Erik Anderson developed certain software that he contributed to BusyBox, a compact set of embedded Linux utilities licensed under the GNU General Public License, Version 2 (the “GPL”). In October 2008, Anderson registered a copyright on the code that he contributed.
On September 2, 2009, Anderson’s counsel notified Westinghouse that it was infringing Anderson’s copyright because it was distributing BusyBox – both integrated into Westinghouse televisions and separately with other software – on terms that are more restrictive than the GPL. Westinghouse continued infringing Anderson’s copyright.
Anderson and the Software Freedom Conservancy brought suit against Westinghouse and 13 other defendants on December 14, 2009. Westinghouse initially mounted a defense, but stopped participating in the suit when it filed for bankruptcy.
I recently answered a LinkedIn question about whether providing Software as a Service (SaaS) is considered a “distribution” under the open-source GNU General Public License. The question and answer (no longer available on LinkedIn) are reproduced, in slightly edited form, below.
Q. Is hosting a software as a SaaS offering considered as “distribution” under GPL / LGPL open source licenses?
A. I believe that SaaS hosting is not intended to be considered distribution.
In my opinion, this is a must read for anyone who is preparing or distributing software that is governed by the GPL.
This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.