On May 20, the Free Software Foundation announced the settlement of its copyright litigation with Cisco Systems over the inclusion of open source software in certain Linksys products. The settlement includes undertakings by Cisco with respect to compliance with the requirements of "free software licenses." Here’s some of what the FSF had to say about the settlement (the full text of the FSF press release is available here):
Cisco has agreed to appoint a Free Software Director for Linksys, a subsidiary of Cisco, to supervise Linksys’ compliance with the requirements of free software licenses such as the GPL (the GNU General Public License). The Free Software Director will report periodically to the FSF regarding Linksys’ compliance efforts. Cisco has further agreed to take certain steps to notify previous recipients of Linksys products containing FSF programs of their rights under the GPL and other applicable licenses, to publish a licensing notice on the Linksys website, and to provide additional notices in a separate publication. In addition, Cisco will continue to make the complete and corresponding source code for versions of FSF programs used with current Linksys products freely available on its website. Cisco will also make a monetary contribution to the FSF.
The parties recognize Cisco’s ongoing obligations under the GPL and other free software licenses. The FSF will continue to independently monitor Linksys’ compliance with these licenses, and work with Linksys to resolve any new issues that may arise.
Note: Our original post on this topic on May 12 (see below) stated that the FSF and Cisco had settled their copyright infringement dispute. We were subsequently advised by the FSF that the matter had not yet been finally settled at that time, see the comment below from FSF counsel.
On May 12, the docket for Case No. 1:08-cv-10764 in the Southern District of New York listed the case as closed.The docket text for Apr. 22, 2009 recites as follows: "ORDER: that the above-captioned action shall be dismissed with prejudice but without costs; provided, however, that either party may apply to this Court by letter before May 21, 2009 for restoration of the action to the Court’s calendar. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close the case. SO ORDERED."
****Original post ***
Last December, the Free Software Foundation, with great fanfare, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Cisco Systems, Inc. The complaint alleged that certain of Cisco’s Linksys products contained code distributed under the open source GNU General Public License. The complaint further alleged that Cisco, by distributing the enumerated products containing GPL-licensed code, had engaged in the distribution of such code, but had failed to comply with the requirements of the GPL license by making the code available in source code form.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the FSF by attorneys for the Software Freedom Law Center. The SFLC is the "enforcement arm" of the FSF, a law firm formed for the specific purpose of providing legal services for open source developers seeking to enforce the provisions of open source licenses. Prof. Eben Moglen is the chairman and one of the directors of the firm.
This was not the first lawsuit filed by the SFLC, but it is notable in that some of the underlying code which is alleged to have been infringed was authored by none other than Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation and a first-line mover and shaker in the open source movement. According to the Copyright Office public catalog, Stallman is an author of code covered by registration No. TX 2-084-819, one of the registrations enumerated in the complaint against Cisco. The record shows that the copyright was assigned to the Free Software Foundation.
There has as yet been no announcement of the settlement from the FSF or the SFLC, and the docket in the district court does not reveal the terms of the settlement, only an order dismissing the action with prejudice and without costs. Some past settlements of similar actions announced by the SFLC have included not only an agreement on the part of the defendant to provide the source code as required by the GNU GPL, but also an agreement to appoint an Open Source Compliance Officer to monitor compliance with GPL licenses, an agreement to undertake "substantial efforts" to notify those to whom products were distributed of their right to receive the source code, and payment of undisclosed financial consideration.