Cisco, the most famous manufacturer of enterprise and consumer networking devices, has been known to use source code from open-source projects like Linux and other related software to run on their hardware. Using free software for commercial gain is not against the law. What is against the law is ignoring the GPL (GNU Public License) which states that you must publish any changes or modifications you make to the source code if you’re going to continue using it for commercial purposes. In other words, you can’t take code that is more or less owned by the public, modify it, and then lock those modifications away from public sight and say that the code is now your own unique, proprietary creation. Cisco has been accused of doing this since 2004, but now the Free Software Foundation has had enough. The FSF has never sought any sort of royalties or money from Cisco for using open-source software (it would be impossible to do that). What they want is for them to abide by the GPL and keep their source code public.
You can read a little more about Cisco’s incompetent and/or deliberately obstructive behavior here.
Wednesday, December 17th, 2008