First US GPL lawsuit to be settled out of court

By on September 25, 2007, 3:24 PM
Last week, on behalf of two BusyBox developers, the Software Freedom Law Center filed a suit against Monsoon Multimedia over alleged violations of the GPL, marking the first time a suit was ever filed in the US to enforce the GNU General Public License.

Monsoon Multimedia, a maker of consumer multimedia devices, modified the BusyBox software for use in its products but did not publish the modified source code. BusyBox claims that even after repeated requests, Monsoon Multimedia refused to honor the conditions of the GPLv2 license. However, a few days after the news spread, Monsoon Multimedia has issued a statement saying that it is in talks with BusyBox to resolve the issue, and intends to fully comply with the licensing requirements within the next couple of weeks.

While the case may never make it to court, it is being closely watched as a test of the legal strength of GPLv2. The debate on whether GPLv2 is a license or a contract has intensified recently. A court decision for one or the other would have widespread legal implications. Judges award monetary damages for breach of contract, but do not always issue an injunction preventing the continued distribution of the code. Copyright infringement claims, on the other hand, almost always entitles the plaintiff to damages and an injunction.

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