FSMLabs License to Comply With GPL

The Free Software Foundation and FSMLabs, the company that distributes RTLinux, have reached an agreement in principle that resolves the Foundations claims that FSMLabs used a patent license to violate the GNU General Public License.

Eben Moglen, the legal counsel for the Foundation, confirmed to eWEEK on Monday that the parties have reached an agreement that, when implemented, will be in full compliance with the GPL.

This resolution comes hot on the heels of Fridays public announcement of the dispute by the Foundation, first reported by eWEEK. At issue is an FSMLabs patent for real-time interrupt handling using a software emulation layer for interrupt masking, so that interrupts can be prioritized.

The Foundation claimed on Friday that Victor Yodaiken, the CEO at FSMLabs, has used the patent to impose restricted terms on distribution of this program.

Foundation spokesman Bradley Kuhn told eWEEK on Friday that it had held "extensive discussions with Yodaiken in this regard, but that he had refused to remove the conditions of the patent that impose restrictive terms on the redistribution of the program and that are not permitted by the GPL. "As such, we had no alternative but to take the matter public," he said.

In nearly all of the cases of GPL violations, the Foundation has been able to successfully negotiate with the offender and achieve compliance with the GPL. "That was sadly not the case here," Kuhn said at that time.

But that has now changed. Moglen said the Foundations public criticism focused attention on the issue, which resulted in renewed discussions between the parties during the weekend, with an agreement in principle being reached Monday.

A spokeswoman for FSMLabs described the matter as a "misunderstanding based on the Foundations reading of an earlier version of our license," which has now been resolved.

Moglen admitted that originally the Foundation had not reviewed the license that appeared on FSBLabs Web site after January 2001, but rather reviewed an earlier version in late 2000.

"That license was not GPL-compliant, and we made specific comments to them about it at that time. The modified version of that license was subsequently posted to the FSMLabs Web site in January 2001 and, when that text is compared with the license we will soon be releasing, it will appear clear what it was they had to do to be GPL-compliant," Moglen said.

The Foundation objected to provisions that required registration and record-keeping obligations of RTLinux licensees -- both in the draft that it saw and in the January 2001 license published on FSMLabs Web site.

"Those constituted obligations for users that were incompatible with freedom under the GPL. With those clauses removed, which is what I believe you will see has happened, there are only a number of very minor additional changes required to achieve compliance," Moglen said.