Cisco makes peace with Free Software Foundation

Last December, the Free Software Foundation sued Cisco for copyright infringement. Some people saw this battle being like a moth tackling a light-bulb-a total no win situation for the moth. But, a few months later, what do we find? Cisco is making friends with the free software instead of burning it to a crisp.

According to today's Free Software Foundation's press release, "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"

In addition, "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. … 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."

In a statement, Peter Brown, Executive Director of the FSF, said, "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. Our agreement results in making all of the relevant source code available in the fastest way possible."

So much for the delusions that some people have over the differences between 'free as in beer' software and open source and that the GPL isn't any good anymore.

The successful resolution of this case shows me that smart businesses can easily work with open-source code for the benefit of the companies, their customers, and the open-source community. Microsoft, which just ended up ticking off people with its TomTom lawsuit and now has people tracking down the evidence needed to blast away some of its patent portfolio should pay attention. Cisco's showing that there's a better way to handle open-source related IP (intellectual property) problems.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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