Compliance Is The Goal
May 20, 2009
We just announced that we've settled the lawsuit [ http://www.fsf.org/news/2009-05-cisco-settlement.html ] we filed against Cisco a few months ago. (See this previous blog post [ http://www.fsf.org/blogs/licensing/2008-12-cisco-complaint ] for more information about that.) The press release explains the terms we've agreed to, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about what people can draw from this.
Whenever we talk about the work we do to handle violations, we say over and over again that getting compliance with the licenses is always our top priority. The reason this is so important is not only because it provides a goal for us to reach, but also because it gives us a clear guide to choosing our tactics. This is the first time we've had to go to court over a license violation. Before it gets to this point, we always try to work cooperatively with a violator: companies come into compliance faster that way. And when the violator admits that there's been a mistake and demonstrates they want to fix it, we take it as a sign that we can cooperative productively, instead of an opportunity to pounce.
Ideally, we'd prefer to simply not see license violations. That's why the Compliance Lab puts so much effort into educating people about the license, through all sorts of channels like publishing the FAQ [ http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl-faq.html ] and answering questions over e-mail. But if we can't have that, the next best thing would be to have violators cooperate with us to address whatever issues arise. It has been done, and the reason it's possible is because our goals are not opposed to other peoples': we're not out to wreck businesses or make lots of money. We just want compliance. And any company selling free software shouldn't have any problem providing that.
If your company has questions or needs consultation on any free software licensing issues, do what more and more companies are doing: contact the FSF Compliance Lab [ http://www.fsf.org/licensing/contact ]. We'll be happy to help you work towards good compliance practices.