From 2007 through 2010 a series of highly-publicized lawsuits were filed against manufacturers, retailers, and distributors of electronic devices that were said to use BusyBox, a popular open source utility, without complying with the terms of the GNU General Public License (“GPL”), the open source license governing BusyBox’s distribution (For more information concerning the BusyBox cases, please follow this link). Several of those lawsuits were settled for undisclosed financial terms and an agreement to comply with the terms of the GPL.
The BusyBox cases were brought by the Software Freedom Law Center working in concert with the Software Freedom Conservancy (“SFC”), a non-profit organization that hosts and supports various open source projects, including BusyBox. In late May, the SFC announced that it would begin similar enforcement efforts on behalf of the Samba project, a popular open source project licensed under the GPL that enables cross-platform file and printing services.
Commercial users of third party software, open source or otherwise, should always strive to ensure that they have measures in place to comply with their license obligations. Commercial users of Samba (or BusyBox, or any other SFC-hosted project -- a complete list can be found here) may want to review their internal measures to ensure full compliance with the GPL. Addressing this issue now may save you the effort of addressing it when a customer, distributor, or potential acquirer asks about it.
This post on Compliance was authored by Robert Blasi.