BusyBox Goes Extreme

Adding to the already substantial list of lawsuits filed on behalf of its clients Erik Andersen and Rob Landley (the two principal developers of the BusyBox open source utility), the The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has announced today the filing of yet another suit alleging copyright infringement based on a violation of version 2 of the GNU General Public License (GPL) in connection with BusyBox.  The current suit has been filed against Ethernet solutions provider Extreme Networks.  As with the previous suits brought by Andersen and Landley (against Monsoon Multimedia, Xterasys Corporation, High-Gain Antennas, Verizon Communications, Bell Microproducts, Inc. and Super Micro Computer, Inc.) , the complaint against Extreme Networks alleges that Extreme makes and sells various products containing firmware in which BusyBox, or a modified version of BusyBox, is included.  Specifically, the complaint names the Summit X450 Series network switches as one of the offending products offered by Extreme.  According to the lawsuit, Extreme continues to distribute this product and others with firmware containing BusyBox without making the source code to BusyBox available in accordance with the terms of the GPL.   As the complaint notes, under the terms of the GPL, Extreme is obligated to provide the source code of the BusyBox software to recipients of products with firmware containing BusyBox.

According to the complaint, Extreme was first notified of the requirements of the GPL as early as July of 2006 by a “third party” who requested a copy of the Busy Box source code.  The complaint further alleges that the SFLC later contacted Extreme in February 2008 on behalf of the BusyBox developers and that the parties have had multiple interactions since that time in an attempt to settle the allegations against Extreme.  The complaint continues, however, that Extreme has failed to respond to the latest notice provided by the SFLC on June 26, thus prompting the lawsuit.  As with the complaints in previous cases, the complaint filed against Extreme  requests that an injunction be issued against the defendant and that damages and litigation costs be awarded to the plaintiffs.

The take away from this latest suit is fairly simple.  As the campaign of lawsuits brought by BusyBox continues to roll forward (and it appears safe to now call it a “campaign”), and as mentioned in connection with the previous BusyBox suits, product vendors (particularly in the wireless and terrestrial networking space) should take note of whether and to what extent the products distributed by their organizations (including products produced by third parties) contain BusyBox or other open source software.  And, as shown by the timeline in this and the other BusyBox cases, those vendors should take seriously any contact from the SFLC or other organizations inquiring about potential violations of the GPL or other open source licenses.

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One Response

  1. Jason,

    I loved the way you wrote the article. I like a good writer…

    I happen to be in the right place a the right time to see what really happened. The company knew about SFLC’s law suits and felt they were compliant with GPL. When they were initially contacted by SFLC for source code they received it within a few days. When they wanted better disclosure of the GPL license (specifically on their website) this was done as requested.

    Every request was met in good faith and any corrections they wanted were promptly responded to. It was interesting to watch the goal posts being moved by SFLC every time Extreme tried to do the right thing. In the end you will find that it is all about the money.

    As a writer I hope you can be objective and consider the possibility that Extreme may not the bad guy in this one.

    S

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