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12/18/2007
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Open Source Developers Settle GPL Lawsuit

Networking device manufacturer Xterasys agreed to pay developers an undisclosed sum and comply with the terms of the GNU General Public License.

A pair of software developers have reached a court settlement with a tech vendor they claim violated the terms of the open source licensing agreement.

The vendor, networking device manufacturer Xterasys, agreed to pay developers Erik Andersen and Rob Landley an undisclosed sum.

Xterasys also agreed to comply with the product's license terms and appoint an internal "open source compliance officer," according to a statement issued Monday by the Software Freedom Law Center, an advocacy group that filed the case on behalf of the developers.

Andersen and Landley are the developers of an open source software product called BusyBox, which is licensed under the GNU General Public License. The GPL requires vendors who use open source software licensed under it to make the software's source code available to end users or customers.

In their lawsuit, Andersen and Landley claimed that Xterasys used BusyBox -- a set of tools that allows software to operate in resource-constrained environments -- in its products, but failed to make the source code available.

The settlement is significant because many commercial users of open source software are hesitant to distribute source code to customers out of concerns they might tamper with the security or copyright protection features in their products. DVR maker TiVo, for instance, earlier this year stated that it may discontinue use of open source software due to such concerns.

The Software Freedom Law Center has filed three other lawsuits on behalf of Andersen and Landley claiming improper use of BusyBox. One was settled, while the other two remain pending.

The most recent action is seen as a possible test case for the GPL as it was filed against telecom company Verizon. Andersen and Landley claim that Verizon is using BusyBox in its FiOS broadband router without making the source code available to customers.

Verizon has yet to file a formal response to the complaint.

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