Will Cisco-FSF lawsuit make it to court?

Will Cisco-FSF lawsuit make it to court?

Summary: It's time for Cisco to make a decision, because every day now costs the FSF money, which will raise the cost of a final settlement. Unless it wants its contribution to the economic stimulus to come in the form of legal fees.

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TOPICS: Open Source, Cisco, Legal
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Cisco CEO John Chambers, from the Cisco Web siteUnlikely.

Since filing its GPL violation suit against Cisco last month, the Free Software Foundation has grown very quiet.

Christmas was a good excuse. New Year's too. But the holidays are over, yet still not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse.

Thus reporters have been ordered to investigate the case. They called some lawyers, even some good ones, and see trouble ahead for the FSF.

Cisco has good lawyers. Any decision, even on the FSF's terms, will then be used to limit rights under the GPL.

My guess is negotiations are continuing because neither side has a real incentive to go to court.

The language of any legal decision would likely be less clear than the clear language of the GPL 2. But if the GPL can be challenged successfully, so can every EULA out there -- including Cisco's own.

In my view the GPL 2 is one of the clearest legal documents ever written. As clear as the Constitution itself. Which has been litigated continuously since its adoption, with court decisions that often turned plain language into its opposite.

It's like the difference between writing for a paper (or a blog) and writing an academic paper.

The latter may be dry and turgid, but it is specific, nailing down what prettier words might obscure. Most litigation seems to have the goal of turning plain language into academic language.

The difference between legal writing and academic writing is that the former always has wiggle room. Decisions depend on what the meaning of is is.

My guess is neither side wants to go down that rabbit hole. Cisco wants to save face, but the FSF won't be played for a fool.

It's time for Cisco to make a decision, because every day now costs the FSF money, which will raise the cost of a final settlement. Unless it wants its contribution to the economic stimulus to come in the form of legal fees.

Topics: Open Source, Cisco, Legal

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6 comments
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  • Normal litigation delay

    Normal practice when suit is filed is that the defendant takes at least a month to answer. Often the parties agree to allow a longer time to answer. The plaintiff's lawyers had months, possibly years to prepare. The defense lawyers are jumping in "cold". They need time to discuss the case with the defendants, etc. Often 60 days to answer is common. Then the sides start exchanging documents informally, which takes another 30-60 days. Then written discovery starts. None of that is publicly filed, so it appears to outsiders that nothing is happening. To avoid stirring up trouble, the lawyers and the parties normally stop detailed discussions with the media. It can appear for 6-9 months that nothing is happening when in fact it's going on behind the scenes. Depending on the court (federal courts are more aggressive), often [b]actually[/b] very little happens for 6+ months after the answer is filed.
    Rick_R
    • That is sometimes true

      There are also cases where both sides leak like
      sieves. You're right, this is not one of those cases.
      The process could take a long time to reach trial.

      Plenty of time to settle, because Cisco seems to have
      neither facts nor the law on its side. Just the idea
      that, since there is no price tag on the software,
      there is no cost to stealing it.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • No price tag on the software...

        Not sure Cisco wants to set that precedent either, since it would mean that any copyright restrictions on items distributed gratis are meaningless (even if they're closed source). Part of the secret of the GPL's success is that its invalidation would set precedents that would hurt proprietary developers far more than it would hurt the FSF (ie. if the GPL is invalid, then so is every proprietary EULA more restrictive than the Borland license). I think that's exactly what Richard Stallman was trying to accomplish.
        John L. Ries
  • I imagine cisco will cut a deal.. seems the most logical given...

    that the FSF isnt out to make money. Their intentions are to uphold the GPL no matter who decides they dont want to particpate.

    I see them as a neutral party just asking someone to comply. I imagine cisco will comply eventually and the settlement will just be the legal fees.

    Yes it will cost cisco money to delay.. but i imagine they will do the right thing here. They probably just needed a little kick in the butt first.
    Been_Done_Before
  • Agree with the clarity comments

    Both GPLv2 and the US Constitution are extraordinarily clear pieces of legal writing and court decisions often seem to deliberately distort the latter.
    John L. Ries
  • FSF are trying Cisco on Copyright NOT GPL

    If they were trying to uphold the GPL they would be taking Cisco to court for breaches of the GPL,

    BUT THEY ARE NOT !! they dont have the confidence to test the shaky GPL in a court of law, and the GLP is not clearly written.

    The FSF dont want to take the risk, so they threaten and when the rubber hits the road, they fall back on copyright laws..

    NOT the GPL IF this gets to court it will not test the GPL, read teh FSF's submission.

    It will test copyright law, which wont be easy either because of the very large number of copyright holders for linux.

    All this will do is confirm that going the GPL way is probably not such a good idea.

    Its not even clear whether the GPL is a license or a contract, its poorly written, and the FSF KNOWS its going to be hard to get it to sail in a court of law.

    So they dont dare try it, they would rather bully and threaten, and then fall back on copyright laws.

    NOT the viral GPL, thats not really worth the pixels its written on.
    Aussie_Troll