Monsoon settles BusyBox legal dispute

Monsoon settles BusyBox legal dispute

US still waiting for first GPL case to come before a jury

Monsoon Multimedia has settled the first US lawsuit over the General Public Licence (GPL).

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) filed legal charges in September accusing the consumer electronics vendor of violating the terms of the GPL in its products.

The settlement includes an undisclosed financial payment by Monsoon Multimedia, which has also agreed to appoint a chief compliance officer to monitor and ensure future compliance with the GPL.

Monsoon Multimedia announced its intention to comply with the GPL in September, but the case has only just been legally settled.

The SFLC offers legal aid to developers and users of open source software. The group filed its legal claim on behalf of the two principal developers of the BusyBox application, a set of utilities published under the GPL.

Monsoon Multimedia distributed BusyBox with some of its consumer devices, but refused to publish its source code as required by the licence.

"We are happy to put this behind us and move forward," Monsoon Multimedia chief operating officer Graham Radstone said in a statement. "We will ensure that we are in compliance with the agreement in the future."

Commercial vendors, such as Cisco Systems, have violated the terms of the GPL by declining to publish the source code.

Most cases are blamed on a lack of oversight, for instance when a subcontractor includes GPL without the vendor's knowledge.

The open source licence has repeatedly been enforced in courts outside the US. But the Monsoon Multimedia case marked the first time that GPL developers asked a US court to enforce the licence.

The case could have provided a valuable clarification on the legal status of open source software which is currently unclear.

The SFLC argues that the GPL constitutes a copyright agreement, but a second view regards the licence as a contract.

The status of the licence is pivotal to the legal remedy for a potential violation. A copyright violation typically leads to an injunction that prevents the violating party further distributing its products.

A breach of contract, however, typically leads to monetary damages.