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The FSF alleges that "in the course of distributing various products under the Linksys brand, Cisco has violated the licenses of many programs on which the FSF holds copyright, including GCC, binutils, and the GNU C Library." Cisco has denied its users their right to share and modify the software as a result, the FSF adds.
FSF Licensing Compliance Engineer Brett Smith writing in his blog said the FSF in 2003 learned that the Linksys WRT54G wireless router used a GNU/Linux system in its firmware, "but customers weren't receiving all the source code they were entitled to under our licenses."
Smith adds that the FSF began working with Cisco in 2003 to help the company establish a process for complying with FSF's software licenses. It also emerged that other Cisco products were not in full compliance either, according to Smith, who described the FSF's five-year effort to get Cisco compliant as a "running game of Whack-a-Mole."
Cisco has refused to "notify customers about previous violations and inform them about how they can now obtain complete source code," Smith claims. "The FSF has put in too many hours helping the company fix the numerous mistakes it's made over the years. Cisco needs to take responsibility for its own license compliance," he adds.
The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by the Software Freedom Law Center, which is providing representation to the FSF in this case. A copy of the complaint is available on the FSF Web site.
In a statement, Cisco says: "Cisco is a strong supporter of open source software. Cisco takes its open source software obligations and responsibilities seriously and is disappointed that a suit has been filed by the Free Software Foundation related to our work with them in our Linksys Division. We are currently reviewing the issues raised in the suit, but believe we are substantially in compliance. We have always worked very closely with the FSF and hope to reach a resolution agreeable to the company and the foundation."
The suit came just days after the blogosphere debated whether Cisco is an open-source leech or an open-source champion.
Read more about security in Network World's Security section.