLC filed the suit on behalf of the Software Freedom Conservancy and BusyBox lead developer Erik Andersen.

The lawsuits are part of an ongoing SFLC project to police misuse of BusyBox, which has been in operation since 2007.

The BusyBox Web site provides an e-mail addresses for users to report products that seem to use BusyBox but whose manufacturers do not supply the source code. After the SFLC verifies the source code is not available, it contacts companies through multiple means, usually by overnight-mail, fax and e-mail, Williamson said.

This lawsuit includes a compendium of companies that did not respond, Williamson said.

Astak, Best Buy, Bosch, Comtrend, Dobbs-Stanford, GCI Technologies, Humax, JVC, Phoebe Micro, Samsung, Versa Technology, Western Digital Technologies, Westinghouse Digital and ZyXEL Communications are all named as defendants in the suit.

"Our hope is that all of these cases will settle rather than continue through the litigation process. But we're prepared to carry the lawsuit through as far as necessary to bring companies into compliance," Williamson said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags open sourceGPL violationsoftware licensinggplFree Software FoundationSFLClegallawsuitslicensing

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?