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Skype, the GPL and the courts

As many of you may have heard, Skype today dropped an appeal of their GPL violations case, accepting a lower court decision that they had violated the GPL (the details of the case are available here).

What I don’t understand is that, after the Linksys/Broadcom fiasco, how could anyone think that it was OK to ship a Linux-based device without making the source available.    I fully recognize that sub-contractors may put companies in a difficult position by doing things that are not entirely in compliance with licenses, but still, you would think companies would pay more attention.

Of course, the reality is that everything is lax until something happens.   We have done several large engagements in the last few years where enormous amounts of time was spent search the entire codebase for open source so that it could be documented and appropriately managed.   Most of the time, it was because of a shocking lack of control over incoming code and a failure to properly tag sources of code.  Not evil, mind you, just sloppy.

Such sloppiness can be particularly dangerous when it comes to consumer products, as by the time there are hunderds of thousands of devices in the field, it is impossible to do any sort of remediation work.

Open source licenses are not impossible to work with in a commercial environment, but they do require more care and attention.   A nifty side effect of this is that they enforce good coding and code management practices, something everyone needs and should be happy to have.