IRVINE, Calif. (Oct. 19, 2021) Software Freedom Conservancy announced today it has filed a lawsuit against Vizio Inc. for what it calls repeated failures to fulfill even the basic requirements of the General Public License (GPL).
The lawsuit alleges that Vizio’s TV products, built on its SmartCast system, contain software that Vizio unfairly appropriated from a community of developers who intended consumers to have very specific rights to modify, improve, share, and reinstall modified versions of the software.
According to the lawsuit, a consumer of a product such as this has the right to access the source code so that it can be modified, studied, and redistributed (under the appropriate license conditions).
According to Sandler, the organization first raised the issue of non-compliance with the GPL with Vizio in August 2018. After a year of diplomatic attempts to work with the company, it was not only still refusing to comply, but stopped responding to inquiries altogether as of January 2020.
The lawsuit suit seeks no monetary damages, but instead seeks access to the technical information (specifically, the plaintiff is asking for the technical information via “specific performance” rather than “damages”).
All companies big and small who founded their empires on free software and do business in the US will probably keep a close eye on this case. You should have no doubt bots will be out in full force arguing for corporations (under the guise of security) and against consumers.
I would like to stress this is not the state bringing action yet but a private organization, so if successful, we will all see which way the wind is blowing and a number of US states may follow, and possibly the EU if they have not done so already. California is the largest economy of the U.S. and is large enough to sway other US states on cars, foods, legal, environment, etc... (If California were a sovereign nation, it would rank as the world's fifth largest economy, ahead of India and behind Germany [source] )
The Software Freedom Conservancy provides a non-profit home and services to Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) projects.