DVR Maker Hopes To Settle First GPL Lawsuit

Sep 25, 2007 (11:09 AM EDT)

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An executive at the first manufacturer sued for violating the terms of the open source General Public License says his company wants to comply with the GPL and hopes to settle the matter out of court.

"We intend to and always intended to comply with all open source software requirements," said Monsoon Multimedia COO Graham Radstone, in a statement posted Monday on the blog

As of Tuesday afternoon, however, court records showed that the case remained open.

Monsoon, a maker of devices that allows users to watch and record TV shows on their personal computers, was sued last week for violating the terms of a license that governs the bulk of open source software.

In court papers filed in the U.S. District Court in New York, the developers of open source software used in the Tivo-like boxes sold by Monsoon claim Monsoon's use of their software violates the General Public License, version 2.

Monsoon uses an open source utility called BusyBox in its firmware. In the court papers, BusyBox developers Erik Andersen and Rob Landley say Monsoon is violating GPLv2 because it does not distribute the BusyBox source code to its end users, as required by the license.

Monsoon "offers copies of the Firmware on its Web site, but does not offer any source code corresponding to the Firmware," Andersen and Landley complain. As a result, Monsoon's use of Busybox violates their copyrights as described in GPLv2, they claim.

The General Public License was written in part to protect the quid pro quo ethos behind open source software. Open source software users can generally access such code for free or at minimal cost, as long as they make the source code and any enhancements available to downstream users on a similar basis.

Andersen and Langley are seeking unspecified damages from Monsoon and an injunction that would prohibit it from further distributing BusyBox, which is used by hundreds of major electronics and computer manufacturers -- including IBM, Nokia, and Siemens.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys who work with the Software Freedom Law Center, an organization that defends the rights of open source users and developers. It's the first lawsuit filed in the U.S. alleging a violation of copyrights granted under the GPL, according to the SFLC.

The Free Software Foundation, which governs the GPL, recently published a third version of the license that makes it more difficult for manufacturers who use open source software commercially to place restrictions on end users.