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FSF files GPL infringement suit against Cisco

By   |  December 12, 2008

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Cisco. The FSF’s complaint alleges that in the course of distributing various products under the Linksys brand Cisco had violated the licences of many programs on which the FSF holds copyright, including GCC, binutils, and the GNU C Library. In doing so, Cisco has denied its users their right to share and modify the software.

Most of these programs are licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), and the rest are under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). Both these licenses encourage everyone, including companies such as Cisco, to modify the software as they see fit and then share it with others, under certain conditions.

One of those conditions says that anyone who redistributes the software must also provide their recipients with the source code to that program. The FSF has documented many instances where Cisco has distributed licensed software but failed to provide its customers with the corresponding
source code.

“Our licences are designed to ensure that everyone who uses the software can change it,” said Richard Stallman, president and founder of the FSF. “In order to exercise that right, people need the source code, and that’s why our licences require distributors to provide it. We are enforcing our licences to protect the rights that everyone should have with all software: to use it, share it, and modify it as they see fit.”

“We began working with Cisco in 2003 to help them establish a process for complying with our software licences, and the initial changes were very promising,” explained Brett Smith, licensing compliance engineer at the FSF. “Unfortunately, they never put in the effort that was necessary to finish the process, and now five years later we have still not seen a plan for compliance. As a result, we believe that legal action is the best way to restore the rights we grant to all
users of our software.”

“Free software developers entrust their copyrights to the FSF so we can make sure that their work is always redistributed in ways that respect user freedom,” said Peter Brown, executive director of the FSF. “In the fifteen years we’ve spent enforcing our licences, 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 licences guarantee.”

A copy of the complaint is available at


3 Responses to “FSF files GPL infringement suit against Cisco”

  1. FSF files GPL infringement suit against Cisco - Tectonic « Computer Software Online
    December 12th, 2008 @ 9:50 am

    […] in Computer Software Online Articles at 6:05 am by computersoftwareonline FSF files GPL infringement suit against Cisco – TectonicThe Free Software Foundation (FSF) has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Cisco. The […]

  2. Mike
    December 12th, 2008 @ 7:54 pm

    If anyone, a private individual or corporation modify and/or redistribute GPL’ed software, they have a responsibility to supply the source code! This fact is known by Cisco, but they want to confuse “free software” with public domain software. But GNU and associated programs are licensed and come with certain conditions upon it’s distribution.

    How hard would it be to post the source code? An hour, perhaps two? Cisco doesn’t have to include the code in the device itself, just a link to it on their web site. It seems that Cisco believed that the programs were beneficial to their product. I suppose they though they could simply modify the code slightly, and re license it, and nobody would be able to tell they are using GNU software!

    I feel violated as a GNU and free software user, that Cisco would usurp my right to have the source code. I have a linksys product, and I would want to think I could compile my own version of those programs, and make my product work my way. I fully support the Free Software Foundation in this important effort to secure our freedoms, and make sure they stay free!

  3. Roman Szabados
    December 13th, 2008 @ 3:07 am

    You are right Mike.


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