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Sky preaches benefits of open source

Sky boxes across the country have surprised their owners with a message about the benefits of open source software - apparently in a bid to head off a legal tussle from free software fans.

Sky+ HD boxes, used to receive the subscription-based satellite TV service, have tonight been flashing up a message when they are first switched on pointing their users at a page on Sky's website about the values and benefits of open source software.

On the page, Sky explains its use of open source software thusly: "Open Source Software is typically developed by communities that share an interest in that software and actively use and support it. This passion leads to high quality, reliable software that can be tailored for specific purposes. Sky has found a number of Open Source Software developments that provide capabilities that benefit the software used in the Sky+ HD box and in using the Open Source Software we and our customers also benefit from the ongoing support of the Open Source community."

While the message has only just appeared, what's harder to believe is that Sky is only just switching to open source. A more likely explanation is that the company has been alerted to its obligations under the GNU General Public Licence to provide copies of the source code for all open source portions of the software used on the Sky+ HD boxes.

Not wishing to get caught in legal wrangling, Sky has apparently done so in the most expeditious way possible: an 'update' that flags the use of open source software with users of the Sky+ HD boxes and points them towards a page from which they can download the source code.