Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Ruling in Vizio Lawsuit May Strengthen the GPL

Luis Villa (via Hacker News):

In October of 2021 the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) decided to launch what is believed to be the first significant open source lawsuit based in contract rather than in copyright. Critically, the SFC’s case argued that anyone who benefits from the General Public License (GPL), not just the authors of the software, should be able to bring a lawsuit to enforce the terms of the GPL.

This case was brought in Orange County, California against Vizio, a large TV manufacturer. Like most TVs these days, Vizio TVs include Linux and a lot of other open source software that is under the GPL. The GPL says that buyers of those TVs should be able to get copies of that source code, so SFC walked into a store in Orange County, bought a TV, and requested copies of the source code. Vizio did not comply with the request, and so SFC brought suit.


The short version is that, by asking for specific performance (a contract remedy) rather than financial penalties (a copyright remedy), and by claiming violations of rights granted by the contract (the license) rather than rights granted by copyright, the federal court found that this was a contract case and not a copyright case.)


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