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I purchased a commercial product in the United States that has user-upgradable firmware available by unrestricted download. I am positive this firmware is based on an open-source project licensed under the GPL. I would like the source for this firmware to make my own modifications, and being under the GPL they are required to give it to me.

I have contacted the company, and initially I got some traction, but eventually I got stonewalled. I contacted the reseller I bought the product from, and they have shrugged their shoulders. I want this source code, so what are my options to obtain it?

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You're probably out of luck. The company distributing this firmware has an obligation to provide you the source code, but this obligation is to the copyright holder. You are not the copyright holder. The copyright holder would have to sue them for license compliance.

Practically speaking, you should contact the Software Freedom Conservancy. They are not a law firm, but a foundation that also helps companies fulfil these obligations. They hold (partial) copyright in some projects that are likely to be involved here, such as Linux or Busybox. However, they favour cooperation with companies over aggressive lawsuits, so you're not likely to get the source code soonishly.

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    Are you sure about the "obligation is to the copyright holder" part? The GPL clearly states that ANYBODY receiving a compiled binary is entitled to the source. Commented May 12, 2021 at 19:30
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    Yes, the GPL states that, but the GPL is a license issued by the copyright holder to the company, so the only rights the company is violating is the copyright holder's rights. By not providing you the source code, the company is not violating your rights, they are losing the right to distribute the software at all. Commented May 12, 2021 at 20:53
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    Or in other words, only the copyright holder or copyright holders have standing to sue the company. If the copyright holder does nothing, you are out of luck. If the copyright holder sues, the company has the choice of either giving their source code to you and everyone else who asks, or to be found guilty of copyright infringement. If they decide to go for copyright infringement, and as a result are ordered to pay say a million in damages, that's nice for the copyright holder, but you are still out of luck.
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 21:09
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    @BryanBoettcher if the distributer is refusing to give you the source code, then they aren't distributing under the terms of the license, they are just distributing it - which is, as everyone is mentioning, copyright infringement, and only the copyright holders have standing to sue for that.
    – user28517
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 22:54
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Gather evidence that the software you are requesting the source code of really is based on, in whole or part, an existing open source project that has a license which requires source code to be made available, and then contact that projects copyright holders. Only they have standing to sue.

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    I actually did this, pulled 'strings' from the hex binaries per instructions of the software's authors. Given how frequently this happens to them, they have lost interest in pursuing it, it seems. Commented May 12, 2021 at 19:05
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    @BryanBoettcher then you have no recourse, as no one else has standing here. If the copyright holders don't want to get involved, theres nothing you can do.
    – user28517
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 22:54
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    @Moo add the info in your comment to the answer please
    – Dale M
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 1:11

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