GPL Experts Heat Up over Wasabis SarbOx Warning

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2006-03-08 Print this article Print

The Software Freedom Law Center says worries over whether the GPL violates the Sarbanes-Oxley Act have been fraught with "false information." (Linux-Watch)

You may never have even considered how the popular GPL open-source license might interact with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, but embedded systems seller Wasabi Systems claims that Sarbanes-Oxley has made "GPL violations a federal crime." SarbOx (Sarbanes-Oxley) is a set of federal laws that spell out the financial disclosure and fiscal responsibilities of a companys executives. Its designed to prevent the kind of white-collar looting that first pumped up, and then killed, companies like Enron and WorldCom.
Click here to read more about legal questions raised by GPL 3.
The SFLC (Software Freedom Law Center) disagrees with Wasabis assessment. Eben Moglen, the centers chair and a leading open-source lawyer, said the recent discussions regarding the GPL and SarbOx pushed the group into issuing its own whitepaper, since discussions of the matter "have been wrought with false information." "The idea that a GPL violation could result in jail time is unreasonable. You take away this unlikely threat, and the argument is reduced only to compliance, and GPL compliance is remarkably simpler than that of alternative licenses," Karen Sandler, an attorney at the Software Freedom Law Center, said in a statement. So, under SarbOx could someone who violates the GPL be liable for a federal crime and jail time? Or, is this just "FUD" from a company that supports BSD and the BSD license over what it calls "Linuxs troublesome GPL License?" Lawyers disagree on the matter. Read the full story on Linux-Watch: Will violating the GPL get you in deep SOX? Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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