September 25, 2007

First US GPL case is <em>not</em> settled

Author: Bruce Byfield

Contrary to yesterday's report, the lawsuit against Monsoon Multimedia for violating the GNU General Public License (GPL) in its distribution of BusyBox may not be headed for a quick settlement. Nor will the settlement necessarily be out-of-court.

Yesterday, Monsoon issued a news release that announced that the company was in "settlement negotiations with BusyBox." Graham Radstone, Monsoon chairman and chief operating officer, said, "Since we intend to and always intended to comply with all open source software license requirements, we are confident that the matter will be quickly resolved."

However, Daniel B. Ravicher, legal director of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), which filed the suit on behalf of BusyBox, is more cautious.

"I can confirm that we are discussing settlement," Ravicher says, "but -- contrary to what many in the press seem to believe -- no agreement has been reached. Simply coming into compliance now is not sufficient to settle the matter, because that would mean anyone can violate the license until caught, because the only punishment would be to come into compliance."

In the past, both the Free Software Foundation and the SFLC, the two main defenders of the GPL in North America, have preferred working with companies found in violation of the license to taking them to court. However, now that a case has actually gone to court, the SFLC is apparently less forgiving.

"I can't discuss the details of what additional things are being sought by our clients, but hopefully we'll be able to shed light on that if and when we do reach an agreement," Ravicher says.

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