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FSF Files Suit Against Cisco For GPL Violations

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the was-that-print-too-fine-for-you? dept.

The Courts 409

Brett Smith writes "This morning the Free Software Foundation filed suit against Cisco for violations of the GPL and LGPL. There's a blog post with background about the case. The full complaint is available too." The short version, as excerpted by reader byolinux, is that "in the course of distributing various products under the Linksys brand Cisco has violated the licenses of many programs on which the FSF holds copyright, including GCC, binutils, and the GNU C Library. In doing so, Cisco has denied its users their right to share and modify the software."

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This is why copyright laws are bad (5, Funny)

Throtex (708974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078109)

They allow abusive entities such as the Free Software Foundation to go after Cisco. If only the software was distributed without cumbersome GLP and LGPL licensing restrictions, and was truly free like software wants to be, then Cisco wouldn't have been forced to violate the licenses.

For shame.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (3, Funny)

jalet (36114) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078157)

Are you joking ?

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (5, Informative)

Throtex (708974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078165)

Yes.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (4, Funny)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078205)

Dammit, if you had kept that going longer than 3 minutes i would have had some entertainment for the afternoon

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26079113)

That's what she said!

Oh...uhhh, nevermind.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (1, Troll)

jalet (36114) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078475)

Ouch ! This hurts !!!

Thanks for the laugh, then.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078589)

Sorry, I tried to make it very sarcastic :)

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (1)

tripdizzle (1386273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078177)

I almost snapped when I missed the sarcasm.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078257)

Though there is an element of truth to it. I'd argue that BSD and the like are more "free" then GPL.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (5, Insightful)

LarsG (31008) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078365)

BSD and the like are more "free" for the developer / manufacturer while GPL is more "free" for the user / recipient of the software.

Which license that is more free depends on whose freedom one is concerned about.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (0, Flamebait)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078733)

BSD and the like are more "free" for the developer / manufacturer while GPL is more "free" for the user / recipient of the software.

Which license that is more free depends on whose freedom one is concerned about.

Neither is more "free" for the user. Both are distribution licenses and don't cover use. If the recipient wants to change and distribute the source code, he is a developer. Point: BSD-like.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078967)

Wrong.

The BSD licence allows a developer to incorporate code into a proprietary project which may very well NOT be free (in any sense of the word) to use and which may well be under a licence (EULA) that very much covers use.

This is not to say that the BSD licence is flawed in any way, BTW: just that you're wrong and that the stated difference between the GPL and BSD licences is correct.

BSD is less free for the user (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078981)

Since the user doesn't get the code.

Or when are MS going to release the BSD code in Windows, including all enhancements?

So they can't change the BSD code in Windows, can they.

The user doesn't have to be a developer either. They can PAY a developer to do it. They are still the user. And, since the BSD allows the new developer to give the binary closed, the developer the user has paid can take the freedom to get someone else to do more work from the user who paid for it.

Don't be an idiot.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078431)

How "free" is your iPhone?

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078655)

More free than your Tivo!

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078731)

How "free" is your iPhone?

Free as in stolen.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (0)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079177)

Though there is an element of truth to it. I'd argue that BSD and the like are more "free" then GPL.

Oh no, not another bloody massive "BSD is more free than the GPL" "Oh not it isn't" "Oh yes it is" subthread where people restate the same established arguments for their respective sides.

No, you're not the first person to make this observation. We've heard it all before- again and again and again and... :/

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (2, Funny)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079027)

We woosh that the RIAA would offer music under the GPL!

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (1)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078241)

OK. This story's threads are officially over. Nobody can top that one, it's the best tongue-in-cheek post I've seen on Slashdot.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (4, Funny)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078285)

I agree, copyright law is stifling innovation by preventing large American corporations from using the work of small, independent inventors without contributing in kind. Clearly there should be a fee to copyright works, to ensure that only properly-licensed corporations, using licensed, trusted compilers, can produce them.

I'm Ted Stevens, convicted felon, and I approved this message*!

* California v. Drew Disclaimer: No I'm not.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (3, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078837)

All the customers of their product will also need to pay an extra 25% of the cost because they need to add redoing the wheel software development. Before Linksys started to use the GNU tools Hubs even small ones were expensive. After Linksys incorporated GNU you can for relatively cheap get a Router, Switch and Firewall which is good enough for most people and small businesses. If you choose GNU as a developer you really forfeit a lot of your rights to your code. So if a big corporation takes your code and uses it on a loophole in the licence, you don't have much recourse.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (4, Funny)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079151)

I suppose you're right. It's especially important that Cisco use quality, trusted software developed in-house or offshore, rather than trusting the danger-fraught open source community. Even aside from patent violations and other blatant disregard of others' IP rights, and the far lower quality of code produced by enthusiastic volunteers as compared to paid, apathetic employees, can you really trust that these self-described "hackers" haven't put in backdoors for their Russian friends? There's just no way to know with open source, and given all this, and studies showing that open source has an astronomically higher total cost of ownership, this is probably the last straw.

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (3, Funny)

LtGordon (1421725) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078351)

Replied Cisco, "Curse you, Stallman!"

Re:This is why copyright laws are bad (5, Funny)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078577)

Replied Cisco, "Curse you, Stallman!"

Actually, their exact words were, "Curse you, Stallman! We'd have gotten away with it, too; if it wasn't for you meddling kids!"

The thing about these lawsuits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078229)

The thing about these lawsuits is that I hope the FSF tried to resolve the violations outside of court before litigating. Remember: court is supposed to be a last resort, not first recourse.

Re:The thing about these lawsuits (5, Informative)

Paradise Pete (33184) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078343)

The thing about these lawsuits is that I hope the FSF tried to resolve the violations outside of court before litigating.

If only there were some way to find out. It's hard to say for sure, but based on this:

As we always do in violation cases, we began a process of working with Cisco to help them understand their obligations under our licenses, and how they could come into compliance. Early on it seemed likely that we could resolve the issues without any fuss.

I'm thinking maybe they did.

Re:The thing about these lawsuits (2, Funny)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078501)

You are an enabler, you enable people to avoid RTFA :D

Re:The thing about these lawsuits (4, Informative)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078349)

The thing about these lawsuits is that I hope the FSF tried to resolve the violations outside of court before litigating. Remember: court is supposed to be a last resort, not first recourse.

According to the blog post linked in the summary, the FSF has been working with Cisco since 2003 to resolve the issue of GPL compliance, and has received only halfhearted attempts on their part to come into compliance. We're only seeing the FSF's side of the story here, of course, but assuming that they're telling it like it is, the FSF tried many other avenues before deciding to file the lawsuit.

Re:The thing about these lawsuits (1)

alain94040 (785132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078865)

According to the FSF blog: "Cisco also provides written offers for source, but we regularly hear about requests going unfulfilled."

I hope the entire case won't revolve around whether Joe failed to click on the proper button to download the source code. It looks like Cisco has some way to pretend they are in compliance.

It would be bad if the case was lost by the FSF on such technicality, since the headlines would just say "GPL lost in court". Anyway, any decision is probably years away, if it even goes that far.
--
alain - fairsoftware.net

Re:The thing about these lawsuits (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078373)

"We began working with Cisco in 2003 to help them establish a process for complying with our software licenses, and the initial changes were very promising," explained Brett Smith, licensing compliance engineer at the FSF. "Unfortunately, they never put in the effort that was necessary to finish the process, and now five years later we have still not seen a plan for compliance. As a result, we believe that legal action is the best way to restore the rights we grant to all users of our software."

Re:The thing about these lawsuits (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078485)

I seem to recall that the FSF generally sues for costs + compliance, not damages. If so, going to court is a silly way to get what you want as anything but a last resort.

I know this is what gplviolations does.

Re:The thing about these lawsuits (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078727)

Yes, usually it is just costs + compliance.

But this time, they seem to be pissed (from the stuff they filled with the court, the URI is in the press release):

"Prayer to Relief"
[...]
          (2) That the Court order Defendant to pay Plaintiff's actual and consequential damages in-curred, in an amount to be determined at trial or, in the alternative, statutory damages as set forth in 17 U.S.C. 504(c);
          (3) That the Court order Defendant to account for and disgorge to Plaintiff all profits derived by Defendant from its unlawful acts;
[...]

In other words: OUCH!

I am conflicted. (1)

cobaltnova (1188515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078247)

When (or if) the FSF wins this suit, it will almost certainly be a boon for custom firmware development for these devices. Like the WRT5GL, I'd expect the new router firmwares to make the router much more useful.

How should I proceed? Should I buy these (forcibly) open-sourced devices? Or should I avoid Linksys because of their repeated violations of the GPL?

Be patient... (1)

Benanov (583592) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078327)

I'd wait until the dust settles, to be honest--but if you want a recommendation for the interim, here's one:

Don't buy out-of-compliance devices. Boycott Cisco until they fix this problem, either by settling the case and releasing code...or until the trial is complete.

Re:Be patient... (1)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078529)

At least on the 54g series, they aren't even using Linux anymore except the GL device, so their "fix" has been to just avoid Linux in that situation, though i'm sure there were other reasons as well.

Re:Be patient... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078675)

Linux firmware is bigger than VxWorks one. When Linksys cut off memory and flash, they had to go VxWorks.

Re:Be patient... (1)

rufus t firefly (35399) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078769)

Linux firmware is bigger than VxWorks one. When Linksys cut off memory and flash, they had to go VxWorks.

I can't honestly believe that it costs that much extra for 8MB of flash compared to 2MB of flash. You can run DD-WRT on there, but it requires jumping through some hoops first. Plus, it makes it more difficult to install any optware packages, etc.

Re:I am conflicted. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078367)

Can't you answer that yourself?

Re:I am conflicted. (3, Insightful)

immortalpob (847008) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078465)

By the time this lawsuit has gotten though the legal system you will have forgotten why you bought the router and/or it will have died... proceed with the boycott

Re:I am conflicted. (5, Interesting)

pipatron (966506) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079193)

Don't buy a linksys, but do buy one of the ones with similar hardware.

When I bought my Asus WL-500g Premium it shipped with the complete modified linux source in a folder on the CD that contained the usual windows-crapware you seem to get with every product these days (you know, the outdated copy of acrobat reader, some documentation wrapped in a shiny executable and such).

I did install OpenWRT on it, and I'm very happy with the result. I'm also happy with Asus for actually shipping the source, but I never did write them a line and told them. Maybe I should.

GPL vs BSD (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078249)

This is why free licenses such as BSD should be adopted for any commercial project. Avoid viral licenses such as *GPL.

Re:GPL vs BSD (5, Informative)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079183)

This is why free licenses such as BSD should be adopted for any commercial project.

Cisco didn't "adopt" the GPL; quite the opposite, they're trying to avoid it. However, they put *themselves* in a position where they'll either be forced to or be guilty of breaking the license terms.

Avoid viral licenses such as *GPL.

Who should? The people who wrote the original code? Maybe they don't want companies like Cisco using it if it means closing the code off and not returning anything. That's their choice.

Cisco? They knew- or should have known- the implications of the GPL and had- as you imply- the choice of using BSD-licensed software instead.

Perhaps there wasn't a BSD-licensed version of what they were looking for? If so, tough shit! No-one's under any obligation to provide them with that for free. Cisco could of course pay someone to write it (and release it under the BSD license if they so wish). Or they're free to use the GPLed code and adhere to the terms it was released under.

But they thought they could get away with using the no-cost GPL code without honouring the obligations. They knew what they were doing.

0SPONGE (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078295)

goal here? H"ow can

Linksys routers? (2, Informative)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078341)

I love my Linksys router.

I was under the impression that other than the wrt54gl (the one I bought, naturally), none of them run linux anymore.

Re:Linksys routers? (1)

tmroyster (309750) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078479)

The early model wrt54g s did use linux,
then they "upgraded" the later models
(actually cut the amount of ram) and replaced
linux with something else. By popular
demand the produced the GL, which is the
original model.

Re:Linksys routers? (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078777)

The early model wrt54g s did use linux,
then they "upgraded" the later models
(actually cut the amount of ram) and replaced
linux with something else.

They replaced it with vxWorks which is expensive but is my favourite OS by far. It's also a lot smaller than Linux so they could cut build costs by reducing memory.

Re:Linksys routers? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078929)

Which is funny because they moved their enterprise AP's off of VxWorks and onto IOS so that the switching guys would be more comfortable admining them.

Well, that may well be the result of this lawsuit (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078583)

I was under the impression that other than the wrt54gl (the one I bought, naturally), none of them run linux anymore.

If the folks at Cisco decide that potential lawsuits and being forced to open source code that they would rather not, is not worth the risk/trouble.

It's a shame, really. I would have preferred to have seen the FSF and Cisco settle this behind closed doors, without a lawsuit, as a win-win for everyone.

Re:Well, that may well be the result of this lawsu (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078735)

The FSF had been trying to quietly resolve this for 5 years. They didn't exactly jump the gun on this one.

Re:Well, that may well be the result of this lawsu (5, Informative)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078851)

If you read the article, you'll see that they did. They've been working with Cisco for the last five years on it, but according to the FSF never became fully compliant:

As we always do in violation cases, we began a process of working with Cisco to help them understand their obligations under our licenses, and how they could come into compliance. Early on it seemed likely that we could resolve the issues without any fuss.

While we were working on that case, though, new reports came in. Other Cisco products were not in full compliance either. We started talking to the company about those as wellâ"and that's how a five-years-running game of Whack-a-Mole began. New issues were regularly discovered before we could finish addressing the old ones.

During this entire time, Cisco has never been in full compliance with our licenses. At first glance, the situation might look good. It's not difficult to find "source code" on the Linksys site. But you only have to dig a little deeper to find the problems. Those source code downloads are often incomplete or out-of-date. Cisco also provides written offers for source, but we regularly hear about requests going unfulfilled.

Despite our best efforts, Cisco seems unwilling to take the steps that are necessary to come into compliance and stay in compliance. We asked them to notify customers about previous violations and inform them about how they can now obtain complete source code; they have refused to do this, along with the other reasonable demands we have made to consider this case settled. The FSF has put in too many hours helping the company fix the numerous mistakes it's made over the years. Cisco needs to take responsibility for its own license compliance.

Cisco still pirated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26079149)

Did Jammie get off from her $220,000 fine because she said she'd stop?

And Cisco restarted selling linux routers because they were so popular and the closed source ones were not.

And why, WHY, would Cisco make their routers MORE expensive (and have to, to cover the licensing costs) just because they don't wanna let people modify the code they wanted to modify.

Re:Linksys routers? (3, Informative)

LarsG (31008) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078657)

According to the complaint: "in
the Firmware for Linksysâ(TM) models EFG120, EFG250, NAS200, SPA400, WAG300N, WAP4400N,
WIP300, WMA11B, WRT54GL, WRV200, WRV54G, and WVC54GC, and in the program Quick-
VPN."

Re:Linksys routers? (4, Interesting)

Creepy (93888) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079197)

yeah - probably true.

Part of this was a chain reaction. Linksys was a low end router company and they adopted Linux to save money on development. As such, they had no need to cripple their routers to not compete against their high end brand, since they didn't have one. Unfortunately for Cisco, who bought them, they do have a high end brand, and releasing the source for their low end brand that people have tuned to outperform their high end routers (with overclocking and mods) is not really in their best interest (illegal, yes, in best interest, no).

Personally, I think they were gambling as long as possible that the FSF wouldn't file a suit.

It's about time (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078359)

I've worked at Cisco, and the general attitude among many (not all) is that they don't care about GPL violations. Linux is used as it's the fastest path to get the products out.

The reason why this will be unsettling to Cisco is because some of the products have integrated key IOS files in order to retain backwards compatibility. Which means that those files now fall under the GPL. And the only way to integrate them is to use various Linux API's. That is, key files are derived works from the GPL. From the bootstrap code on up.

But, since these files are key to IOS as well, one could take the view that IOS is now under the GPL.

One could try to maintain that those files need to be dual-licensed. However, though some hold that to be valid, I don't believe such a dual license has ever been held up in court. So that might get interesting if the FSF wanted to push it. In any case, it could be a useful bargaining chip.

In any case, those files don't have the appropriate copyrights stating how they are licensed.

The amusing part here is that this has come about mostly because of Cisco's dedication to using as much H1-B/L1 labor as possible. It's been those guys who have mostly (not entirely) done this work in order to get things done quickly. And believe me, protestations about the licensing have been ignored completely when they've been raised. Hack-it-in quickly and damn the lawyers has been the attitude.

It's very amusing to see that Cisco's use of cheap labor has come back to bite them in a way that has the potential to cost them more money than if they had done things in the right fashion originally.

Re:It's about time (1)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078565)

I assume you are talking about devices other than the 54g series? I can't imagine what backward compatibility would be needed there with IOS.

Re:It's about time (1)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079039)

I'm not sure what he's talking about. None of the Linksys products run IOS, which IIRC was originally based on a BSD kernel a couple decades ago. Perhaps he means that some Linksys products have included libraries from IOS somehow, but I don't see how that would make those libraries then fall under GPL.

At least some, possibly all, of the GPL violations predate Cisco's acquisition of Linksys, not that it excuses anything; they own Linksys now so they are responsible for compliance. I'm just not certain that there is a link between some Linksys GPL violations and Cisco as an entity willfully violating copyright on a daily basis.

Re:It's about time (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078569)

I've worked at Cisco, and the general attitude among many (not all) is that they don't care about GPL violations. Linux is used as it's the fastest path to get the products out.

The reason why this will be unsettling to Cisco is because some of the products have integrated key IOS files in order to retain backwards compatibility. Which means that those files now fall under the GPL. And the only way to integrate them is to use various Linux API's. That is, key files are derived works from the GPL. From the bootstrap code on up.

But, since these files are key to IOS as well, one could take the view that IOS is now under the GPL.

The same thing applies to Symbian - at one point they statically linked GPL code to the OS Kernel, so technically the whole OS should be GPL'd. Which means they ought to release all the source code to customers years ago. This is not something they want to do - their recent announcements have been about releasing the source code to selected components over time.

Posting AC because I fear their lawyers.

Re:It's about time (1)

ahsile (187881) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078717)

I was under the impression that if you used a GPL library (statically linked or not) your program must be covered by the GPL. On the other hand, if the library was LGPL your assessment would be fine... I think.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-2.0-faq.html#IfLibraryIsGPL [gnu.org]

Re:It's about time (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078923)

That misunderstanding is why so many people fear the GPL.

The GPL can not force you to relicense your code. None of Cisco's code or Symbians code has to be released. However, unless they chose to relicense it then they are in violation of the GPL and have no license to distribute the GPL'd software.

So they're committing copyright infringement. They can be forced to stop distributing their products, they can be sued for damages, but under no circumstance can they be forced to turn over code-- though that might be the easiest way to settle the lawsuit.

Yawn... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078653)

No one gives a shit.

Nothing is automatically GPLed (5, Informative)

Crispy Critters (226798) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078853)

"But, since these files are key to IOS as well, one could take the view that IOS is now under the GPL."

No no no.

Cisco has violated copyright law by distributing GPLed FSF code under terms other than specified in the only available license. The ownership and licensing of IOS code is not affected by this in any way. This is the past.

Now for the future. If Cisco wants to keep distributing IOS code mixed with FSF code, there is only one way of doing it. That is to release the code under the GPL, because the FSF doesn't offer any other licenses. Only the IOS code which is mixed with FSF code needs to be released under the GPL. This has no effect on any other IOS code (older or in other products or whatever).

Re:It's about time (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078957)

No, that doesn't place the files under the GPL. The only way something can become GPLed is if the copyright owner willfully uses the license. It may, however, mean that those works are derived works and cannot be distributed under an incompatible license without violating Cisco's obligations under the GPL. If that is the case, Cisco would need to cease distribution of the files in question (or fix the licensing problem, by applying a compatible license).

But make no mistake: Cisco will not be obligated to release anything under the GPL. They always have the option to simply cease distribution of the works in question entirely. Which one is easier for them may be in question, but that's entirely their decision.

Re:It's about time (1)

arkanes (521690) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078973)

But, since these files are key to IOS as well, one could take the view that IOS is now under the GPL.

To prevent scare-mongering: This isn't how GPL viralness (virality?) works. Assuming that they have mixed IOS with GPL code in a way that would "infect" IOS (they'll argue that it doesn't, of course) they can either 1) GPL IOS to bring everything into compliance (fat chance) or they can stop doing that, stop distributing the stuff they have, pay a big fine, and rewrite everything in a hurry and at great expense - exactly what Linksys did before them. IOS being forcibly placed under the GPL is a vanishingly unlikely possibility (not even sure that a ruling that they must do so would be legal).

Re:It's about time (1)

TheMMaster (527904) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079049)

But, since these files are key to IOS as well, one could take the view that IOS is now under the GPL.

No matter how you slice it, Cisco still owns the copyright to those 'key files'. Cisco can do whatever the hell they want with them too.

While, it is true that they would have to grant a GPL licensed copy to all customer to whom they distribute those files combined with GPL code (and only if they are actually linked together) They are more than free to ALSO use those files in a completely proprietary product, without granting any rights to third parties.

Now, should the community improve those files, cisco would not be able to incorporate the improvements done under the GPLd versions, because they do not own the copyright to those changes and the GPL does not grant Cisco any more rights than anyone else.

I hope that cleared things up for you a bit :)

Re:It's about time (1)

TheMMaster (527904) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079125)

sorry for the reply to self, I imply that cisco would be FORCED to release those IOS files under the GPL. This is not true, one outcome of the lawsuit may be that Cisco has to refrain from distributing the combined work altogether, and that the FSF will simply get damages for a copyright infringement.

Although, releasing the files under the GPL would probably be the fastest and easiest way for Cisco to get out of this lawsuit, as this is the goal of the FSF.

The FSF isn't like the RIAA trying to get maximum cash from any GPL violation ;) they just want the code to be free.

5 years to bulk email links to archives? (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078433)

Based on the background, seems like Cisco have 5 years to essentially send an email to all their known customers and post a notice on their website to a public ftp site with the relevant software. Am I oversimplifying?

Not exactly (5, Insightful)

Crispy Critters (226798) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078993)

Look at what the FSF is asking for: an injunction to stop Cisco from distributing any more code, pay damages, give previous profits to the FSF, and pay the FSF's costs.

This is not exactly "put some code on the web for download."

If you mean that Linksys/Cisco could have avoided this at any time in the past five years by releasing the code, you are probably right. The FSF is easy to get along with. It is anybody's guess what they need to offer the FSF now to make it go away.

Not for GPLv2 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26079109)

You can satisfy GPLv3 by sending out links to a public ftp site, but the GPLv2 requires physical media if requested. Considering how convoluted the licensing is when using linux, there is probably some GPLv1 code still in there somewhere. I think you have to send your code in punch cards for GPLv1 but I could be wrong.

The only thing this lawsuit will do is cement firmly in the minds of business that the GPL is viral in nature. Once a business has released anything GPL, they are required to support it forever. There's no going back, and unlike individuals, no walking away from it. Business people like to talk about TCO and now they will need to factor in TCS, where the s stands for support.

BSD (4, Insightful)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078511)

Cisco / Linksys set themselves up for a fall here. If they wanted code they could just rip off and use whilst largely ignoring the license, why on earth didn't they just use BSD code? These are large companies, presumably they have lawyers. But they're acting like some kid who downloads an image from Google Image Search and uses it on their webpage - "I downloaded it off the web for free so I can just use it right?"

Re:BSD (2, Interesting)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078673)

I always wonder that myself.. though I am not familiar with "small" bsd distributions, I am certain they are out there..

Re:BSD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078741)

All I know is they are making a crapload of money selling linux as a value added feature on the wrt54gl series. Why eliminate that by being idiots about licensing?

In other news, has Cisco released the code for their Linux switch module they were talking about a few months back?

Re:BSD (2, Interesting)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078773)

The problem is that a corporation is made up of people, and individual people can easily make the mistake of using the wrong code. If you hire some intern who writes something that uses gccor other GPL code, there might not be anybody who notices and realizes what's going on. I see it as very easy to get GPL'd code into a large project if you don't have the right people with the right knowledge in place to prevent it. IMHO, this may be especially true since I could see the developers of the firmware being either electrical engineers who would rather be doing the hardware or treated as an afterthought to the people who do the hardware, much like programmers treat sales. Sure, they're required for the product, but it's not like they're the important part or anything.

On the other hand, the FSF said they tried to work with Cisco and the negotiations outside of court fell through, so who knows? At the very least Cisco's guilty of not heeding the warnings after they were given. They probably aren't guilty of doing this maliciously (at least not at first), but they're definitely guilty of not rectifying their mistake.

Re:BSD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078951)

you mean I can't? but it's free!

Re:BSD (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079023)

These are large companies, presumably they have lawyers.

Yea that is an excellent business plan have a lawyer for every technical decision you make, the bigger you are the more lawers you need. That is not good business. You are better off going in a direction if someone complains fight it. If you loose pay the fine, then make the decision to keep going or drop you plan and start over. However in the mean time Cisco has made money from their products.

But if Cisco wins the against FSF then than all they loss is the part time use of some lawyers. If they loose then they will pay the fine, and probably dump the GNU code, and have a company policy of avoiding GNU at all costs. But if you are going to tiptoe and have a lawyer determine if every step is legal even a big company will die.

Re:BSD (1)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079259)

This is not some tiny, insignificant business decision. This is a major decision - they've got some hardware, the hardware is no good without an operating system, do they use Linux or BSD or license a commercial operating system or write their own OS? Licensing the commercial operating system or writing an alternative would have cost them $100millions. They saved all that money by using Linux in this case.

Imagine also Microsoft's reaction if they'd just downloaded Windows "for free" off the net somewhere and used it on their routers - it wouldn't have taken them 5 years to find out the consequences of that decision.

Rich.

The horror (3, Funny)

LtGordon (1421725) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078525)

You guys just don't get it. The FSF protects software. Then Cisco went and muddied it all up like your sister's proprietary, tattooed boyfriend. Now every time you use GCC, it'll be thinking of Cisco.

Re:The horror (2, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078651)

Then Cisco went and muddied it all up like your sister's proprietary, tattooed boyfriend. Now every time you use GCC, it'll be thinking of Cisco.

Grunting from the next room disturbing your chain of thought, eh?

Re:The horror (1)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078681)

Wait. Every time you do WHAT with your sister?

Dude, what kind of family do you HAVE?

Re:The horror (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078807)

This is the last time the FSF will allow Cisco to fuck with their family. GPLv3: this time, it's personal.

aprouter.com.br? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078543)

what about aprouter.com.br? they offer firmware based on linux for edimax wireless routers. the catch? you need a license to use the wireless device no sources AFAICS :(

Purchase decisions (1)

Britz (170620) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078557)

There are companies that contribute greatly top open source, like SUN for example (OpenOffice, Open Solaris, ...). And there are companies out there that leech off of it and even refuse to open up if they are asked to do so by the FSF.

Next time you make a purchase decision you should take that into account if your company is using oss.

There goes my WRT54GL (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078631)

That sucks. I'm glad I have a couple of WRT54GL boxes, because I can easily see the entire range being dumped if the FSF wins. It's a lose lose sort of situation. FSF has talked to CISCO about this repeatedly and there has been no resolution. Now CISCO refuses to talk so the FSF has to persue the matter or else allow the GPL be flouted. If it persues the matter CISCO/Linksys may well just dump the products but if it doesn't there's a very bad precedent set for the GPL being abused, and FSF has no teeth in any similar situtions.

I'd be surprised if the routers aren't simply pulled if the FSF does win. Damn it I love my WRT54GL. Most reliable and flexible router I've owned.

Re:There goes my WRT54GL (1)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078743)

That would probably just hurt Cisco/Linksys in the long run. The last two Linksys routers I bought, I bought mainly because I knew I could install modified firmware on (dd-wrt). If they no longer offer routers with this capability then I'll simply stop buying Linksys gear and start shopping their competitors products who still use GPL'd code and lets me install custom firmware. Granted, I'm only one individual but you can bet I'll also mention this fact to family/friends (and as a professional sysadmin I'm just the kind of person lots of family/friends ask about this sort of thing). And I seriously doubt I'm alone in this regard.

Blobs (2, Informative)

Benanov (583592) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078949)

WRT54GL boxes use broadcom ('blobcom') chipsets with non-Free binary only drivers for the 2.4 kernels. No 2.6 / ipv6 for me. :(

I love my WRT54GL--but I'm ready for something better supported.

Re:There goes my WRT54GL (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078995)

Don't worry about it, Buffalo is allowed to sell wireless routers in the states again.

http://www.buffalotech.com/press/releases/buffalos-wireless-injunction-stayed/

WRT54GL is done for now.

Fix article title!!! (4, Informative)

Crispy Critters (226798) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078659)

The title of the article is erroneous.

The FSF has filed suit against Cisco for copyright violations. Cisco distributed code owned by the FSF without permission.

Yes, Cisco could easily be distributing with permission, and hence legally, if they followed the requirements of the GPL. Instead, they chose to distribute without permission, a violation of federal copyright law.

Re:Fix article title!!! (1)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079223)

Exactly. The outcome of the JMRI case is that these types of things are copyright violations, not merely contract violations.

Maybe this wasn't intentional. (1, Redundant)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078789)

There's a lot of posts accusing of Cisco of intentionally violating the GPL; even an alleged ex-employee saying that Cisco "didn't care".

It could be a misunderstanding of the GPL or bad advice from an expert. Why, if I asked a question about the GPL, I would get dozens of posts each having their own and differing "expert" opinion of what is meant.

Re:Maybe this wasn't intentional. (5, Interesting)

repvik (96666) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079255)

It could be a misunderstanding of the GPL or bad advice from an expert. Why, if I asked a question about the GPL, I would get dozens of posts each having their own and differing "expert" opinion of what is meant.

Yes, it could be a misunderstanding. Especially when FSF has spent five years communicating with Cisco trying to resolve the issue peacefully. If there's a misunderstanding, the people at Cisco need to get some working brains...

Hypocrisy in action (-1, Troll)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078793)

People violate the copyright of corporations, corporations sue the violators, slashdotters bitch about the corporations and get firmly behinds the people and decry copyright and copyright litigation.

Corporation violates the copyright of the FSF, FSF sues corporation, slashdotters bitch about the corporations and get firmly behind the FSF and support copyright and copyright litigation.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Slashdot.

Re:Hypocrisy in action (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26078943)

Exactly! You'd almost think there are several people writing comments!

Re:Hypocrisy in action (0, Troll)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079041)

It is not a troll, it is the truth. You don't like it because you know it is true.

Re:Hypocrisy in action (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079219)

It's not necessarily hypocrisy. At least some people on /. get upset w/ the RIAA because they don't do enough to make sure there really was a violation before they sue. In that case, there is no hypocrisy in being against the RIAA's suits and in favor of the FSF's.

It could also be a matter of how the FSF handles the matters. Many people here might have a lot less sympathy for defendants in RIAA lawsuits if the RIAA willingly spent 3 years explaining where they went wrong and how they can come into compliance (at practically zero cost) and was willing to consider the matter settled afterwards.

Typically, copyright holders who license under GPL (including the FSF) have been far more forgiving of violations than the RIAA. Perhaps that's pert of it.

Slack begets slack.

P2P makes no money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26079221)

Now, will Cisco sell the routers free?

Disappointing / Boycott possible (1)

foxalopex (522681) | more than 5 years ago | (#26078859)

Don't forget that Linksys isn't the only Linux compatible router on the market. Other companies such as Asus, Buffalo and others make routers that work with Linux based custom firmware and in some cases use more powerful hardware. So if you're going to boycott you still have options.

FSF lawsuit could make GPL to risky. (-1, Troll)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079111)

This could send the wrong message. If you Use GPL and make a lot of money from it you will get Sued. Details of the reasons will fade just the face the GPL is considered to Risky for a corporate environment. You better off buying a License from Microsoft as you can choose to agree to the terms before hand, then going with a product which wile may be free will have a bunch of people ready to pounce on you if you make this code successful.

Re:FSF lawsuit could make GPL to risky. (1)

Joe U (443617) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079241)

I'm not sure I follow your logic, it would be better to violate Microsoft's license instead of the FSF?

Trust me, if you ignored the license Microsoft included with their products they would be "ready to pounce on you" as well.

Re:FSF lawsuit could make GPL to risky. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26079243)

Correction: If you use GPL'ed code and do not follow the license you will get sued, in the same way that if you buy source code rights from Microsoft and then ignore the terms you have agreed you will get sued.

Discussion (2, Insightful)

DiegoBravo (324012) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079175)

The existence of this kind of discussion (regardless who has the reason) is what scares a lot to many managers that are not interested (or are not able) to get the correct-freedom-flavor philosophy, so they end avoiding free software as a whole....

In their minds, everything, if free, has a catch... well, the catch is that legalese with the freedom concept, that after a long time can return and "destroy" (that is, force to open your code) the competitive advantage secrets or whatever is called.

I'm really not sure at the end what approach will provide more benefits to the users, the developers, the proprietary software enterprises (yes, they pay the checks for a lot of people), or humanity as a whole.

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