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Settlement Reached in Verizon GPL Violation Suit

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the lifetime-of-clicking-i-agree-on-licenses-brought-to-a-halt dept.

The Courts 208

eldavojohn writes "A settlement has been reached in the Verizon GPLv2 violation suit. The now famous BusyBox developers, Erick Andersen and Rob Landley, will receive an undisclosed sum from subcontractor Actiontec Electronics. 'Actiontec supplied Verizon with wireless routers for its FiOS broadband service that use an open source program called BusyBox. BusyBox developers Andersen and Landley in December sued Verizon -- claiming that the usage violated terms of version 2 of the GNU General Public License.'"

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Shut up and go away kid... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22777662)

So..... They basically stuffed a wad of cash down Anderson and Landley's throats and said "Shut up, and go away kids... you bother me." in a W.C. Fields voice impression.

Re:Shut up and go away kid... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22777726)

-1 or not, i got a chuckle =)

Re:Shut up and go away kid... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22778748)

All AC's show up as -1 these days. =[

We are a dying breed.

Re:Shut up and go away kid... (2, Interesting)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778158)

No, they basically paid for the license that they should have bought in the first place.

Cha-ching! (5, Funny)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777666)

And people say you can't make money by giving your software away.

Re:Cha-ching! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22778244)

The Slashdot junta can try to silence us, but we will be heard!

Now that they have the money.. (-1, Troll)

Farakin (1101889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777670)

They are going to donate it, right? How is this different from a pantent troll? Create a program, GPL it, wait for some company to use it, and sue?

Re:Now that they have the money.. (5, Informative)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777716)

How is this different from a pantent troll? Create a program, GPL it, wait for some company to use it, and sue?

Except in this case the license is *right there* in the code they used. Also, they weren't prevented from writing something functionally similar to BusyBox.

Basically, Patents != Copyrights.

IP is "Imaginary Property" that doesn't actually exist or have any laws on it.

Re:Now that they have the money.. (4, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777728)

How is it different from a patent troll? The patent troll doesn't bother with that pesky "create" step.

Re:Now that they have the money.. (3, Interesting)

zkiwi34 (974563) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778156)

It's way different. GPL code ALWAYS has the notification of the license and terms of use as part the code/comments. People who pick up the code and use it have no excuse for not noticing that it was GPL'd. With patents, you generally/often have no idea if someone has a patent on what you think is your own original work.

Re:Now that they have the money.. (4, Insightful)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778232)

How is this different from a pantent troll?

You can use busybox on the same hardware with proprietary software without getting sued or having to pay royalties. It's the same as having proprietary software running on a Linux box even though Linux kernel is GPLed.

Follow a few simple rules. The main ones are don't link to busybox(or any other GPLed software) and you must offer the source of busybox to people you distribute that binary to.

Busybox is an executable. Your program may be an executable. Simply because they exist on the same filesystem doesn't make your software GPL'ed. It's a 'mere aggregation'. I've a programmer who viewed the GPL as a threat to the point he wouldn't write Linux software. After I explained a few things to him he started using it as a tool.

People who don't read the GPL before using it gives the GPL a bad name.

Re:Now that they have the money.. (3, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777742)

They are going to donate it, right? How is this different from a pantent troll? Create a program, GPL it, wait for some company to use it, and sue?

Are you serious? A GPL'd program is labeled as such, with conditions for redistribution. If you don't like the conditions, don't distribute it. Using patented technologies these days is as simple as thinking up something obvious and uncomplicated, without reference to what is patented. Searching for every patented technology before using obvious ideas would be quite costly. It's not like patent trolls say "here's this patented technology, and if you use it without paying royalties, we'll sue you later".

Re:Now that they have the money.. (2, Insightful)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777764)

Using patented technologies these days is as simple as thinking up something obvious and uncomplicated, without reference to what is patented.

To be fair, the whole problem with patent trolling is that this isn't all that simple any more. Obvious and uncomplicated things get patented with alarming frequency.

Re:Now that they have the money.. (2, Insightful)

J. T. MacLeod (111094) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777746)

Patent trolls wait for some one to implement an obvious idea and strike. This is some one choosing to distribute a particular piece of software in violation of the license.

How are those similar?

Re:Now that they have the money.. (5, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777776)

Umm...

It's nothing like a patent troll. They provided software and said you could use it in your product if you follow a simple set of rules. The people making the product didn't follow the rules, and didn't bother to correct this till they were sued.

A patent troll doesn't provide squat. They just wait for someone to come up with an idea the troll might have already patented and then attempts to extort that person after they've managed to implement the idea and make it profitable.

This isn't even apples and oranges. It's apples and school bus yellow race cars.

Re:Now that they have the money.. (5, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778022)

This isn't even apples and oranges. It's apples and school bus yellow race cars.

You've managed to create a car analogy without really creating a car analogy. This is almost as good as recursion.

Congrats!

Re:Now that they have the money.. (3, Informative)

adpe (805723) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777784)

The difference is that these people actually put a lot of time and thought into *creating* something. They deserve all kinds of protection by law. A patent troll merely patents some obvious idea and sits there, but never creates anything.

Huge difference.

Re:Now that they have the money.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22777936)

LOLOL

Re:Now that they have the money.. (-1, Troll)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777938)

I'm assuming by this response that you're mentally retarded. It's a pity your parents let you on computers by yourself. After all, they have to wipe your ass.

Re:Now that they have the money.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22778168)

Very simple. A patent troll wants to milk the "infringers" for all the money they've got. With GPL violations, there's a very simple and socially beneficial way to resolve the dispute: release the source code. As Eben Moglen likes to point out, the first thing he always tells GPL violators is "we don't want money". It is always a shame when the violators refuse to comply up to the point where they have to be forced by the court to pay.

Re:Now that they have the money.. (4, Insightful)

WebCowboy (196209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778358)

How is this different from a pantent troll? Create a program, GPL it, wait for some company to use it, and sue?

Well, the biggest difference is that it is 100% UNLIKE a patent troll because it is a COPYRIGHT case, not a patent case. But lets look at this from a more philosophical perspective.

Patent trolls don't create any new intellectual property. Almost the entire energy of a patent troll business like Acacia is to buy up obscure patents, often of questionable validity, for ideas that are already widely implemented. Once the patent is bought they then go out and sue the pants of the people who actually did the real "creating". In this case, the authors of Busybox worked hard and have dedicated countless hours of time supporting and improving their creation and have been courteous enough to offer their creation under very generous terms. Instead of a monetary obligation in return for the right to use Busybox, they instead asked that any derivative works or redistributions require the obligation of source code redistribution.

Patent trolls rely on deception and hidden information as their business model. They look for "hidden treasures" where a little known patent could potentially be broadly applied across a huge number of implementations developed by unsuspecting inventors. Busybox is most definitely NOT obscure, and its terms-of-use are most definitely VERY well known and even more easily understood than most EULAs used in the industry. The authors of Busybox and the SFLC did nothing at all to deceive anyone or trick them into using the software improperly.

This is basically an example of why intellectual property rights are so important. The Free software community needs to have the same tools (weapons) at their disposal to defend the freedom of their software as the "mafIAA" wield to try to restrict and control information.

Re:Now that they have the money.. (4, Funny)

Kidbro (80868) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778460)

How is this different from a pantent troll?

It is different from a patent troll in much the same way a football is different from space rocket - by having no properties in common!

Re:Now that they have the money.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22778658)

except for the --lawsuit parameter =)

Re:Now that they have the money.. (4, Funny)

Asmor (775910) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778672)

Well, they're both solid shells within which is contained compressed air.

Much like a patent troll.

Pendantic Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22778894)

The first Atlas ICBMs, later used in the Gemini manned space program, had to be pressurized to provide structural rigidity, kind of like a football.

WOW (1, Insightful)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777676)

That was pretty expensive free software

Not really (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777724)

First, we have no idea how much this cost and over how many boxes.
Second, the costs for MS and even real times OSs are damn expensive on a per box basis.
Finally, it seems odd that neither company took care of this. For what was required was pretty minor, that is publish the source code.

Actually the software was free (4, Informative)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777880)

Actually the software was free. The expensive part was hording the source code. So, the correct statement is "That was pretty expensive hording."

Re:Actually the software was free (5, Funny)

swillden (191260) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778074)

hording the source code

How does source code horde?

I have this image of millions of angry lines of code rampaging across the steppings, raping and pillaging peaceful programs, stealing their output and burning their execution platforms.

Oh, right. You meant "hoarding the source code". Sorry, my bad.

Re:Actually the software was free (2, Funny)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778224)

Source Code will be a new race in the next WoW expansion of course.

Re:Actually the software was free (5, Funny)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778418)

I have this image of millions of angry lines of code rampaging across the steppings, raping and pillaging peaceful programs, stealing their output and burning their execution platforms.

Thats odd. Thats exactly what it says on the Windows ME warranty disclaimer.

Another mistake... (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778688)

Yes, I did mean "hoarding". That make makes four mistakes I've made.

Re:Actually the software was free (4, Funny)

glwtta (532858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778968)

How does source code horde?

I'm not sure, but we know from experience that it's very difficult to get it to hurd.

Re:WOW (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777928)

oholoh.net estimates [ohloh.net] the cost of developing the software at $2,446,697.

It's just business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22778042)

Turns out it was more worth it to Verizon to pay the authors to keep their (Verizon's) software closed instead of distributing it under the terms of the GPL. That's just business.

Re:WOW (1)

JimDaGeek (983925) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778272)

Yup and all they needed to do to get a 100% discount was to... FOLLOW THE LICENSE! Pretty simple step to get such a large discount huh? ;-)

I'm a little disappointed . . . (4, Insightful)

coldfarnorth (799174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777688)

. . . that they settled. I would have liked to see a ruling that established a precident for dealing with this kind of violation.

Ah well. I'm sure that there were other details that were equally important in determining the outcome.

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (4, Informative)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777810)

I agree that it's somewhat disappointing that they settled when you consider it as a lost opportunity to test the GPL in court, but hopefully the developers well *well* compensated for their trouble. Perhaps they'll donate a portion of their settlement proceeds to helping others fight these cases. How many "little guys" are out there who might have legitimate infringement claims, but are too scared or too broke to stand up to the legal muscle of a large corporation?

On a separate note, I just had to Digg [digg.com] this one. The more ways the news can get out about this, the better off the community as a whole is, and it increases visibility for the validity of the GPL. After all, if the case had no merit, why would a megacorp like Verizon settle? These stories need more exposure.

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (1)

cube135 (1231528) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777908)

Verizon settled because they're not paying anything here. They weren't the ones committing the GPL violation-Actiontec was. As a result, the ones paying are Actiontec.

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (3, Informative)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778010)

The lawsuit was "Erik Andersen and Rob Landley v. Verizon Communications Inc.", "case number 1:07-cv-11070-LTS, was filed December 6th, 2007, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York". Actiontec may be paying an unspecified amount as part of the conditions of settlement, but don't think for a moment Verizon is guiltless in this matter. As they were engaging in the distribution of the infringing devices with Actiontec, they were certainly 50% responsible. If Verizon had thought they had any chance of winning the case, I guarantee you they would have dragged it out as far as possible. This settlement isn't as good as a jury endorsement of the GPL's validity, but it's pretty damn good nonetheless.

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778424)

The settlements have been for the fees incurred by the SFLC; so yes, the money will precisely go to further defence of free software.

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (4, Insightful)

Qubit (100461) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778018)

I would have liked to see a ruling that established a precident for dealing with this kind of violation.

Sure -- a lot of us would like to see the certainty (well, some certainty, anyhow) that a precedent would set, but I can't think of a single FOSS developer who is in it for the litigation. Harald Welte, the founder of gpl-violations.org, has stated several times that as important as it has been for him to address violations of the GPL, he really wants to get back to developing software, not spending time with lawyers and courtrooms.

Besides, we're the "good guys" -- even if it looks like a company should have known better, and even if it's pretty much a given that the company did know better (and is just trying to get away with not releasing source code), then we need to keep on taking the moral high ground and try to resolve the issue in a settlement out of court. At the end of the day, what most FOSS software developers want is to be recognized for their work and to have people respect the terms of the license under which they released their code.

If a company keeps on committing violations time and time again, then sure -- give ESR and RMS their swords and wish them Happy Hacking -- but otherwise, deal with the underlying gpl violation issue, and move on.

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778400)

Besides, we're the "good guys"
Wow, that's some fairy tale trivialization worthy of the White House.

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (2, Interesting)

chromatic (9471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778466)

On one side, you a loose collection of individual developers who distribute their software freely, with the restriction that if you also distribute it or a derived version, you must distribute it under the same terms.

On the other side, you have a company who knowingly infringes the copyright of the first group.

What else would you call the first group but "good guys"?

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778502)

By giving away their software for free, they are stealing from the mouths of paid developers!

Imagine programming for a living but being unable to purchase that custom-made kimono or life-size Princess Leia doll. It saddens the heart.

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778678)

As far as the moral high ground is considered, I think it's still pretty easy to take them to court and still look like a good guy. All you request in the judgement is legal fees, lost wages, expenses, and then just $1 in damages (or maybe the minimum required to keep it out of small claims court or something). That would probably make you look even better than if you had taken a settlement (though you'll walk away with considerably less money).

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778698)

Or better yet, donate the money you get to charity (or the EFF or something).

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (1)

XaXXon (202882) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778048)

The GPL really doesn't need to be tested in court. As it relies on copyright, if you don't obey the requirements of the license, you fall back to the default constraints of any copyrighted work -- namely you can't distribute it.

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778148)

. . . that they settled. I would have liked to see a ruling that established a precident for dealing with this kind of.

I think this does establish a precedent. It's probably not a citable precedent in the legal sense, but it's certainly an example that other GPL developers' attorneys can show to infringers' attorneys, and it's a good one.

Part of the problem has been that many companies have looked at the GPL as toothless -- if they don't comply and get called on it, well, then they just go ahead and come into compliance and continue business as usual. This settlement not only did that, but also required positive steps to make sure the same thing doesn't happen again, and included a cash payment to help make sure the lesson sticks.

The fact that someone with as many lawyers on staff as Verizon caved is going to send a pretty strong message to other infringers who are thinking about fighting it out.

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (1)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778234)

I would have liked to see a ruling that established a precident for dealing with this kind of violation.
Same here, but bills have to be paid.

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (1)

immcintosh (1089551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778494)

I don't think we really need a legal precedent to deal with the corporate world in this way. We've already got a functional precedent, which is: violate the GPL--get forced to settle for an undisclosed (large) sum of money. That's what the business world cares about, and that probably means more than any legal ruling ever would when it comes down to it.

Re:I'm a little disappointed . . . (5, Insightful)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778836)

Why do you need a precedent? Especially in the case of the V2.0 of the GPL, it's solidly based
in current Copyright law. It's a derivative works license. The royalty owed for the derivative work
you produce from the original protected work is to allow YOUR derivations to be available under the
same license and to provide an offer of the source code for any derivatives or mere copies of the
protected work.

Don't comply with the royalty arrangement, the agreement is invalidated. If you're not operating
under an agreement with the original works providers (in toto) you're guilty of the act of Infringement,
which is actionable just as if you'd illegally duplicated thousands upon thousands of Brittney's latest
album (though why anyone in their right mind would want to DO that is beyond me... :-D ).

And, that is what you keep seeing here. People caught with their hand in the cookie jar, breaking
Copyright law and capitulating instead of facing the much worse penalties which are typically involved
with such a breach of law.

You don't NEED the GPL to be "validated", each settlement of this scope and scale (especially THIS one,
if you think long and hard about it...)- have already DONE so.

Finally! Money! (-1, Troll)

gbrandt (113294) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777704)

Finally someone found a way to make money off of the GPL. If only we knew how much so that we could decide if it was worth it.

Gregor

Re:Finally! Money! (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777972)

If only we knew how much so that we could decide if it was worth it.

By "worth it", I'll assume you mean not whether it was worth the time and trouble to write GPL software, but rather, "the market value of the software".

The agreement by Verizon to pay an "undisclosed sum" to the developers can be fairly characterised as a penalty against Verizon, a personal financial bonus to the developers, and, with respect to letter and spirit of GPL, a moral bonus for everyone else. What's BusyBox worth? If we knew what Verizon paid for their Actiontec contract, we could make some educated guesses but then, it sort of misses the point.

Reading the article, I'm not sure the writer even knows what BusyBox is. That said, the fact that the lawsuit is in the news and is now settled, makes me pleased as punch. At the very least, I'll have less explaining to do when I walk in someone's door with a few Soekris boxes under my arm.

Re:Finally! Money! (1)

gbrandt (113294) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778266)

Worth the time and effort to fight. Not everyone can take the moral high ground and spend time on losing money. I hope they made out better than ok.

Yes, of course, way to go GPLv2

So how much was it? (1)

crovira (10242) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777718)

We can't do bugger all with suppositions.

Re:So how much was it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22778064)

You must be new here.

Mixed Victory (1)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777734)

Looks like this isn't the first time these guys have litigated this. Infringing this software seems to be a habit.

Anyway, I wonder if this is a good thing for PR. If companies point to this to be even more reluctant to adopt F/OSS solutions, and make subcontractors indemnify themselves, and basically make everybody CTheirA even more tightly, it will likely be a bad thing for everybody involved; Open Source Software gets less support from the mainstream, services cost more (because of all that R&D poured into re-inventing this "wheel" thing everybody's talking about), and everybody misses out on the fruits of useful labor that could be shared.

Obviously "letting them get away with it" is not an acceptable option, and I'm very glad to see a settlement suggesting the enforcability of the GPL (even if it isn't precedent-setting or anything), but I just wish that we could have had this victory without possibly raising more fears in the suspender-and-two-belts corporate world. OSS coders need money too, and a lot of it is going to come from folks who use software without directly selling it.

Re:Mixed Victory (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777762)

without possibly raising more fears in the suspender-and-two-belts corporate world
There's always the BSD option.

Re:Mixed Victory (1)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777796)

There's always the BSD option.

True! But it's a distinction that I suspect still gets lost on a lot of the suits.

Re:Mixed Victory (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777916)

I don't think MicroBSD or NanoBSD ever went anywhere. Pity That.

Victory (3, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777890)

I don't quite know what you mean. The court enforced the GPL license as it is written, and GPL is easily available. It isn't like Verizon couldn't see that the code was under the GPL, or what the GPL says.

If a company can't have someone look over a license to see if they want to accept it, then they probably shouldn't be using GPLd code.

Or do companies just blindly accept any sort of contract you send their way?

This also means that if a company wants to release code under the GPL, there is some precedent for enforcing it against someone else that uses the code without releasing their changes.

Re:Mixed Victory (4, Insightful)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777926)

This is not any worse PR than the running of the mouths we always hear. This situation would not have changed one bit if the software used was proprietary. The fact that it was F/OSS had no bearing on the situation, other than the fact that Verizon had a get out of free jail card that they decided not to play. With proprietary software, they would have HAD to pay on the lawsuit. With the F/OSS software they could have just published the source.

Re:Mixed Victory (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778730)

What's the timeline on something like this? When it says you have to release your source code, does it say how much time you have to do it? Or is there x days after the first request that you have, or what? Could verizon have just kept saying "just give us a few more weeks to tidy up our source code and comb for offensive comments etc" and stall indefinitely?

Re:Mixed Victory (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778854)

What's the timeline on something like this?
According to the license, when you redistribute the code, or a derivative work, you have to either:

a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,
b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,
c) <not applicable to Verizon>
See http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-2.0.html [gnu.org] for more answers.

As for what hypothetical court orders would say, I do not know. I am not a lawyer, in particular not yours, and this is not legal advice.

Re:Mixed Victory (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777964)

HUH? The companies involved were being snnotty thieves and REFUSED to abide after being contact several times.

All they had to do was publish and make available the source code. they told them basically to go to hell, we dont have to do anything we are bigger than you.

The FSF forced the big bully to give them money because the big bully acted like asshats and refused to abide.

If it reduces the use of GPL code and apps in companies that like to act illegally or above the law, I see it as a good thing.

Re:Mixed Victory (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778024)

Anyway, I wonder if this is a good thing for PR. If companies point to this to be even more reluctant to adopt F/OSS solutions...

Why wouldn't it be? After all, companies have to comply with the license for the software they distribute regardless of what that license says. There is no difference between this and proprietary software!

If you distribute the software, you comply with the license. Whether it's GPL, proprietary, or otherwise. Period. It's really fucking simple!

Re:Mixed Victory (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778862)

Anyway, I wonder if this is a good thing for PR. If companies point to this to be even more reluctant to adopt F/OSS solutions, and make subcontractors indemnify themselves, and basically make everybody CTheirA even more tightly, it will likely be a bad thing for everybody involved; Open Source Software gets less support from the mainstream, services cost more (because of all that R&D poured into re-inventing this "wheel" thing everybody's talking about), and everybody misses out on the fruits of useful labor that could be shared.
I think you underestimate the intelligence of most companies.

Most companies understand the GPL very well. Most understand that you can use GPL'd software without payment, but with legal consequences, they understand these consequences, and make an educated decision whether to use GPL'd software and source code or not in their own products.

The only exceptions would be companies run by complete morons (they might panic now), or companies who were willing to commit copyright infringement because they thought they could get away with it (they will now be trying to cover their tracks). But most companies are not affected by this case in any way.

The search for more money (1)

PS3Penguin (1048518) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777752)

"... And Lord willing .. we will all be back in GPL3 .. the search for more money." (Apologies to Mel Brook's Space Balls).

Re:The search for more money (1)

LordKaT (619540) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778078)

You'd better apologize for that terrible bastardization, or Mel Brooks will kick your ass. He knows jew-jitsu.

I'm not disappointed (1)

sltd (1182933) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777780)

If they settled, that probably is somewhat of an indication that the GPL might hold up in court, at least in this case. No one knows how much the settlement was, but if it was more than the cost to take the case to court, that would be a pretty clear indication that they didn't want to mess with this.

Re:I'm not disappointed (1)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777846)

Presumably Actiontec settled it for less than they thought it would cost to take it to court. There's little incentive to settle for more than that amount.

Re:I'm not disappointed (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22777982)

True, but cost is whatever penalty would have been leveled plus all legal fees, which might be substantial. So settling early might be better for both sides, just worse for the lawyers.

Re:I'm not disappointed (1)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778636)

The legal fess are part of what they would expect it to cost to litigate.

The decision isn't that hard: We can settle for $S. If we take it to court, there is Pw probability of winning, at a cost of $W (possibly negative), and Pl probability of losing, at a cost of $L. Expected cost of litigating in court, $C, is thus Pw*$W + Pl*$L.

if $S < $C
settle
else
litigate

Re:I'm not disappointed (1)

uffe_nordholm (1187961) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778062)

I beg to differ. I think a company might very well prefer settling out of court for more than they might be fined in court. The reason is simple: by settling out of court they don't get a court record, there is les public paper work and the company looks cleaner in the pupblic opinion. Obviously this won't hold for large differences, but if the settling-out-of-court is 10-20% extra I think many companies would prefer this option.

Re:I'm not disappointed (1)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778542)

The only case I've heard of where something like that happened had nothing to do with "less paper work" or "public opinion"; it was because the company was seeking funding and it looked better to investors (who are NOT "public opinion") if there wasn't pending litigation.

The executives have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders, and "less paper work" or "public opinion" will never trump that.

Re:I'm not disappointed (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778922)

All you are doing is making a tiresome distinction between nominal and actual costs of going to court. Each of the issues you bring up can be described in terms of dollars(or at least estimated in a hand wavy fashion), and then as a cost of going to court.

Re:I'm not disappointed (3, Interesting)

Gideon Fubar (833343) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778082)

I would have thought so too, at first glance.. But what if the GPL were proven in court?

It wouldn't just be a problem for businesses that illegally use open source software and pass it off as their own, it might also give an air of business legitimacy to OSS in general (not that most businesses don't use OSS every day, but they don't necessarily know that they do). I can think of a few business models that might be put under pressure if that happened.

BusyBox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22778030)

Just to set the record straight for the younger guys who might not know, BusyBox [wikipedia.org] was first developed by Bruce Perens and is in use in an amazing variety of products out there now. (I'm just a friend who read up on it before)

QWest also uses Actiontec DSL modems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22778124)

So, didja get paid for those too?

Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (5, Interesting)

Diesel Dave (95048) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778206)

"must pay an undisclosed sum to developers Erick Andersen and Rob Landley."

Now this pisses me off. Anderson you AIN'T GOT FULL COPYRIGHT OF BUSYBOX. I handled it for 2 years prior to you and Perens wrote the original. (And might I add I warned you about improperly changing copyright notices back then.)

Did you even bother to contact Perens on this?

If you sued to get them to abide by the GPL, that's one thing. But a personal payout without consideration for the other developers involved? Hell no...

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (4, Interesting)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778300)

and that, right there, is basicly why it is a good idea to assign the copyright to a unique entity. Such as, for example, the FSF.

Besides, were you a plaintiff in this suit? Did you make the effort of building the evidence and starting the fight against such a Big Scary Entity as Verizon?

Seriously, give us your part of the story. All of it.

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778754)

Besides, were you a plaintiff in this suit? Did you make the effort of building the evidence and starting the fight against such a Big Scary Entity as Verizon?

Some climb the tree and pick the fruit, efforts of their labors.

Others stand at the base of the tree and catch anything you happen to drop while you're up there.

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (4, Interesting)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778898)

Seriously, give us your part of the story. All of it.


It's called, "Sour Grapes". He didn't think to get himself added to the list of litigants or viewed the whole process with disdain and didn't
get to be part of it. Now that they're settling with PART of the Copyright holders (Here's the key thing there- doesn't matter WHO does the
filing so long as they have standing. Sorry Diesel Dave, they had Standing, just like you did.) he's pissed off he wasn't in on the whole deal.

You may not LIKE it, Diesel Dave, but they bothered to litigate- YOU didn't. You all have Standing to sue the hell out of the Infringers.
Keep in mind, though, Actiontec settled the infringement matter with THEM, but not YOU unless you tacitly chose to allow them to do so.
Perhaps you can sue them too... It certainly wouldn't be the first time for a Legal "dogpile" on someone who was guilty of Infringement.
Also keep in mind that they actually brought the matter to the point of an actual trial being filed against them for Infringement- I would
consider it a matter that they pay SOMETHING back to me and possibly the community at large after the cute games they played. You don't
get to just publish stuff when you play the "I'm bigger than you are, go to Hell!" card on something like this.

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778976)

So if Diesel Dave had assigned copyright to the FSF, and then these fellas had taken that code and forked it, and then the case happened, he would be better off how?

I don't even see how it would make users of the code better off, or the code-itself 'better off'
(quotes because the code isn't quite an entity).

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (1)

VoltCurve (1248644) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778360)

that's what you get for working with the GPL. Someone smarter than you will figure out how to profit on your work. You get screwed. everyone laughs

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (5, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778374)

What exactly is your complaint?

Are you trying to suggest that a single contributor to an open source project can't sue for violation of their copyright?

If you want a cut, file your own lawsuit against Verizon.. you shouldn't have any trouble getting a settlement nor that Erick and Rob have done the hard work for you.

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22778390)

I can see two courses of action:

1) If Anderson and Landley claimed that busybox was 100% theirs, and its not, sue them for misrepresenting their copyright claims. There are substantial penalties for this. There might also be a case against Verizon for "receiving stolen property"?

2) If Anderson and Landley told Verizon they did not own 100% of busybox, write to Verizon and ask them to pay you your x%. A pretty good precedent has been set by their payout to Anderson and Landley. Perhaps someone should trawl through the busybox archives and put together a summary of who wrote what line? The result would be a pie chart that assigns each developer a percentage of authorship. Send this pie chart to Verizon along with a letter of demand from all authors. Some authors might decide to forgoe their cash in return for GPL compliance, which would make life interesting!

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (3, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778760)

You mean like this one?

http://www.ohloh.net/projects/4929/contributors [ohloh.net]

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22778912)

You mean like this one? http://www.ohloh.net/projects/4929/contributors [ohloh.net]

Funny, I don't see David Diesel there (unless it's under an alias) nor even Bruce Perens.

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778994)

If Anderson and Landley claimed that busybox was 100% theirs
This was not the issue in this case. The issues were an alleged violation of the GPL (we will never know for sure now because Verizon settled the case before it went to trial) AND violation of copyright. The issue of whether 100% of the BusyBox source code belonged to the creators who brought the suit was irrelevant so long as some of the code in BusyBox was theirs and Verizon had violated their copyright on their portions of the source code by using it in violation of the terms of the GPL.

The "stolen property" issue is a wrong-headed theory put forth by the entertainment cartels (i.e. the MAFIAA) to make one crime, copyright infringement, sound more serious than it actually is by equating it with stealing someone's wallet or their car (i.e. like in their lame anti-piracy propaganda that they put on their DVDs). IANAL, but from what I understand copyright infringement is copyright infringement which is not the same thing as theft of physical property. If the two are equivalent then why does the law distinguish between them instead of just saying that copying is theft of property?

If Anderson and Landley told Verizon they did not own 100% of busybox, write to Verizon and ask them to pay you your x%.
Or better yet, ask nicely so that Anderson and Landley will give you the phone number of their attorney and have that same attorney file the same case again but this time on behalf of your infringed copyrights. The suit was not filled as a class-action so there is nothing to prevent other potential claimants from suing Verizon individually for exactly the same violation if they too have cause to bring an action.

Perhaps someone should trawl through the busybox archives and put together a summary of who wrote what line? The result would be a pie chart that assigns each developer a percentage of authorship. Send this pie chart to Verizon along with a letter of demand from all authors. Some authors might decide to forgoe their cash in return for GPL compliance, which would make life interesting!
Except that Verizon cannot do that because their agreement is with Anderson and Landley and not every other developer whose copyrights they may have violated. Those people will either have to sue Verizon individually, which shouldn't be too difficult now that Anderson and Landley have blazed the trail. It may not be possible to sue Anderson and Landley because they did not have to claim 100% ownership in order to win their case against Verizon, even partial copyright of a larger work should be enough. As long as they didn't misrepresent their claim in the settlement then they should be free and clear (i.e. you could ask them to split the proceeds with the other developers, but there is nothing stopping them from keeping the money for themselves)...at least IMHO, but IANAL so check with one before you do anything.

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (1)

CBravo (35450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778428)

Does this mean you get to sue them too?

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (1)

jkells (1004385) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778508)

Well he owns some of the copyright and has a right to sue them for violating the GPL for the parts of busybox he worked on. If you hold some copyright for busybox your still free to sue Verizon on your own :)

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (1)

Teran9 (1163643) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778598)

He only has to have some copyright to sue. Without seeing the settlement you do not know if they sued for the entire package or just for those items that the two gentlemen had copyright on. If you have copyright for part of what Verizon distributed and you have not signed away your rights, then SUE Verizon yourself.

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (4, Insightful)

bug1 (96678) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778644)

I was also a busybox developer for a number of years, there are some important issues to mention...

1) The people involved Erik, Rob, SFLC have all donated much of their time over the years to advance the cause, im sure its about the principle, not the money.
2) They are enforcing the license, its been abused for years, its painful work and they are enforce it, successfully, its an important step in corporations to get past.
3) Getting the infringing company to pay _someone_ is the only punishment that might change their behavior, companies like this care more about the bottom line than they do about ethics.
4) Its not free money, the case has been going for months, and im sure they spent a lot of time on it.
5) SFLC was involved, im sure they have a lot of costs, and my guess is they got some of the settlement too.
6) Erik and Rob can enforce their contributions to busybox without requiring agreement from other copyright holders, the SFLC wouldnt stand by and let them do anything unethical.
7) Best not to jump and down about free money unless you know how much it is.

Having to pay an "undisclosed sum" to every open source coder they they have wronged must scare the crap out the corporate laweryers who are all to happy to roll the dice and advise a strategy of "do what we like until we get caught, then expect forgiveness".

If this news gets around, corporate lawyers might even take the time to read the GPL.

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (4, Insightful)

arcade (16638) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778750)

Shut up and sue them yourself.

Seriously. Shut up. If you own part of the copyright, go sue verison yourself. See if you too can't get a nice share of it all. If you don't, you're part of the problem - not the solution.

SERIOUSLY. Shut up. Those guys may sue as much as they want for breach of their copyright. If you've got a different copyright, or didn't licence it under the GPL but under something else - then you might have a suit against both verizon and against those guys. If you licenced it under the BSD licence, you're just So Out Of Luck (Or maybe not, I'm not entirely certain about this GPL BSD thing).

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (1)

sholden (12227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778930)

They have copyright over some of it. People with copyright over other bits are free to sue as well...

Re:Andersen and Landley - You don't have copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22778956)

submarine GPL - the new business model (-1, Troll)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778388)

step 1. release software and source saying it's free free free

step 2. let unwary developer implement it

step 3. profit!

So tell me, Erick Andersen and Rob Landley (1)

Provocateur (133110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22778714)

Is there a shiny new car in your garage? You both sooo deserve it, I must say.

If you didn't get one or don't plan to, at least a T-shirt that says 'We settled with Verizon and all I got was (you know the rest).'

Or if you bought a six pack of imported beer and gave the rest to FOSS. We'd like to hear some good news from either one of you.

So we could all point and say, Hey this guy, he
1. coded serious software
2. GPLicensed it
3. sued the pants off GPL violators
4. Profit!
5. Get a. car b. T-shirt c. sixpack d. More RAM
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