Free Software Foundation takes on Cisco

The Free Software Foundation has just announced that it is to take legal action against networking giant Cisco over alleged copyright infringement. The FSF allege that Cisco have taken software available to all under the GPL licence, made some changes, and then distributed the modified code as part of their Linksys range of products. The allegation is that in this process of distribution Cisco has not released the source code of the various modifications, a potential breach of the GPL licence conditions.

Peter Brown, executive director of the FSF said: “In the fifteen years we’ve spent enforcing our licenses, we’ve never gone to court before. We have always managed to get the companies we have worked with to take their obligations seriously. But at the end of the day, we’re also willing to take the legal action necessary to ensure users have the rights that our licenses guarantee”.

Readers of this blog may recall that I interviewed Richard Stallman, the president of FSF, a few months ago. In the interview he made his views abundantly clear as to how important the right to view modified code and make further changes is to a user’s freedoms. Anyone should be able to make use of software released under GPL and modify it as they see fit, but they must respect the provisions made under the licence and release the modifications back to the general public.

Given the FSF’s views on this, the size of the company they are taking on and the fact that they have never resorted to the courts before, things could get pretty interesting down at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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One Response to “Free Software Foundation takes on Cisco”

  1. Raza Rizvi Says:

    Interestingly of course this will rather tarnish Cisco’s plan to morph the Linksys brand into the lower end of it’s Cisco badged product offerings (i.e. below the Express range of products) in CY2009.

    Some of this activity no doubt occurred before Cisco bought Linksys and I should think there are warranties in place on the original shareholders against subsequent lawsuits over intellectual property (as there would be for tax liabilities).

    Interesting times indeed.

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