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FSF Settles Suit Against Cisco

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the good-on-them dept.

The Courts 194

Saint Aardvark writes "The Free Software Foundation has announced that they've settled their lawsuit with Cisco (reported earlier here). In the announcement, they say that Cisco has agreed to appoint a Free Software Director for Linksys, who will report periodically to the FSF; to notify Linksys customers of their rights; and to make a monetary donation to the FSF. An accompanying blog entry explains further: 'Whenever we talk about the work we do to handle violations, we say over and over again that getting compliance with the licenses is always our top priority. The reason this is so important is not only because it provides a goal for us to reach, but also because it gives us a clear guide to choosing our tactics. This is the first time we've had to go to court over a license violation.'"

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194 comments

This is the first time we've had to go to court (-1, Troll)

overshoot (39700) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030449)

And it looks like they couldn't even keep it up for the whole show.

Backsliding to the old cooperative solutions, eh FSF? I suppose they'll never change.

Re:This is the first time we've had to go to court (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28030543)

Or maybe the FSF (unlike some other IP-related litigants out there) only wants people to comply with the GPL, and will settle once the defendant agrees to do so (as opposed to extorting money out of the defendants)?

FSF should've claimed the attorney-fees-to-date it had to incur, but that's about it. If they were to push for any kind of "punitive" damages, or *AA-style ridiculous "compensation fees" that would portray them as just another trolling IP extortionist. Kudos to the FSF for going for what's right rather than what's rich.

Re:This is the first time we've had to go to court (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28030915)

Why would they? They've already extorted "monetary donation" out of cisco.

Re:This is the first time we've had to go to court (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28031173)

Oh I'm sure they made that money back with the software they stole from others and sold, ignoring the license and copyright of the authors.

Re:This is the first time we've had to go to court (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031279)

I'm sure that was the way that Cisco repaid the lawyer fees while getting a tax deduction out of it.

Re:This is the first time we've had to go to court (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031977)

I'm sure that was the way that Cisco repaid the lawyer fees while getting a tax deduction out of it.

Unless I'm greatly mistaken they'd get to take a deduction on them anyhow, as a business expense.

If there are any tax advantages it's to FSF.

They did get fees (1)

Benanov (583592) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031071)

There was a donation made to the FSF from Cisco as part of the settlement.

Betcha "attorney's fees" were what that was for...

Re:This is the first time we've had to go to court (2, Funny)

jbdigriz (8030) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031371)

This is a win for Cisco as well. They get plenty of good karma, and put non-compliant competition at a disavantage. All for little or no real cost.

The Linksys routers in question command a premium, even on the used market, precisely because of the GPL and hackability.

Win-win, all around. Any more, Cisco and the FSF would have to get a room. Kudos on a job well done.

Re:This is the first time we've had to go to court (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032573)

Amen to that. I have two WRT54G routers, both with DD-WRT24sp1. I just upgraded the one I'm using from v24; the other is a version 5 unit which can only run micro, but that's what's on it. Comb your local flea markets :)

Re:This is the first time we've had to go to court (2, Interesting)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031461)

Or maybe the FSF (unlike some other IP-related litigants out there) only wants people to comply with the GPL, and will settle once the defendant agrees to do so (as opposed to extorting money out of the defendants)?

I am pleased that this got settled quickly and in a manner that supports the GPL.

Kudos to the FSF for going for what's right rather than what's rich.

Ditto. Credit where credit is due.

And kudos to Cisco for supporting the GPL in the end, even if a few hard-headed managers had to get larted.

Disclaimer: I am a supporter of the GPL, but I am not a friend of the FSF and although I am a Cisco employee, I do not write for Cisco.

Re:This is the first time we've had to go to court (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28032219)

I guess that "contribution" the FSF is receiving doesn't count.

Re:This is the first time we've had to go to court (5, Insightful)

baomike (143457) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030569)

Why should they? If you get what you want with out the risk of a trial
you are MUCH better off. Trials are risky,they do not always go as planned.
As for a cooperative solution , much better (and cheaper) than an advisarial one.
As for change , I hope not, they seem to be doing well.

Re:This is the first time we've had to go to court (4, Informative)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030681)

A lawyer friend of mine once said that once you go to court anything can happen.

Consider this (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030889)

What about this happening in court? Cisco, a Networking equipment giant going to court against FSF/GNU could make some people like decision making admins mad. If they switch to BOFH mode, Cisco can go chap 11 in a year. There is a guy or bunch of guys deciding to buy million dollar equipment from them and not other brand you know. They are humans and they have their own philosophies. Entire GNU thing started because a large corporation refused to give specs of a printer. Yes, a printer in a lab started all.

Never, ever switch their mode to BOFH :)

Re:This is the first time we've had to go to court (2, Interesting)

cenc (1310167) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031195)

My father, an attorney for many years had variation on that.

A good lawyer goes to court and gets their client off. A great lawyer makes sure the client never goes to court in the first place.

Missing tags (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032451)

Why should they?

They shouldn't. /. still doesn't have <sarcasm> tags. I thought I had been clear enough that my comment was tongue-in-cheek, but it sure looks like three moderators didn't pick up on it either.

Re:This is the first time we've had to go to court (2, Informative)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031763)

I think everyone settles because the license is pretty clear. You don't like the license, then you don't ship the software.
Most companies are willing to made a deal because it's still cheaper than paying commercial royalties the old fashion way. If you can suffer the GNU viral license, you can also have a very quick time to market compared to writing everything from scratch. It's pretty obvious that many companies are willing to make sacrifices to get the benefits. Having worked at Cisco, in groups that use Linux, we understood the sacrifices before we started, but it was never that easy to transmit that information up the chain of command in a way that would result in appropriate action being taken.

Many times it is just incompetence with key decision makers that results in GPL (and other) license violations. And every corporations I've worked for in the valley has a fair amount of incompetence and ignorance in the key decision making positions.

the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28030465)

WOW! cisco has finally lost something, it's about god damn time.

Re:the first (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031527)

cisco has finally lost something

We didn't lose anything. We affirmed the GPL in US court. That means a lot.

Disclaimer: I do not speak for Cisco.

Re:the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28031827)

The suit was settled out of court, it never made it.

Re:the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28031835)

Disclaimer: I do not speak for Cisco.

Then don't say "We affirmed the GPL in US court," or you are speaking for Cisco.

FSFAA! (-1, Troll)

Dareth (47614) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030553)

The article only says that, "Cisco will also make a monetary contribution to the FSF.", but does not list an actual dollar amount.

I am sure you hired an experienced intellectual property attorney to properly calculate the monetary damage by Cisco. Like a former **AA lawyer who has not been hired by the Obama administration yet.

I am sure they could get the calculate the "true cost" of the damages to the nearest million.

Re:FSFAA! (1, Troll)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030649)

It's "free" software. Given away to everyone at zero cost and no price tag. The license holders have not been affected, the original software is still in its original state. The monetary damage should thus be zero dollars and zero cents. A good lawyer of sufficient bulk could make a case that there was emotional damage to the original developers, and a ruffling of their sensitivities, but there are still no material damages necessitating monetary compensation.

Re:FSFAA! (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030887)

Yes, an attorney could, but an attorney could also make the case that moonlight is the same thing as sunlight and that it's plenty good to pay up fines in whatever Zimbabwe's currency denomination of the moment is. That doesn't mean that it's going to be accepted or that it's a solid argument or that the argument is relevant, it just means that attorneys are good at arguing things.

Monetary damage isn't necessarily going to be limited to what a party charges, it's fairly common for attorneys to use the cost of comparable items instead of the actual cost when it makes sense to do so. Sometimes it'll be higher than what the cost was and sometimes it'll be lower, but it definitely doesn't have to be the same as the actual cost.

Re:FSFAA! (2, Interesting)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031093)

So, by that logic, music given away as a promotion can be freely copied because it was obtained at zero cost to the recipient?

Re:FSFAA! (2, Funny)

inode_buddha (576844) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032491)

You may wish to start studying copyright law. The GPL was the only license that Cisco had to the software, hence they have to abide by it. In other words, its the principle of the thing that matters, not the money. Meanwhile, you may wish to consider joining these guys [generation.no].

Re:FSFAA! (0, Flamebait)

PalmKiller (174161) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030701)

None of this is based on fact...Just a guess but its probably a payoff, so it will probably be big. It probably is however never going to be disclosed, that way leaders of the FSF could maybe line their pockets easier if they wanted to...not that they would or anything.

Re:FSFAA! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031659)

The "true cost" of actual damages is probably at or near zero. The legal costs incurred dealing with the problem will hopefully be more than covered by the donation agreed to in the settlement.

Shakedown (-1, Troll)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030563)

The sad thing is that so many people think GNu is about freedom...

Re:Shakedown (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030615)

Are you just trolling, or do you not know the backstory on this one? The FSF has been trying to get Cisco to uphold its obligations under the GPL for ages. This "shakedown" was a last resort.

If you prefer the BSD style of freedom, which emphasizes the freedom of action of the developer, to the GPL style, which primarily aims at protecting end users, that is fine. Petty sniping of dubious historical accuracy, not so much.

Re:Shakedown (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28032139)

BSD is better because it is essentially public domain.

I know guys who have sold products with tons of BSD code built in with the copyright notices removed and they never get sued by the BSD folks. This is the way open source should work! It's better for corporations and better for software.

Re:Shakedown (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032391)

>It's better for corporations and better for software.

From where you sucked that wisdom?
Sure, it is better for stealing corporations.
But why would it be better for the rest of the corporations and software?
GPL'd code remains visible.
BSD gets stolen away.

>I know guys who have sold products with tons of BSD code built in with the copyright notices removed and they never get sued by the BSD folks.
Fine, if the BSD folks are fine with that, it is their 'business', not mine.
I will be happily 'stealing' their freely given code, and do whatever i wish with it (including adding it to my GPL'd code.
I, as a developer, prefer GPL because it means anyone who changes my code will contribute those changes back to me.
And, i don't care a flying fuck if others like that or not :)

Re:Shakedown (5, Insightful)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030741)

I'm not real big on the GPL, but this is hardly a shakedown. More like repeatedly begging them to abide by the terms they agreed to, taking them to court, then settling before going to trial where more $$ could have be obtained from them.

FSF wanted Cisco to follow the agreement, not to suck money from the company.

Re:Shakedown (2, Insightful)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031565)

FSF wanted Cisco to follow the agreement, not to suck money from the company.

That seems clear. The big winner here is the GPL.

That is a good thing.

Re:Shakedown (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28031617)

I'm not real big on the GPL

Maybe, but you're a complete twat nevertheless.

Re:Shakedown (0)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031877)

Because I don't prefer to license my code GPL?

Look, I don't have an issue with whatever license an author wants to apply to their code. Community-driven projects make sense as GPL. Personal projects, however, make more sense as MIT in my eyes, so they can be integrated into more larger projects, regardless of license. If you don't want that, more power to ya. I'm not attached to the license ideologically like some of the Linux/FSF community seems to be.

Freedom (4, Informative)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030935)

GNU is about freedom. Let's say I wanted to punch you in the face. I have the freedom to do so, unless you have the power to stop me. But trying to stop me is taking away my freedom to swing my fist, under your definition of freedom. Under my definition of freedom, your right not to get hit in the face outweighs my freedom to swing my fist wherever I like.

The GPL and the FSF help protect developers and end users from getting punched in the face by companies like Cisco. The GPL and the FSF help protect freedom, unless you define freedom as 'I get to do whatever the hell I want and screw the rest of you.'

But THAT is what freedom is. (0)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032225)

The GPL and the FSF help protect freedom, unless you define freedom as 'I get to do whatever the hell I want and screw the rest of you.'

That is, in fact, what freedom is. If you want genuinely free software, go public domain. Free software isn't free. It should be called restricted public software, not "free".

Freedom to pirate? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032403)

Is that freedom? Because that is essentially what companies want to do to developers who release under public licenses: pirate their code. How is the freedom to pirate any kind of freedom?

If I want to kick you in the nuts, is it taking away my freedom if you stop me? This is no different. Nobody gets to do whatever they want unless they live as a hermit. You choose to live in society, you follow the rules. Enforcing the rules that everyone agrees to live by is not reducing freedom, it is increasing it.

Re:But THAT is what freedom is. (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032501)

Free Software is about the software remaining free. It is actually a more descriptive term than saying "free software" when you mean you don't have to pay. The end result is more freedom for the user, if not the programmer. The user is more important.

Re:But THAT is what freedom is. (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032645)

And I suppose you also think public domain is more "free" due to the fact that a company could take a public domain cola recipe, place it in a fancy red/white can, tell everyone they must have "Coke", but refuse to give it for free, even though they only modified it slightly, rather than inventing it?

Yeah, good call. I'll take your brand of freedom please; it sounds like we'd be onto a winner with that.

Re:Shakedown (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28031031)

No, the sad thing is so many people conflate "free" with "commercializable."

The primary ideal of free/libre software is opening up software (a race to the bottom, if you will). This is in direct conflict with traditional product-based economics, which is how the consumer software market has been traditionally based. Supply and demand is predicated upon scarcity and digital goods like software, music, movies, books, etc are fundamentally not scare. Copyright is used to artificially reintroduce said scarcity, and such artificial scarcity is by definition a restriction of freedom.

In other words, allowing someone to take a public good (free software) and restrict their ability to modify it and then require them to pay for it -- despite the lack of significant marginal cost -- is a restriction of freedom.

Fear (-1, Troll)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030591)

This is one of the two big bogeymen that I, as a developer, fear. Licenses like this and patents. If you develop anything on Linux do you have to give out your source code? Link to this maybe, link to that maybe; after enough maybes you can be sure that you have gone one library too far. There is a place for opensource and there is a place for proprietary; and I love them both. Show these licenses (GPL, MIT, Apache, LGPL) to a lawyer and they will just say "stay the hell away from those". The result is that many companies are pushed back into the warm embrace of Microsoft because at least you know where you stand with code compiled with VCPP and any other libraries you bought. It might cost more in the short term but if it means you get to keep the key IP asset of your company safe then it becomes worth it. You might argue that one should just read the licenses but with dozens of developers potentially including libraries that may themselves include other libraries with their own licenses you can't easily be 100% sure.

Re:Fear (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28030699)

You mean this MIT license [opensource.org]? The one which says "do whatever you like, just don't sue and provide this notice"? The old Apache license [apache.org] is similar, and 2.0 [apache.org] even includes patent provisions.

Looks like the FUD already worked on you. Not all licenses are the same, nor are all OSS licenses viral.

Re:Fear (2, Insightful)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030789)

That is what I mean. Some licenses are great and some suck. But some software seems to have a great license but links to software that has a crappy one. Thus you may have just blessed your own product with the crappiest of the bunch. If you link to 100 MIT licensed libraries and 1 of those also links to a GPL licensed product, then you are screwed. Now that QT has gone LGPL I am a happy camper but that happiness goes away if I statically link to QT.

Re:Fear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28031637)

[...] if I statically link to QT.

Wtf? Why would you want to do that?

You'll have to make a decision at some point. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28031943)

You could always write your own code. With great effort come great returns. Taking the easiest, fastest way gets you easier, faster and potentially lesser returns... which also means you haven't wasted as much time if your product fails, so it's always a tough call.

Re:Fear (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28032215)

You haven't done enough reading I think.

The people who make the mostly closed-source programming language REBOL(pronounced rebel) at one time and maybe still do had something in their license that if you made a program that you started selling, you'd have to work out a per unit licensing fee with the creators of Rebol.

I wish that were a joke but it is the main reason I'm using Ruby instead of Rebol right now. They also wanted $500 for an SDK(which apparently allows compilation, etc.) for Linux and another $500 for Win32 and another for Solaris and another for BSD....Rebol might be easier but Ruby won't charge me extra $$$(actually NONE) if I need to use it on another platform.

You have to do a lot of questioning to get them to admit the licensing thing over commercial use but you can find people complaining about it on their list.

So what was your problem with open source again? Hidden terms and conditions? Shit, I'll take that any day over what Rebol wanted.

Re:Fear (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032531)

If you link to 100 MIT licensed libraries and 1 of those also links to a GPL licensed product, then you are screwed.

Screwed? You mean, you have to find the functionality elsewhere, or create it. All you have to do is link to something else and it's no longer a problem. And all you have to do is stop distributing the violating code to be in compliance, unless perhaps it can be shown that you violated the licensing agreement willfully.

Re:Fear (1)

gnud (934243) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033043)

Oh stop whining.
If you pay for QT, you get very good terms for redistribution and tailoring. If not, take what you get and be happy, or use WxWidgets instead. Really.

Re:Fear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28032017)

That's funny as no OSS license is anything near viral, as the term "viral" is a scare word invented by the anti-FLOSS croud that live to FUD anything related to OSS.

Re:Fear (2, Informative)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030745)

Buying a license doesn't buy you legal safety. Look at Apple's license agreements for developers and tell me how "safe" you feel legally developing code for their platforms.

Re:Fear (1)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030771)

The GPL is the only major license where this is even an issue, and then only if you distribute the software. Unless you're a software company, your "key IP assets" are safe.

Re:Fear (2, Interesting)

tomhath (637240) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030777)

The only time a company I worked for ran into licensing issues was with a proprietary runtime executable. We had a "freely redistributable" license under 7.0 for the runtime. We upgraded to 8.0, which had a runtime with the same name, but we didn't read the fine print in the new license until later when we were told by the vendor that we owed them a five-figure royalty fee for redistributing the 8.0 version.

Re:Fear (5, Informative)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030877)

First, find a new lawyer (assuming you're not just trolling).

Second, if your organization is allowing developers to throw in libraries from all over, without checking licenses, you've got some pretty big problems, and you're probably better off if they're using OSI-approved licenses (which at least allow commercial use). That still doesn't mean that the libraries are appropriate or of good quality, which is why I'd be a bit slower to worry about the legal issues.

Third, if you think commercial licenses are easier to work with, you need to read a few. It's very, very common to have little exclusions and conditions in them. There aren't all that many OSI-approved licenses, and you can come up with a list of approved ones for certain projects fairly easily. Besides, the commercial places employ nastier lawyers.

Fourth, there is no risk of having to publish source code, even if you've wrongly linked it with GPLed code and distributed it. That isn't a legal remedy, and no court will order you to do it.

Re:Fear (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030947)

Patents is a fair point, but with the GPL it's not exactly ambiguous. If you use their code and distribute the result then you have to provide the source and license your code appropriately.

It's not that hard to figure out in most cases. It can be a bit ambiguous if you're linking in code without thinking about it, but it's not exactly that hard to find solutions.

Thanks for the FUD, shill (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031023)

You can link to as many LGPL libraries as you like, so stop with the FUD, okay? A competent lawyer would never tell you to stay away from any of the licenses you mentioned, only a fool would make a blanket statement like that without understanding the specifics of the situation.

You can easily be 100% sure of the libraries you link to. If they are LGPL, MIT, or Apache, you have no problem. Whatever they link to has to be under the same license, or they could not release.

You are purposely spreading FUD, you do not respect open source, and I suspect you are a paid shill because it looks as though you copied and pasted that post directly from a Microsoft playbook.

Re:Fear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28031135)

Wow. You're pretty stupid.

It's a license, not a contract (2, Interesting)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031239)

The GPL is a license, not a contract. Failure to comply with the GPL cannot result in having to give out source code that you wrote. On the other hand, it may result in a suit for infringement. In contrast, most commercial products are covered by contractual agreements that don't have that safety valve.

Licenses for closed-source commercial products are no better, just different. There are all kinds of restrictions on what and how you can distribute from the Microsoft Visual Studio tools. There are termination clauses in the contract. And despite all the M$ bashing, that contract is relatively liberal and lightly enforced compared to most commercial software tools, particularly those for phones and embedded devices.

I used to work for a Fortune 100 company that allowed us to use GPL code with less red tape than certain commercial products. The difference? The commercial products had an enforceable indemnification provision that could have cost millions of dollars had things gone badly.

Re:Fear (1)

Benanov (583592) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031261)

Linking to libraries means you have to follow the license--whatever that license is.

Plenty of proprietary binary-only software exists on Linux that makes "normal" syscalls (as per Linus' definition)

Using GNU utilities means you have to play by the GPL.

Using a proprietary toolkit means you have to play by that license, whether it's per-unit royalties or staying off of certain platforms.

You don't like the GPL? Don't use libraries licensed under it.

Free Software also means Freedom NOT to use/build again the software--but it's quite all or nothing in that respect.

Re:Fear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28031357)

Don't be silly. Don't spread the F(UD).

Don't want to let the users see the code they will be running on their machines? Don't try to sell the work of others as your own. It's not that hard to know what you can and can't do with free software. I'm not going to get specific, though. Bruce can explain exactly where the line is drawn more eloquently than me.

Re:Fear (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031649)

The result is that many companies are pushed back into the warm embrace of Microsoft because at least you know where you stand with code compiled with VCPP and any other libraries you bought. It might cost more in the short term but if it means you get to keep the key IP asset of your company safe then it becomes worth it.

Like Word Perfect, Lotus 1-2-3, etc. etc. etc. History has clearly shown that if you are making money off of Microsoft Windows based software and are successful enough, Microsoft will cut your throat.

Re:Fear (1)

TheVoice900 (467327) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031725)

Show these licenses (GPL, MIT, Apache, LGPL) to a lawyer and they will just say "stay the hell away from those".

Maybe if you have a lawyer who doesn't understand licensing or IP. On the other hand many companies have a good legal grasp of open source licensing and know the limitations and what is safe to integrate and what is not. I work for one such company, and much of our technology is based on open source and scientific software. You just have to know who to ask.

Re:Fear (1)

Eil (82413) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031829)

The result is that many companies are pushed back into the warm embrace of Microsoft because at least you know where you stand with code compiled with VCPP and any other libraries you bought. It might cost more in the short term but if it means you get to keep the key IP asset of your company safe then it becomes worth it.

Except for the clause in every proprietary software license agreement that says:

"We (the company) can change the terms of this agreement whenever we want, without your consent, or even without notifying you that the license has changed. Also, we can terminate your permitted use of the software whenever we see fit, not matter how much you paid for it."

This is a warm embrace to you? I'm not aware of any free software coming with a clause like this. Once the code is licensed, it's licensed, and anyone can use it however they like for as long as they like. They are simply bound to a couple of restrictions in the course of that use or distribution. Nobody (including the copyright holder) can retroactively change the terms of a free software license.

You might argue that one should just read the licenses but with dozens of developers potentially including libraries that may themselves include other libraries with their own licenses you can't easily be 100% sure.

Oh lord. I hope you don't really mean to imply that proprietary licenses are somehow simpler to comprehend, with fewer gotchas, limitations, restrictions, and loopholes than free software licenses. If so, then I seriously doubt you have ever read a single proprietary license in its entirety in your life.

mention this next time someone says OSS is bad (5, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030607)

This is the way that software should be handled. If someone is not in compliance, work with them to get them in compliance.

Compare this to what the BSA is advocating [pcmag.com]. Essentially any disgruntled employee can put unlicensed commercial software on a computer and then report the violation to the BSA for a reward. Sure companies can put millions of dollars of safeguards to prevent harassment from inefficient employees, but why bother. Just make it a policy to only use free software, and when the BSA comes knocking, show them the policy and the minimal cost efforts that makes all other software the responsibility of the user.

This will also help long term interpretability, as OSS has minimal incentives to obstificate the data to force users to continue to pay the ransom to access said data.

If you act now (4, Funny)

huckamania (533052) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031825)

You get a Free Software Director.

Disclaimer: Free Software Director is not 'free', nor 'software'.

Re:If you act now (2, Funny)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032049)

With purchase of a second Software Director. *

* Free Software Director must be of equal or lesser value than the purchased Software Director. Limited to supplies on hand. Offer void where prohibited.

what about IOS violating BASH? N/T (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28030673)

what about IOS violating BASH? N/T

I'm nervous about this (5, Insightful)

ruin20 (1242396) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030679)

Cisco releasing the source code for thousands of routers doesn't strike me as being a good thing. I mean it's one thing to develop in an open environment and being open from the start, and I agree security though obscurity is bound to fail but as someone running Linksys routers on my network, I would expect there to be some stepped process, as I don't trust Cisco was totally competent in their development. Imagine if windows source was suddenly made available to the masses, the time it would take to identify, patch, and distribute a fix vs the time it takes to just identify and exploit is a significant window of vulnerability. Security through obscurity doesn't work because it assumes no one will ever find out and people will. But dissemination of that information takes time. Discovery of defect takes time. Opening the source of a previously closed product greatly reduces that time and therefore intensifies the threat. Overall this will lead for a much stronger product but I fear what is going to happen in the first few weeks.

Re:I'm nervous about this (4, Insightful)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030775)

Cisco decided to release their sources right when they used GNU licensed code. If there is a security risk because of being open, it will be their fault and not RMS :)

I think it won't be a bad thing, you will see amazing amount of obvious flaws will be fixed in months as result of it. Especially home devices will benefit. Don't worry, MS thought home users (with unfortunate reasons) that they should update their software for security, performance. All Cisco/Linksys product I have is a dumb gigabit switch but I am sure the smart stuff already has easy update functionality.

Re:I'm nervous about this (1)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030823)

I must be missing something - I only see where they are releasing the code to version of GPL software used on their routers. That's not the same thing as releasing their OS.

Yeah, thank god Windows is closed source. I (1, Troll)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030855)

If closed source is secure, then please hook up windows XP to the internet without a opensource router in between.

Thanks for playing clueless scaremongerer. You fail, please insert another coin to try again.

Re:Yeah, thank god Windows is closed source. I (2, Insightful)

ruin20 (1242396) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031463)

You misunderstand. Just because you release the code, it doesn't magically become as secure because it's "open source". Open Source is secure because it goes through a process. A process this code didn't see. That process allows for corrections when errors are made. This process takes time. And what I said in my original post is that there is going to be a window between when we, the community, improve the quality of product up to other open source standards, and when the source code is released, during which time there is an elevated threat.

Nearly all software products have vulnerabilities. With open source products, those vulnerabilities get fixed faster, making them more secure. They get developed in ways that are security conscience because the community is watching. With closed source vulnerabilities get discovered slower, but get fixed slower so there's no gain. Additionally, they don't go through the same focus and scrutiny during development, so they tend to have more vulnerabilities at release. Taking something that was developed in secret, widely implemented and then divulging the source doesn't get you any of the benefits of either. Vulnerabilities and exploits are near instantly apparent and discovered, and you don't have the benefit of open development.

If just having the source open to everyone is more secure, then don't ever bother to update firefox or whatever browser your running ever again. Keep doing your banking online with it. Knowing something has security holes is one thing. Telling the world what those security holes are is another thing, especially since there's not development process ready to respond to the vulnerabilities yet. This is like taking a browser that hasn't been patched for two years and pushing it to every third computer in the US. There's going to be a race to patch the system to make it secure and exploit the vulnerabilities and I'm not sure that's something I like.

Re:Yeah, thank god Windows is closed source. I (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032785)

...hook up windows XP to the internet without a opensource router in between.

Be, all that you can be, in a botnet!
Uncle Spam wants you!

RTFA (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031143)

Who said anything about Cisco releasing the source to their routers? Please read the article before working yourself into a tizzy over nothing.

Re:I'm nervous about this (2, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031339)

Cisco releasing the source code for thousands of routers doesn't strike me as being a good thing.

Huh? What part of GPL did Cisco not understand? If they did not want to release their source code, then they should not have used used other's GPL code in their products.

They could have either:

A. Used something under BSD license and kept the code closed

or

B. Wrote their own.

The fact they used someone else's GPL code in their products means they used someone eles's work.

If you are so worried about it, then take your beef up with Cisco for lack of A and B. Not the GPL or FSF. They knew what they were doing.

Re:I'm nervous about this (1)

ruin20 (1242396) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031543)

I'm not saying that the code shouldn't be released. I'm saying there should be some remediation prior to it being released. Cisco should have to release a new version of their firmware that is completely closed source, or they should offer new routers running open software. I'm saying that everyone is so concerned about getting the code out there NOW and I'm of the opinion that's not necessarily the responsible thing. If I was a major Cisco client, I'd be furious about this. But no one's talking about that.

I'm not defending Cisco, I'm not saying the FSF is wrong. I'm saying there's a big part of the story that seems to be missing and should be discussed.

Re:I'm nervous about this (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031625)

They also had the option to stop distributing the stuff right now, that is considered a 'remedy' under the GPL. Or at least it was under GPLv2. If you cannot contractually release the code, it is your sole remedy. Or again, was. I'm waayyyy too lazy today. Headache, hard to think.

No good reason to be nervous. (1)

jbn-o (555068) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032379)

There's no good reason to be nervous. Adovcating for obscurity through secrecy is never wise, not in the short term nor in the long term. In your scenario the vague threat you point to always existed, it was a matter of time before it was fixed and (so long as the software was non-free) never under anyone's control to fix except the proprietor (who may have become uncooperative). Software freedom doesn't become a bad idea because it becomes real late in the process. Software freedom is always better than non-freedom.

monetary donation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28030691)

I like this part:

"and to make a monetary donation to the FSF"

Geesh. Sounds like Al Sharpton going after people, and settling for money.

Re:monetary donation? (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033021)

Sounds like Al Sharpton going after people, and settling for money.

If they'd come into compliance when they first got a nice letter from EFF they'd have been fine.

Instead they stonewalled. So EFF had to spend a lot of money and time to drag them to court.

They cost EFF a bunch of resources, so it's only appropriate that they make a donation to replenish them, keeping the EFF healthy and ready for the next fight.

If EFF runs SOLELY on free-will donations and doesn't go after additional funding in the settlements from people that forced them into expenditures to enforce the licenses, bad guys could grind them into bankruptcy, leave the FOSS with no effective defender (and perhaps cause the copyrights to a lot of FOSS software to be sold at the bankruptcy auction!).

So once the infringers have fought long enough that the EFF has to go to court I have no problem with EFF holding them up for a donation as part of the settlement.

I have no worries that the EFF will turn into a shakedown racket drumming up bogus claims, or that an infringer will be able to buy them off with JUST a donation and continue to infringe.

!donation (4, Insightful)

nsayer (86181) | more than 4 years ago | (#28030927)

Cisco has agreed to [...] make a monetary donation to the FSF.

Um, that's not a donation.

Donations are gifts. Gifts are given freely, not as a penalty for wrongdoing or in return for dropping a cause of action.

RTFA (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031401)

This is a tax deductible donation to a 501(c)3 charitable foundation, agreed to as part of a out of court settlement. It was freely given, Cisco could have gone to trial instead.

Re:RTFA (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 4 years ago | (#28031989)

This is a tax deductible donation to a 501(c)3 charitable foundation, agreed to as part of a out of court settlement. It was freely given, Cisco could have gone to trial instead.

If the alternative is being taken to court, you can hardly call it a "freely given" donation.

Re:RTFA (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032019)

Okay, but it is a donation. The important part is that it's tax deductible. I don't think we really have a word for 'tax deductible contribution given under duress,' so 'donation' will have to do.

Re:RTFA (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032401)

I don't think we really have a word for 'tax deductible contribution given under duress,'

Yes, we do.

Re:RTFA (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032325)

This is a tax deductible donation

The correct word is "contribution," not "donation." Modern dictionaries don't draw much distinction between the two words, but if you look at the origin of each word, contribute comes from the latin for "bringing together," and donate comes from the latin for "giving." It is more precisely correct to describe an involuntary transfer of funds that is still tax deductible as a "contribution" rather than a "donation."

To say that Cisco acted voluntarily since their alternative was going to trial is like saying that a mugging victim acted voluntarily giving the thief his wallet, since he had an alternative of being stabbed.

It turns out, as others have said, that they used the correct word in TFA and that the problem is with the /. summary.

Re:!donation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28031455)

If FSF and Cisco both agree that it is a donation, does it matter what anyone else thinks?

Cisco was not trying to be obstinate (1)

goffster (1104287) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032519)

From what I remember, Cisco was not trying to get away with anything. They were so big that different parts of the same company were violating the terms of the GPL, and could not be reigned in easily.
I think what FSF was able to do was to force Cisco to "reign them in".

FSF shows us how to handle infringement (2, Informative)

jbn-o (555068) | more than 4 years ago | (#28032859)

Whenever we talk about the work we do to handle violations, we say over and over again that getting compliance with the licenses is always our top priority.

This cannot be said enough, particularly amongst a crowd that discusses the latest goings-on with the corporate media lobbyists they (justifiably) hate: Unlike the major corporate media copyright holders, the FSF sues and gets license compliance which is what they're really after. You'll notice that the FSF isn't seeking to bankrupt Cisco (even while recognizing that corporations aren't people). This is a far cry from what the MPAA, RIAA, and other corporate copyright holders pursue with the public—economic domination.

And, as I've said before [slashdot.org], violating the GPL is not like violating other licenses and here's another way in which that is the case: GPLv3 has language which makes the situation better for violators who correct their behavior. As the plain language guide to the GPL [fsf.org] explains, under GPLv2 a violator had to beg the copyright holder to have their rights under the GPL restored because those rights vanished instantly and permanently upon license violation. Under GPLv3 section 8 [fsf.org] violators catch a break: "if you violate the license, you'll get your rights back once you stop the violation, unless a copyright holder contacts you within 60 days. After you receive such a notice, you can have your rights fully restored if you're a first-time violator and correct the violation within 30 days.". Other free software licenses have no similarly forgiving language; it appears that under the new BSD license if one violates any of the 3 conditions listed in the license one loses permission to "[redistribute] and use [the covered program] in source and binary forms" because the violator reverts to the default state of copyright: no permission to copy, share, or modify.

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