Busybox Creators Sue Monsoon Over GPL Violation

Here’s the jist of things:

Busybox, the guys who make a single, small, optimized package which contains a total of 17 useful GPL tools bundled into one. From their website:

“It provides minimalist replacements for most of the utilities you usually find in bzip2, coreutils, file, findutils, gawk, grep, inetutils, modutils, net-tools, procps, sed, shadow, sysklogd, sysvinit, tar, util-linux, and vim.  The utilities in BusyBox often have fewer options than their full-featured cousins; however, the options that are included provide the expected functionality and behave very much like their larger counterparts.”


Monsoon, who makes consumer devices primarily for home multimedia users which are close in function to the SlingBox. They decided to take busybox and use it, without releasing source code as required by the GNU Public License. That’s a shame. I guess we’ll finally see the GPL proven in court in the USA for the first time.

“We licensed BusyBox under the GPL to give users the freedom to access and modify its source code,” said Erik Andersen, a developer of BusyBox and a named plaintiff in the lawsuit filed Sept. 19 in Manhattan Federal District Court. “If companies will not abide by the fair terms of our license, then we have no choice but to ask our attorneys to go to court to force them to do so.”

I the best part of the BusyBox website is the Hall of Shame where they list prior violations – a total of 18. That page is no longer updated, instead they refer violators to the Software Freedom Law Center which files suit on their behalf.

The lawsuit, “Erik Andersen and Rob Landley v. Monsoon Multimedia Inc.,” case number 07-CV-8205 (PDF), will be heard by Senior District Judge John E. Sprizzo of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

I think this image pretty much sums things up:


  • http://www.myhava.com Gary Worsham

    Dear members of the free software community:

    Monsoon Multimedia manufactures and sells through various channels a product known generically as “HAVA”, a video time and place shifting device. The hardware box itself runs the Linux operating system, the licensing of which is governed by the GNU Public License (GPL).

    Monsoon Multimedia is a small company, whose employees work hard to develop new products, develop new functionality for and fix issues in existing products to help satisfy our paying customers and corporate stakeholders. Along the way, we have unwittingly neglected to honor the terms of the GPL which requires us to obtain permission from the copyright holders of any software component for which we have modified the code in order to deliver our product. Additionally, we are obligated to publish the GPL code we have used and modified so that all others can benefit from our efforts, and up to now we have failed to do so.

    We wish at this point to apologize for this oversight, both to the copyright holders of the code which we have used and modified, and to the free software community in general. We take full responsibility for these actions. We fully endorse the concepts of free software. We are now working closely with the copyright holders to make sure that our obligations under the GPL are met in full measure.

    We are carefully reviewing the full package as not only Busybox code was affected. It’s going to be a little while longer while we pull it all together.


    Gary Worsham
    Senior Director of Program Management
    Monsoon Multimedia

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    Thanks for the comment Gary.

    Couple of quick questions:

    1. How can you take free software, redistribute it improperly – which is copyright infringement, and NOT KNOW you’re doing something wrong by ripping off completely free software?

    2. Who is responsible for all of this?

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