Judge dismisses Vizio’s call for summary judgment

Judge dismisses Vizio’s call for summary judgment

SFC files own “Motion for Summary Adjudication”

January 3, 2024

A very welcome victory in our case against Vizio was presented last week. Judge Sandy Leal denied Vizio’s Motion for Summary Judgment, allowing the case to proceed in state court. The Order echoes SFC arguments in court that the claim is not preempted by copyright law and that consumers like SFC have standing to enforce the GPL as third-party beneficiaries to the GPL — without any action by copyright holders of copylefted code.

SFC's General Counsel, Rick Sanders, its outside lawyers, Naomi Jane Gray and Don Thompson, and Policy Fellow, Bradley Kuhn, posing outside at the courthouse“

SFC counsel and Policy Fellow posing outside the courthouse – CC BY-SA 4.0

The decision speaks clearly:

Allowing third parties such as SFC to enforce their rights to receive source code is not only consistent with the GPLs’ objectives; it is both essential and necessary to achieve these objectives. Recipients of GPL-licensed software will be assured of their right to receive source code only if they have standing to enforce that right.


… the Court finds that Plaintiff’s claim for breach of contract is not preempted by the Copyright Act, and Vizio’s motion for summary adjudication on this issue is DENIED

The (full decision is available in its entirety here, and you can read the transcript from the oral arguments from the hearing.

With that decided, we now turn our focus to our own filing, a “Motion for Summary Adjudication”. An MSA is very similar to a motion for summary judgment, except that it does not fully resolve the entire case. Our MSA asks to resolve substantial parts of the case that are a matter of law.

Our motion seeks to establish that distributors of GPL’d software, such as Vizio, have a duty to the recipients of the software, such as purchasers of Vizio TV sets, to provide the source code for the software upon request. Unfortunately many companies completely ignore source code requests from consumers, or do not provide complete corresponding source, when the license sets out their obligations clearly. We have asked to confirm that Vizio has a duty to us, as purchasers of their televisions, to make good on those obligations. In her order, Judge Leal acknowledged that this kind of power imbalance between corporations and recipients of copyleft software creates an inequity when it comes to receiving source code:

Defendant Vizio, as the licensee, is responsible for ensuring that it
complies with the terms of the license. As such, it would be more equitable to allow third parties to assert
claims against a licensee who fails to adhere to the terms and conditions of the license.

We focus on protecting the rights of all end users as third party beneficiaries and making sure that corporations who choose to use copyleft licenses are held accountable if they fail to follow the rules. As this case continues to unfold, we will continue to protect the freedoms given to us by copyleft licenses. This work is essential for the Software Right to Repair, and we will work to create legal mechanisms to ensure our devices are as free, open and repairable as possible.

You can help fund our continuing work in this case by becoming a Sustainer to our organization. We rely upon individuals to make the important work we do possible and if you make a contribution before January 15th during our annual fundraiser, our funding matchers will double your donation!