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1/10/2008
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Palamida Exec Chides Verizon For Not Responding On GPL Suit

The Verizon suit is the third filed by the Software Freedom Law Center to uphold the terms of the General Public License.

The Software Freedom Law Center filed suit against Verizon Communications in a bid to uphold the terms of the General Public License. A month later, Mark Tolliver, CEO of Palamida, said Verizon's ongoing silence is the wrong response.

"I'm a little surprised by it, to tell you the truth," Tolliver said in a recent interview. Palamida is a supplier of risk management software for managing an enterprise's software assets. Its auditing system scans code and identifies its origins, from open source projects or other known sources.

"Usually these issues can be resolved before pretty promptly," he added. But Verizon had no response to the center when it sent a letter notifying Verizon of a violation, and it's had no response since the center filed a suit Dec. 7 in federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The case is similar to two previous suits by the center against violators of the GPL. It sued Monsoon Multimedia and Xterasys for making use of BusyBox code issued under the GPL without making that code, and its modifications, available to their customers. The suit was filed on behalf of two individual developers of BusyBox, Erik Andersen and Rob Landley.

In confronting Verizon, however, the center has taken on a larger corporate target than any tackled heretofore. Verizon is a publicly traded company, and Tolliver says it now faces the obligation of notifying its shareholders of the legal action against it, along with warning them that the software in a router that it distributes as part of its high profile, FiOS Internet service may be in violation of a software license.

The router is supplied by a third party, Actiontec, and Tolliver speculates that Verizon may believe it's covered by Actiontec's making BusyBox code available for download on its Web site. But in the case of the FiOS Internet service, Verizon is the distributor of the code, making them subject to the provisions of the GPL, Tolliver noted.

"I don't know whether it's a case of a letter going to some executive's desk and getting lost there," or a lack of familiarity with the terms of free software, Tolliver said. Software comes into an enterprise as large as Verizon "from many different channels," he added.

He thinks Verizon is less an example of willful license violation than the fact that "the current software supply chain has outstripped existing business processes."

Verizon spokesmen did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

"They've OEMed a piece of equipment from another company [Actiontec] and that company has acknowledged it has GPL code in it. Verizon failed to carry those [GPL] obligations into their product line," said Tolliver.

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