I wasn’t planning on commenting on the latest law suits on behalf of the busybox maintainers and brought as part of the SFLC’s ongoing GPL license compliance work. There have been a handful of such suits recently, in particular for busybox but for other projects besides. Most of them simply aren’t that big a deal, usually taken care of quietly and out of court. Bradley Kuhn has even been sharing some excellent posts on just what is involved in this sort of compliance work on his personal blog.
I also know that Fab and Dan of the Linux Outlaws have an episode in the pipe where they chat with Bradley specifically about these new cases. I really wanted to wait until I got a chance to hear this, for Bradley to better explain the motivation and particulars in his own words.
However, I also saw this letter from Bruce Perens on Slashdot today. Bruce contends he still has considerable copyright interests in busybox from his earlier contributions and that the SFLC suit doesn’t represent his interests as such. He does seem to want to see the companies in question come into compliance but explains how he’d rather do so via issuing a waiver for the time being and working, if I am reading this right for a consulting fee, to fix any failings to correctly observe copyleft.
The letter is simple but there clearly seems to be some tension between Perens and the current maintainers. I don’t know what, if any, history he has with the SFLC. Read his letter for yourself, see what you think.
I quick perusal of the busybox web site doesn’t reveal any contributor’s agreement or anything that would indicate that the copyright interests of developers who submit patches is assigned to the project. So it is at least credible on the surface that Perens has a legitimate beef. It also reinforces that merely choosing a license is not enough when it comes to running a free software or open source project. I hope to have Bradley on my podcast soon to discuss this very topic, among others, that is what developers should know and do beyond the initial license choice.