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Free software defenders file suit against Monsoon Media over Linux

In the first case in the U.S. over alleged General Public License violations, the Software Freedom Law Center sues over copyright infringement.

The Software Freedom Law Center said Thursday that it has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against a consumer electronics company, Monsoon Multimedia, for allegedly violating the license that governs the use of the Linux operating system.

This is the first case filed in the United States against a company for allegedly not complying with the terms of the General Public License (GPL) version 2, according to the SFLC, which provides legal representation for free software projects. The GPL is used by Linux and countless other free and open-source software programs.

The suit was filed on behalf of the creators of BusyBox, a set of Unix utilities used in embedded systems and licensed under the GPL version 2. (Click here to see a PDF of the complaint.)

Under the terms of the GPL version 2, people can use GPL software within their own products. But when they redistribute that software, they must make the source code available.

A request to see the source code used by Monsoon Multimedia came up in a discussion forum, but a request sent by the SFLC to the firm was not answered, according to an SFLC representative.

Representatives from Monsoon Multimedia, which makes digital consumer devices for viewing video on the PC or TV, did not comment on the suit on Thursday.

The plaintiffs in the case are Erik Andersen and Rob Landley, who hold the copyright to the BusyBox software. They are seeking damages and an injunction.

The Free Software Foundation has made many efforts over the years to enforce the license, but typically has taken a much lower-key approach. A programmer in Germany, Harald Welte, has been more aggressive, though, in a case that was settled.

Linux is widely used inside consumer electronics devices, such as the digital video recorder TiVo and those that Monsoon Multimedia makes.