MANHATTAN (CN) – Open-source software developers convinced a federal judge to impose sanctions on Westinghouse Digital LLC for failing to respect their copyright.
In 1999, programmer Erik Andersen developed software and contributed it to an open-source computer program known as BusyBox, which operates under a GNU public license.
“Our general public licenses are designed to make sure that you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for this service if you wish), that you receive source code or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs; and that you know you can do these things,” the license states (parentheses in original).
About a decade later, he and the Software Freedom Conservancy filed an action for copyright infringement against 14 companies, including Westinghouse Digital Electronics, Best Buy and Samsung, for allegedly distributing BusyBox code in products such as cameras, high-definition televisions and wireless routers.
During the course of the trial, Westinghouse stopped participating in discovery and told the court that it would not litigate because it sold all of its assets to Credit Management Association under California law.
In April 2010, Westinghouse Digital Electronics bought back the assets needed to reopen its business.
Months later, Andersen and Software Freedom Conservancy moved for, and won, a default judgment.
Westinghouse Digital LLC, which was not a party to that action, came under fire when it reposted the BusyBox code on its website. Andersen and the Software Freedom Conservancy asked the court for sanctions.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin demanded that Westinghouse Digital LLC pay for “lost profits” and attorneys’ fees. In a footnote about the lost profits award, she explains that BusyBox is an open-source computer program without a profit-making mission.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article misstated the definition of open-source software. Courthouse News regrets the error.