Don’t treat GPL lightly or you will get SOXed

Sarbanes-Oxley, otherwise known as SOX, may be the bane of many IT departments, but it might also get legal departments of software publishing companies, up and listening carefully. Embedded systems manufacturer Wasabi has published a whitepaper which claims that failure to comply with the GPL code might be considered as a criminal offense just like piracy.

Notice that it comes from a company that might find itself in the crossfire. Just because open source is free doesn't mean that anyone can just copy and paste its content everywhere. Jay Michaelson who wrote the whitepaper did highlight though that this is not a case of fear uncertainty and doubt (FUD) against Linux and open source- Wasabi does use BSD and GPL code. As Michelson puts it, they are anti-cheating, perhaps pointing the finger to some unnamed competitor.

Although SOX covers all licenses including lesser known ones, the fact that it is a law that makes executives liable to prosecution, means that it shouldn't be taken lightly. Especially since some tend to think that GPL and open source basically means public domain or free beer. This doesn't mean of course that software publishers should not use OS software. This would be a very short sighted decision. The warning applies for companies that actually sell the software or software in hardware - just like Wasabi; not end users.

The bottom line is treat GPL like any other license, with respect and acumen.