Software Freedom Law Center

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Software Freedom Law Center
Key people
Chairman: Eben Moglen

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) is an organization that provides pro bono legal representation and related services to not-for-profit developers of free software/open source software. It was launched in February 2005 with Eben Moglen as chairman. Initial funding of US$4 million was pledged by Open Source Development Labs.

A news article stated:

Moglen expects — in fact, plans for — a large turnover in the staff. After five years, he anticipates 20 to 30 lawyers will have passed through the Center. By the time these alumni move on, Moglen hopes that its members will have the expertise to advise both communities and corporations alike. It will also create a loose association whose members can consult with each other as necessary.[1]

GPL version 3[edit]

SFLC represented and advised the Free Software Foundation, one of its principal clients, throughout the process of drafting and public discussion of version 3 of the GNU General Public License (GPLv3) during 2005–2007. Along with FSF president Richard M. Stallman, SFLC director Eben Moglen and then-SFLC counsel Richard Fontana were principal authors of GPLv3, LGPLv3, and the GNU Affero General Public License.[2][3][4]

BusyBox litigation[edit]

During 2007 and 2008, SFLC filed a series of copyright infringement lawsuits against various defendants, on behalf of Erik Andersen and Rob Landley, the principal developers of BusyBox. These lawsuits claimed violations of version 2 of the GNU General Public License (GPLv2).

On September 20, 2007, SFLC filed a lawsuit against Monsoon Multimedia, Inc.[5] alleging that Monsoon had violated GPLv2 by including BusyBox code in their Monsoon Multimedia HAVA line of products [6] without releasing BusyBox source code. This is believed to be the first U.S. court case in which the complaint concerned a GPL violation.[7] On October 30, 2007, an SFLC press release announced that the lawsuit had been settled with Monsoon agreeing to comply with the GPL and pay a sum of money to the plaintiffs.[8]

On November 20, 2007, SFLC filed a lawsuit against Xterasys Corporation and High-Gain Antennas, LLC.[9] On December 17, 2007, SFLC announced a settlement with Xterasys; the company agreed to stop product shipments until it published complete source code for the GPL code and to pay an undisclosed sum to the plaintiffs.[10] The suit against High-Gain Antennas was settled on March 6, 2008, with the company agreeing to comply with GPL and paying an undisclosed sum to the plaintiffs.[11]

On December 7, 2007 SFLC filed a lawsuit against Verizon Communications, Inc.[12] alleging that Verizon had violated GPLv2 by distributing BusyBox in the Actiontec MI424WR MoCA wireless routers bundled with the FiOS fiber optic bandwidth service, without providing corresponding source code. A settlement announced on March 17, 2008, included an agreement to comply with the GPL and an undisclosed sum paid to the plaintiffs.[13]

On June 10, 2008, SFLC announced the filing of lawsuits against Bell Microproducts, Inc. and Super Micro Computer, Inc.[14]

On December 14, 2009, SFLC announced the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of its clients, Software Freedom Conservancy and Erik Andersen, against 14 companies, including Best Buy, Samsung, and Westinghouse alleging these companies had violated GPLv2 by distributing BusyBox in some of their products without releasing BusyBox source code.[15][16] For instance, Samsung released its LN52A650 TV firmware in 2010,[17][18][19] which was used later as the base for the community SamyGO project.

By 21 September 2013, all of the defendant companies had agreed on settlement terms with the plaintiffs, except for Westinghouse, against whom default judgment was entered.[20]

Cisco lawsuit[edit]

On December 11, 2008, SFLC announced the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of its client, the Free Software Foundation, against Cisco Systems, Inc.[21] This lawsuit was the first suit ever initiated by the Free Software Foundation,.[22] On May 20, 2009, the parties announced a settlement.


As of May 2020, SFLC's staff included:[23]

  • Eben Moglen, President and Executive Director
  • Mishi Choudhary, Legal Director
  • Tanisha Madrid-Batista, Chief Operating Officer
  • Daniel Gnoutcheff, Systems Administrator


As of May 2020, SFLC's directors were:[23]

Former staff[edit]

  • Richard Fontana, Counsel
  • Jim Garrison, Public Relations Coordinator
  • Bradley M. Kuhn, Policy Analyst and Technology Director
  • Matt Norwood, Counsel
  • Jonathan D. Bean, Counsel
  • Daniel J. Byrnes, Counsel
  • Albert Cahn, Counsel
  • Daniel B. Ravicher, Legal Director
  • Karen M. Sandler, General Counsel
  • James Vasile, Counsel
  • Rachel A. Wiener, Office Manager
  • Justin C. Colannino,[24][25] Counsel
  • Aaron Williamson, Counsel
  • Marc Jones, Counsel



  1. ^ "NewsForge | Moglen plans "general counsel's office for the entire movement"". Archived from the original on 2006-11-14. Retrieved 2006-11-14.
  2. ^ SFLC Provides Ongoing GPLv3 Legal Support to FSF
  3. ^ "And Now … Life After GPLv3" (Freedom Now)
  4. ^ Richard Fontana
  5. ^ SFLC notice on the lawsuit filed against Monsoon Multimedia, Inc.
  6. ^ LinuxWatch: "The device behind the GPL's first U.S. legal test". Archived from the original on 2013-01-28.
  7. ^ LinuxWatch: First U.S. GPL lawsuit filed[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ BusyBox Developers and Monsoon Multimedia Agree to Dismiss GPL Lawsuit
  9. ^ Second Round of GPL Infringement Lawsuits Filed on Behalf of BusyBox Developers
  10. ^ BusyBox Developers and Xterasys Corporation Agree to Settle GPL Lawsuit
  11. ^ BusyBox Developers and High-Gain Antennas Agree to Dismiss GPL Lawsuit
  12. ^ BusyBox Developers File GPL Infringement Lawsuit Against Verizon Communications
  13. ^ BusyBox Developers Agree To End GPL Lawsuit Against Verizon
  14. ^ SFLC Files Another Round of GPL Violation Lawsuits on Behalf of BusyBox Developers
  15. ^ GPLv2 copyright suit targets 14 firms on by Eric Brown (Dec 14, 2009)
  16. ^ Best Buy, Samsung, Westinghouse, And Eleven Other Brands Named In SFLC Lawsuit on
  17. ^ Visual Display - Open Source on "Please download the links below We use GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1, not GPLv3 and LGPLv3. Open Source License Notice License Agreement" (archived 2010)
  18. ^ Samsung-Ln52b630 manual
  19. ^ The Software Freedom Conservancy, Inc. & Mr. Erik Andersen vs BestBuy, Samung, Westinghouse, JVC, Western Digital, Bosch, Phoebe Micro, Humax, ... (New York, 2009)
  20. ^ "Docket for Software Freedom Conservancy, Inc. v. Best Buy Co., Inc". CourtListener. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  21. ^ SFLC Files Lawsuit against Cisco on Behalf of the FSF
  22. ^ Free Software Foundation Files Suit Against Cisco For GPL Violations
  23. ^ a b "Team". Software Freedom Law Center. Retrieved 2014-04-27.
  24. ^ Ropes and Gray (2012-11-12). "Justin C. Colannino, Ropes and Gray". Ropes and Gray. Archived from the original on 2013-02-01. Retrieved 2012-11-22.
  25. ^ O'Reilly and Associates (2012-07-19). "Justin Colannino, Associate, Ropes and Gray, LLP". O'Reilly and Associates. Retrieved 2012-11-22.

External links[edit]