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Cisco Settles With The Free Software Foundation

Posted on | May 21, 2009 | No Comments

Brett Smith, licensing engineer for the FSF writes:

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Wednesday, May 20, 2009 -- The Free Software Foundation (FSF) and Cisco Systems, Inc. are pleased to announce that they have reached a joint agreement. Under the agreement, the FSF has agreed to dismiss its lawsuit against Cisco.

Cisco has agreed to appoint a Free Software Director for Linksys, a subsidiary of Cisco, to supervise Linksys' compliance with the requirements of free software licenses such as the GPL (the GNU General Public License). The Free Software Director will report periodically to the FSF regarding Linksys' compliance efforts. Cisco has further agreed to take certain steps to notify previous recipients of Linksys products containing FSF programs of their rights under the GPL and other applicable licenses, to publish a licensing notice on the Linksys website, and to provide additional notices in a separate publication. In addition, Cisco will continue to make the complete and corresponding source code for versions of FSF programs used with current Linksys products freely available on its website. Cisco will also make a monetary contribution to the FSF. The parties recognize Cisco's ongoing obligations under the GPL and other free software licenses. The FSF will continue to independently monitor Linksys' compliance with these licenses, and work with Linksys to resolve any new issues that may arise. "We are glad that Cisco has affirmed its commitment to the free software community by implementing additional measures within its compliance program and dedicating appropriate resources to them, further reassuring the users' freedoms under the GPL," said Peter Brown, Executive Director of the FSF. "Our agreement results in making all of the relevant source code available in the fastest way possible." ### About the FSF The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at fsf.org and gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at <http://donate.fsf.org>. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA. ### Media Contacts Brett Smith Licensing Compliance Engineer Free Software Foundation +1 (617) 542 5942 x18 <brett@fsf.org> ###

The FSF fell under some criticism after filing this law suit, many critics cited that the suit would alienate a very big ally (Cisco). What many people fail to remember is that the FSF is the custodian of not only the GPL, but also the copyright of thousands of people who released programs under the GPL.

A failure to act, after years of complaints would have not only diminished the worth and purpose of the FSF in the eyes of its community, it would have potentially alienated key developers within that community.

As I noted before, this is the first time (ever) that the FSF has had to assert its license and copyright in the form of a suit .. thankfully, it was settled out of court.

Note – Cisco inherited this headache when they purchased Linksys. Prevention in matters such as software licensing is always better than a cure.

The FSF’s press release can be found here.

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