A small legality in an open source lawsuit keeps us breathless

The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) tells us that a lawsuit of theirs against TV maker Vizio was remanded (sent back) from US Federal Court to its original California court. Yawn!? Absolutely not! What is important here is why the lawsuit was sent back. The federal court agreed with the SFC that the problem at hand (Vizio not complying with the licenses of the Linux kernel in its products) is not a copyright issue but a contract issue. The contract here is between a buyer of a Vizio TV and Vizio the company.

If the SFC get its way, every Vizio customer has a right to demand license compliance, not just the original copyright holders of the code whose licenses were not complied with. In this case, Vizio would have to provide (most) of the source code for its TV sets. This is in line with a growing sentiment of customers to have a right-to-repair whatever they bought.

If you are a vendor, I urge you to ensure your products are open source license compliant, or you might get sued by your customers, not just an open source programmer whose licenses you might not be observing. Golden times ahead, if you are a member of the legal profession.


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