SFLC sues Verizon over FiOS box

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has filed a lawsuit in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Verizon on behalf of open source software developer BusyBox.

The suit alleges that Verizon has infringed on BusyBox’s copyrights in distributing the Actiontec MI424WR wireless routers to Verizon’s FiOS broadband customers.

BusyBox is a collection of Unix utilities optimized for size, and which are most commonly used in embedded environments. The SFLC claims that the Actiontec router includes BusyBox code, which under the GPL means that Verizon is obligated to distribute source code with the router. The suit charges that the company fails to do this.

SFLC Legal Director Dan Ravicher earlier told InternetNews.com that the lawsuit came about as a result of not having received a response from the carrier.

“We sent initial communications to Verizon three weeks ago,” Ravicher said. “They never responded. Thus, there are no negotiations underway with them. That is what forced us to file the lawsuit, because it was our only last option to get Verizon to address our clients’ concerns.”

The SFLC is seeking an injunction against Verizon as well as damages. At this early stage, the SFLC had not yet put a figure on the amount it’s seeking.

“We can’t calculate adequate damages until we know the extent of the infringement, which somewhat relies on information we would have to get from Verizon through the discovery process,” Ravicher said.

The legal action against Verizon come as the fourth action that the SFLC has undertaken this year on behalf of BusyBox on GPL issues. The GPL is a reciprocal license that requires users of GPL-protected technology to make their source code available to end-users.

To date, the SFLC has settled with one defendant out of court. Two actions, facing Xterasys Corporation and High-Gain Antennas, are ongoing and Ravicher said he’s optimistic about negotiations resulting in a resolution with each.

[Source:InternetNews | author=Sean Michael Kerner]

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About joly

isoc member since 1995

3 thoughts on “SFLC sues Verizon over FiOS box

  1. [response to Dave Farber]

    What Verizon is distributing — interestingly enough — is merely the
    updated firmware for an Actiontec modem. Verizon didn’t develop the
    firmware, does not have the source code, and probably doesn’t have the
    RIGHTS to any of the source code. It’s merely posting the updated
    firmware for the convenience of its users.

    This seems to be a good example of overreaching by the FSF and the
    GPL. Suppose a dealer sells a product — say, a network router — that
    happens to contain some GPLed code. Restricting it from posting the
    latest firmware (to which it won’t have the source; it didn’t develop
    the firmware at all) is detrimental to it and to its users, and runs
    counter to the very “freedom” to use the software which advocates of
    the GPL claim is so important. This is one of the detrimental
    consequences — intended or unintended — of a license which is
    (misleadingly, IMHO) claimed to be “free” but in fact is severely
    restrictive.

    –Brett Glass

  2. [response to Dave Farber]

    I wonder if the prolifieration of open source and open
    source law suits will tend to stifle innovation. This
    law suit is looking for an injunction on the use of a
    piece of software. This is the ultimate penalty in
    patent law and one that is not causally given.

    Tom Gray

  3. [response to Dave Farber]

    Verizon simply has to comply with the law, the GPL and release the
    source code. No innovation has been or is stifled at all. Should you
    choose to use GPL licensed code to create a new [software] product,
    simply follow the rules. In academic circles, using someone else’s code
    and not referencing the author, well, you get the idea; It’s cheating
    plain and simple.

    Without the legal threat of injunction, Verizon (or Actiontec) would
    have no incentive to respond, much less comply. That’s where you have to
    separate legal tactics from compliance with license requirements of
    openly distributed code. I’d hardly expect to hear critical comments if
    openbox was a closed source product.

    Software can be developed both ways (open v. closed source) effectively.
    But to say that misuse of a package under one license and refusal to
    comply with said license is stifling innovation doesn’t really make much
    sense when you look at the facts, does it?

    Verizon got caught using a shortcut (someone else’s code), and simply
    has to own up to it, comply with the GPL, and all is forgiven. plain and
    simple.

    thx,
    andy burnette

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