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Software Freedom Conservancy right-to-repair lawsuit against California TV manufacturer Vizio, Inc. remanded to California State Court

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Software Freedom Conservancy announces it has succeeded in federal court with its motion to have its lawsuit against Vizio, Inc. remanded back to Superior Court in Orange County, California. Vizio, Inc. previously filed a request to “remove” the case from California State Court into U.S. Federal Court.

The May 13 ruling by the Honorable Josephine L. Staton stated that the claim from Software Freedom Conservancy succeeded in the “extra element test” and was not preempted by copyright claims, and the court finds “that the enforcement of ‘an additional contractual promise separate and distinct from any rights provided by the copyright laws’ amounts to an ‘extra element,’ and therefore, SFC's claims are not preempted.“

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Also: SFC v. Vizio remanded back to California state courts

SJVN

  • Software Freedom Conservancy wins big step forward for open-source rights | ZDNet

    The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), a non-profit organization that promotes open-source software and defends the free software General Public License (GPL), recently sued major TV vendor Vizio for abusing the GPL with its Linux-based SmartCast OS. Vizio replied that the SFC had no right to ask for the source code. On May 13, however, the SFC succeeded in federal court with its motion to have its lawsuit against Vizio remanded back to Superior Court in Orange County, CA.

    Doesn't sound like that big a deal? Think again. The important part of the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton stated that SFC's claim "that the [GPLv2] enforcement of 'an additional contractual promise separate and distinct from any rights provided by the copyright laws' amounts to an 'extra element,' and therefore, SFC's claims are not preempted."

GPL legal battle: Vizio told by judge it will have to answer...

  • GPL legal battle: Vizio told by judge it will have to answer breach-of-contract claims

    The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) has won a significant legal victory in its ongoing effort to force Vizio to publish the source code of its SmartCast TV software, which is said to contain GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 copyleft-licensed components.

    SFC sued Vizio, claiming it was in breach of contract by failing to obey the terms of the GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 licenses that require source code to be made public when certain conditions are met, and sought declaratory relief on behalf of Vizio TV owners. SFC wanted its breach-of-contract arguments to be heard by the Orange County Superior Court in California, though Vizio kicked the matter up to the district court level in central California where it hoped to avoid the contract issue and defend its corner using just federal copyright law.

    On Friday, Federal District Judge Josephine Staton sided with SFC and granted its motion to send its lawsuit back to superior court. To do so, Judge Staton had to decide whether or not the federal Copyright Act preempted the SFC's breach-of-contract allegations; in the end, she decided it didn't.

    "Vizio 'removed' the case to federal court by claiming that the GPL operates as only a copyright license, and never as a contract," said Bradley Kuhn, policy fellow at the Software Freedom Conservancy, in an email to The Register. "We have countered that it operates as both, and that the source code provision specifically gives third parties (ie, downstream users) a contractual right to demand complete, corresponding source code (as defined in the GPL)."

New Jurisdictional Ruling in Vizio Case

  • New Jurisdictional Ruling in Vizio Case

    For more about the initial complaint see my previous post. In brief, SFC had sued Vizio in California state court, alleging that a violation of GPL was a breach of contract, and seeking declaratory judgment and specific performance (release of source code). SFC is not the author of the GPL code at issue, and the authors of the code are not party to the suit.

    The issue in the removal motion was whether there was federal jurisdiction, sufficient to shift the lawsuit from state court to federal court. Federal courts in the US have exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over copyright claims, and diversity jurisdiction over other claims that are between parties in different states, and where damages are sought in excess of $75,000. 28 USC § 1332. But SFC’s complaint was neither a copyright infringement claim nor a claim for damages. This neatly avoided federal subject matter or diversity jurisdiction. The court said, “There is no dispute that SFC’s complaint alleges only state law claims, and the Parties agree that the action is removable only if SFC’s claims are completely preempted.”

    The remaining question was whether the state law claims were pre-empted by copyright law. Preemption is a legal doctrine that reserves certain kinds of matter to the exclusive regulation of federal law. Under 17 USC 301a, federal law clearly pre-empts all claims that are within the scope of copyright law. Here, however, the court said the state law claim pled by SFC was different from a copyright claim. Therefore, the court in this case did not take jurisdiction over the matter away from the state court.

    To support its preemption argument, Vizio argued unsuccessfully (relying on MDC v. Blizzard) that all violations of license conditions should only result in copyright infringement claims. But that was converse logic. MDC was about what cannot be a copyright claim, not what must be one.

Software Freedom Conservancy Receives Court Ruling Affirming GPL

  • Software Freedom Conservancy Receives Court Ruling Affirming GPL as Both Copyright License and Contractual Agreement

    The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), a non-profit that provides infrastructure support for free and open source software projects, has received a favorable ruling in its right-to-repair lawsuit against Vizio, an American TV manufacturer. The SFC alleges that Vizio has demonstrated “repeated failures to fulfill even the basic requirements of the General Public License (GPL),” after the company refused to provide the source code for software with copyleft licenses that it bundles with its products.

    Vizio had filed a request to “remove” the case from California State Court into U.S. Federal Court. After hearing oral arguments from both sides, the court has granted SFC’s motion to remand the case back to California State Court.

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