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Re: 'Nuther voluntary dismissal contemplated

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: 'Nuther voluntary dismissal contemplated
Date: Sat, 13 Dec 2008 17:57:38 +0100


Note that the article quoted in full below is full of embedded links
(clickable in original) which is yet another reason to follow the link

December 12, 2008 

The Gnu heads to court, files lawsuit against Cisco 

The Free Software Foundation filed its first-ever copyright lawsuit
yesterday, against Cisco Systems. The FSF accuses Cisco of not complying
with the terms of the FSF's popular viral license, the General Public
License, in the company's Linksys line of products. Anyone who
distributes software or products that are GPL-licensed must provide
source code when distributing it; by falling down on the GPL-vigilance
front, "Cisco has denied its users their right to share and modify the
software," say FSF lawyers. 

The non-profit FSF has never before gone to court as a plaintiff to
enforce the GPL, the license that founder Richard Stallman has called
his "hack" of copyright law. But it has provided pro-bono legal services
to open source developers who want to enforce their own GPL'd code, most
notably in the BusyBox litigation. 

A Cisco spokesperson stressed the company's commitment to open source,
and responded that "We are currently reviewing the issues raised in the
suit but believe we are substantially in compliance. We have always
worked very closely with the FSF and hope to reach a resolution
agreeable to the company and the foundation." (via Ars Technica) 

The GPL compliance-guy at FSF, Brett Smith, says that Cisco "never put
in the effort that was necessary" to become GPL-compliant. Smith wrote
yesterday that getting Cisco to comply has turned into a
"five-years-running game of Whack-a-Mole." Still, Smith's description of
the problem sounds more like slow customer service than GPL-hatin'.
After acknowledging that source code is clearly marked and available on
the Linksys web site, Smith says that "source code downloads are often
incomplete or out-of-date," adding that FSF "regularly hear[s] about
requests [for code] going unfulfilled." 

FSF's press release on the lawsuit has a link to the complaint. Early
reactions: Ars Technica calls the turn of events an "embarrassing PR
black eye for Cisco," but suggests that it won't last long, considering
Cisco's "extensive contributions to the Linux kernel and long-standing
commitment to open source platforms." CNET's Matt Asay believes that
"given the FSF's nonlitigious track record, I suspect that Cisco is not,
in fact, in compliance with the GPL." At Techdirt, Mike Masnick suggests
that some of FSF's demands might be a bit much, like the insistence on
an in-house "compliance officer" and issuance of a mass mea culpas to
customers about its former violations. 

Illustration (c) 2004 Free Software Foundation via Wikimedia 

Here's more:


Why Couldn't Cisco And FSF Come To An Agreement? 

from the this-makes-no-sense dept 

There's lots of talk in tech circles about the fact that the Free
Software Foundation is now suing Cisco for copyright infringement, over
Cisco's misuse of GPL'd code in its Linksys routers. What seems odd is
that this got as far as it did. The issue with Linksys and its use of
GPL'd code has been talked about for years, and it seems like there
should have been a simple solution from the very beginning:
Cisco/Linksys should have made the code available, as per the terms of
the license. So why didn't they? Well, the details from the case suggest
that, while Cisco did drag its feet in releasing the code, FSF then came
back with additional demands, specifically: 

Cisco needed to appoint a "free software compliance officer." 
Cisco needed to try to inform all past customers of its failed
Cisco needed to pay FSF a chunk of money 

It appears that it's these issues over which the two parties disagree
and the lawsuit was filed. While I'm sympathetic to the FSF's position,
this might be going a bit too far. Nothing in the GPL requires someone
to set up a "compliance officer." Yes, due to Cisco's foot-dragging, you
can see why FSF would ask for such a thing, but it's difficult to see
how it should be required, or eventually involve a lawsuit. Also, it's
unclear why Cisco should need to inform people. The folks who actually
care are likely to hear about this anyway. Yes, Cisco violated the GPL,
and yes, it was slow to get itself in compliance, but FSF seems to be
demanding an awful lot in response. 


(GNG is a derecursive recursive derecursion which pwns GNU since it can 
be infinitely looped as GNGNGNGNG...NGNGNG... and can be said backwards 
too, whereas GNU cannot.)

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