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Enforcing the GPL On Software Companies?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the four-words-software-freedom-law-center dept.

GNU is Not Unix 480

Piranhaa"I currently use an IPTV box that runs software by Minerva Networks. When you ssh into the box, you are greeted with a BusyBox v1.00 (ash) shell. It's clearly running a flavor of Linux (uname -apm outputs: Linux minerva_10_0_3_99 2.4.30-tango2-2.7.144.0 #29 Wed Mar 16 16:16:16 CET 2005 mips unknown). However, when you look at their Web site there is no publicly available source code. Since the GPL in both BusyBox and the Linux kernel require that anyone using and distributing the binaries of this software make source available to everyone, what would one do in order to enforce this? I've personally emailed Minerva and left voicemails with no reply."

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Write to the FSF. (3, Informative)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892719)

The GPL itself says you should write to the FSF when someone is violating the GPL.

Re:Write to the FSF. (5, Informative)

kie (30381) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892777)

http://www.gpl-violations.org/ [gpl-violations.org]

might be a good place to start.

Re:Write to the FSF^H^H^H. Author. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892863)

The FSF will of course normally help, but the companies license is with the author of the software. The FSF can't do any enforcement and can't really help if they don't own the copyright to the code. Do clear work to prove the case and then contact the authors of the software with all he information you have. One important thing to do is to ensure you request the source code in writing in a registered letter and keep a copy of it.

Re:Write to the FSF^H^H^H. Author. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892987)

Correct -- only the copyright holder can actually take this to court. They can do this with the assistance of their FSF legal representative though :)

License enforcement (5, Informative)

jogu (236017) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893089)

As the parent says, only the copyright holder can actually take any legal action.

For busybox, you can see on http://busybox.net/license.html [busybox.net] that:

"BusyBox's copyrights are enforced by the Software Freedom Law Center (you can contact them at gpl@busybox.net)"

This an effective process, but a slow one (expect it to take 6 months+ for any response on past experience).

For the linux kernel, lkml is perhaps an appropriate place.

FSF can't help, since they don't own any of the software.

You perhaps want to consider how you're wording your requests. If a polite (or impolite) request for source code has been refused, you might want to try a different track, pointing out that the hardware contains software that they have no valid license to distribute and is hence illegal, and would they like to discuss this further before you contact the copyright owner.

Under copyright law, there is absolutely no requirement for them to provide the source code. One possible legal conclusion is that they pay court decided damages to the copyright owners for illegal distribution to date, and cease further distribution. If they wish to continue distribution, it's likely that they're only available option is to open the source code, especially since their are often multiple copyright holders, especially in the linux kernel.

(Disclaimer, I'm not a lawyer, and some points will vary between jurisdictions.)

Re:Write to the FSF. (3, Informative)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893037)

The GPL itself says you should write to the FSF when someone is violating the GPL.
GPL version 2 (which Busybox 1.00 uses, and also Linux) doesn't say that anywhere. Nor does version 3. What part are you looking at?

Not available to everyone (4, Informative)

tolan-b (230077) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892721)

IANAL but as I understand it the GPL requires that source is made available to customers, not everyone. Of course in this case they don't appear to be making it available to customers either.

Re:Not available to everyone (4, Informative)

BokLM (550487) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892819)

It depends. If they give the source code with the programs, then they can give it only to their customers, and they don't have to give it to anyone else. However if they decide instead to only give a written offer to ask the source with their programs, as allowed by the GPL, then they should give the source code to whoever is asking, not only customers.

End User Not Owner? (4, Interesting)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892903)

IANAL but as I understand it the GPL requires that source is made available to customers, not everyone. Of course in this case they don't appear to be making it available to customers either.
What if the end-user, the guy with the box, doesn't own it? Suppose the IPTV company maintains ownership of the box? Than the end-user wouldn't need to be provided with the code?

Re:End User Not Owner? (5, Interesting)

BokLM (550487) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892975)

What if the end-user, the guy with the box, doesn't own it? Suppose the IPTV company maintains ownership of the box? Than the end-user wouldn't need to be provided with the code?

That's what free.fr (a french isp renting box running linux and other GPL software) is doing. But this is sort of a grey area here, the GPL doesn't talk about ownership, it talks about distribution, and this is up to the judge to decide whether it is distribution or not in this case. Here some people are going to sue free.fr because they refuse to distribute the sources they modified, we'll see what happens ...

Re:End User Not Owner? (5, Interesting)

bipbop (1144919) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893113)

Working at a company with multiple physically distant colos, our legal dept informed us that we could not alter GPL code and push it to the servers without distributing the source publicly, because copying it over to the physically distant servers could be (and was presumed to be) "distribution". So, even "owning" every box it ran on, and giving binaries to no one else, legal felt distribution was taking place--or at least, felt it was a serious enough interpretation that they wouldn't want us to get sued after assuming it was false.

Re:End User Not Owner? (1)

Jasper__unique_dammi (901401) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893075)

Its distribution IMO. Say i get a picture, which i am licenced to make as many copies for myself as i want. Then i will send this picture to lots of people, while claiming i still own it, but they can hang it anywhere. Now, would that be copyright infringement? (Yes, d'oh) The Box is exactly the same, except it is a whole apparatus instead of a picture.

Re:End User Not Owner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23893183)

The owner is utterly irrelevant. The GPL doesn't require distribution of the source to only the owner but rather to every single person who whom the product is distributed.

This means you cannot avoid the requirement by virtue of retaining ownership.

Re:End User Not Owner? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23893203)

Obviously YANAL. Idiot. You probably have not even READ the GPL... Moron.

Re:Not available to everyone (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892953)

Exactly. You don't have to ship it with your product, you don't have to offer a download, but, if customers ask for the source, you have to give it to them (or point to the original source, if you didn't change anything). That and clarifying on distributing, under which license you ship, is the minimum for GPL (as i understood it, IANAL).

Re:Not available to everyone (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893013)

That and clarifying on distributing, under which license you ship, is the minimum for GPL
So your software should clearly state somewhere obvious (eg: the about-box) that it is using GPL sources, right? And then state how to go about getting hold of the source code.

Re:Not available to everyone (2, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893281)

I thought you weren't allowed to simply point to the original source unless you had made an agreement with the repository,since the source code can change,be dropped from the repository,etc leaving your customers without access to the actual source you used. At least that was what I remember reading a few years back and come to think of it,it was a company using busybox. What is it about that software that attracts the GPL violators like an inbox attracts spam? Never used busybox(that I know of) so I am just curious. And as always my 02c,YMMV

Re:Not available to everyone (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23893129)

The GPL doesn't state that the source should be downloadable from a website, but it should at the least be distributed (at cost) to anyone who requests it.

The vendor is required send you the sourcecode for example burned on a CD, and can charge you the cost for the CD and the postal services they used.

Re:Not available to everyone (2, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893343)

... or maybethe source is included on each device, in a directory that you wouldn't normally access (set-top boxes for hdtv include a hard drive)? Also, Minerva doesn't distribute set-top boxes to end-users - they license their software to box manufacturers. Minerva only have to provide the source to those manufacturers who ask for it, which they might be doing, since Minevra's website says that their stuff easily integrates with OSS.

The end user, on the other hand, has to go to the set-top box manufacturer, since Minerva never distributed software to the end-user, only the set-top box manufacturer did.

Re:Not available to everyone (0)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893221)

Calm down, cowboys.

They need to provide only in case if it was modified. If BusyBox and Linux kernel were *NOT* modified - you can grab them from the busybox.net and linux.org respectively.

As Linux become more and more ubiquitous, people forget that hardware manufacturers need to modify less and less of the standard components. Also off-the-shelf SoC producers (and independent developers) submit support for their systems to kernel quite regularly. All manufacturers need to do is to compile everything with proper configuration and it all would work without any tweaking.

Unless fact is established that they have modified something, they hardly violate any clause of GPL.

Re:Not available to everyone (2, Informative)

Tsunayoshi (789351) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893233)

But making available does not imply you have to put a link for the srouce code on your website.

If you had a process where someone had to fill out a form, include a product receipt, send $5 for shipping and then the party was sent a DVD in the mail with the source code, you would be meeting the requirements of the GPL.

Re:Not available to everyone (1)

Confused (34234) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893257)

If they use Busybox or the kernel unmodified, it might be enough if they point you to the default repository. They also have no obligations, to make available applications they build on top of those packages or the configuration parameters.

Things usually get messy, if those people start to include their own drivers or modify the packages. Then they need to publish those for their customers.

Finding out which is the case can take time, and if they just tell you to get the sources at www.busybox.net, you have an uphill battle before you to find out if they modified the default package.

Re:Not available to everyone (1)

zoid.com (311775) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893263)

Just a thought here. Could it depends on who the custom is here or what the customer is purchasing. Who owns the box? My guess is Minerva Networks owns the box and not you. They are letting you use the box as part of a subscription.

They is no such requirement... (0)

karavelov (863935) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892723)

If they have not changed the code. Most of the hardware on todays STBs are fully supported by main linux kernel.

Re:They is no such requirement... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892753)

that's a lie. You can't point at someone else's FTP site, there's also requirements for being able to reproduce binaries (this can include system images). They don't have to provide the sources for free, but they can't charge a profit for it.

Giving someone the binaries means you need to make the sources availiable to them, including build tools a lot of the time.

Re:They is no such requirement... (1)

BokLM (550487) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893035)

You can't point at someone else's FTP site

You can, there's nothing that prevent you from doing this if it works. Or actually 99% of people will be happy with this and you can send the source on a CD to the other 1% that want to be annoying.

Here's what the GPLv2 says about this :

a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,
b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,
c) Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)

Re:They is no such requirement... (4, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892755)

They are distributing the software and have to provide an offer of the source. I am sure this came up with distributions who were basing their distro off Ubuntu and assumed their customers could get the source from there.

When you think about it, it makes sense. Even if they base their software off a distribution from a known source that source might not be around when it is needed.

Re:They is no such requirement... (0)

DuSTman31 (578936) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892765)

To be honest, I think that's a major loophole in the GPL. You have to be able to prove that the code's been modified before you can compel the company to release it, and that's often a lot easier said than done without the source code (which you won't have if they havn't released it)

Re:They is no such requirement... (5, Informative)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892793)

No you don't. If you distribute any version of a GPLed piece of software, you must make the source available upon request to the person you distributed it to. Modification is irrelevant. Modification only matters when you modify something for your own use and do not distribute it- then you don't have to provide source because there's no one to provide it to.

However, this does not mean you need to put it up on a webpage for everyone to download, or provide it on the disk. The GPL requires only a written offer of source code upon request, at a cost of no more than shipping and the media. I have no idea if this particular vendor is complying, but not having a link on their webpage does not mean non-compliance.

Re:They is no such requirement... (2, Interesting)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892769)

The requirement is: if you distribute the binaries, you need to provide the source too. If they are using an unmodified vanilla kernel, they still need to respond at least with "grab the code from kernel.org".

Re:They is no such requirement... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23893205)

They could also be submitting their changes up-stream.

Re:They is no such requirement... (5, Interesting)

giminy (94188) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892831)

Sounds like you need to take the GPL quiz [gnu.org] . This particular issue is addressed in Question 1 of said quiz.

Don't worry, you're definitely not alone in any misunderstandings of the GPL...lots of people think they understand all the legal aspects of it completely when they don't. I used to be guilty myself. Now I just don't claim to know everything about the GPL ;-).

Re:They is no such requirement... (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893067)

Just tried the GPL quiz. I did poorly I must say.

I'm still a bit confused about it, but it seems like they have to provide the sourcecode for the entire thing, except for stand-alone proprietary programs running 'separately' from everything else, and provided they aren't using GPL libraries.

It's interesting to me because I am using GPL stuff for one of my projects, but at this stage it's straightforward since the only people I distribute it to are my departmental staff who can have the source code no-worries, but it gets interesting because the software is then usable by the public to whom I don't wish to distribute the code (basically because of security fears).

Is the end-user - at a public terminal - entitled to the same rights under GPL as the owner of the computer on which the software runs?

Re:They is no such requirement... (1)

vrt3 (62368) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893209)

Doesn't that mean that every GPL-project needs to be very very careful and make backups of the source code of all releases, however old?

If someone downloaded binaries without source 15 years ago, you still have to be able to give him the source code for that version (if I understand everything correctly). How many projects are able to do that? Or can they just give her the source code for a more recent version? What if the project is dead?

And doesn't that mean that even Debian is not 100% following the rules? The man page for apt-get says in the description of the source command:
"Source packages are tracked separately from binary packages via deb-src type lines in the sources.list(5) file. This probably will mean that you will not get the same source as the package you have installed or as you could install."
I also don't find any other way to get the source for exactly the version of the package I'm using. Shouldn't I be able to compile from source the exact version of the binary that I have?

ofn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892737)

is this not old news? it's not the first device which uses busybox/oss apps and didn't initially release the source (until hounded to death)

To quite true (-1, Flamebait)

Mensa Babe (675349) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892739)

"Since the GPL in both BusyBox and the Linux kernel require that anyone using and distributing the binaries of this software make source available to everyone ..." ...upon request. Read the GPL.

Re:To quite true (5, Informative)

Max Threshold (540114) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892775)

He requested. Read the summary.

GPL doesn't extend to the application (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892743)

most STBs that i am familiar with are largely stock linux builds, running a proprietry IPTV application on top. The GPL does not requre a standalone application that sits on the linux box be distributed as source code

Re:GPL doesn't extend to the application (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892875)

But it does require that GPL applications are. He is talking about buying a piece of hardware which came with BusyBox and the Linux Kernel installed. Even if they are unmodified, he has the right to request the source code. The company may well not have to provide him with the application's source code.

Not unless you are reprensenting a corporation (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892747)

And even though, how can you sue for damage?

dunno (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892763)

They, like the MAFIAA, obviously believe they are above the law.

gpl-violations.org (2, Informative)

stefankoegl (687410) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892771)

Maybe the guys at http://gpl-violations.org/ [gpl-violations.org] can help.

Notify the authors (4, Informative)

mikrorechner (621077) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892791)

You could notify the authors (and copyright holders) of BusyBox [busybox.net] .

Unlike Linus, they are pretty strict on companies infringing on the GPL, and have sued (and won) several times.

Take a look at gpl-violations.org [gpl-violations.org] or google "busybox gpl violation" for more information.

Re:Notify the authors (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892849)

From busybox.net:
"The email address gpl@busybox.net is the recommended way to contact the Software Freedom Law Center to report BusyBox license violations."

Contacting the busybox developers and the SFLC is the first to do. Then post all information you know at the technical mailing list of gpl-violations.org.

thats at least what i did to get to the Hammer MyShare GPL sources -> http://blog.nas-central.org/2008/06/18/on-the-news-gpl-violation-of-bell-supermico/

Really now... (2, Insightful)

topace3 (962476) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892805)

I don't recall there being a part of the GPL that says you have to put your source on a web server. If they send it to you upon contacting them that would suffice, right?

Re:Really now... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892867)

It said it the original post that he contacted them and received no reply. So, yes you are right, but he has already tried that angle.

Thanks for playing.

SEP (Someone Else's Problem) (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892807)

Most STB's (Set-Top-Boxes) are using some version of Linux and probably also busybox. Amino and Motorola (ex-Kreatel) does this.

They could probably deny you any source code and state that they, do not use any code in violation of GLP and that they only provide hardware and that it is the network-providers that are responsible for whats running on the boxes.

Re:SEP (Someone Else's Problem) (2, Informative)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893181)

Irrelevant. If they distribute binaries without providing access to source they violate the GPL. The 'We only do hardware' argument is utterly bogus.

If they shipped copies of Windows on there in violation of the license do you think that Microsoft would accept such an argument? Same thing.

Re:SEP (Someone Else's Problem) (2, Informative)

MathFox (686808) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893219)

LIBERTYVILLE, IL - 15 May 2006 - Motorola (NYSE: MOT) today announced the launch of opensource.motorola.com, a new resource aimed at sharing source code, original open source projects and new ideas and information with open source developers around the world.

more... [motorola.com]

Tell me, why do you CARE ? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892823)

What's it to you, bub ?? Look away, turn the channel, or rooooooll another one, just liiike theeeee other one, if it bothers you.

Have you checked /src/? (3, Interesting)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892839)

It's an asinine thing to say but, if they just dropped their source for the shipping product in the /src dir like most linux distros do for whatever version kernel they're using, shouldn't it then put it in line with the GPL?

Re:Have you checked /src/? (4, Informative)

Piranhaa (672441) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892871)

# ls /src ls: /src: No such file or directory

First place I checked actually =)

The system only comes with 60MB of non-volatile flash on a jffs(2) filesystem and 32MB are free.

Re:Have you checked /src/? (1)

nawcom (941663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893189)

that's because it's in /usr/src! DOHHH!!!

Heh, joking aside I feel the frustration of companies taking advantage of GPL code. Especially when it's YOUR code.

Re:Have you checked /src/? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23893265)

Try /usr/src

Big Companies and Hotshot Lawyers (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892843)

Sometimes companies with hotshot lawyers deliberately put their head in the sand regarding the GPL. They want to use the code but don't want to make their changes public for "intellectual property" reasons, even if it's something as trivial as a few patches to fix some bugs in Linux or some existing drivers. They will "educate" staff as to why they can do what they do with GPL software "legally." The hotshot lawyer has it all figured out, and engineers don't really need to know the details. The excuse is that they "buy their Linux" from a 3rd party so that means that all the conditions of the GPL are not relevant for some lawyerish reason. Oh, and the GPL is "contentious" about what you actually have to do regarding distributing source.

Re:Big Companies and Hotshot Lawyers (1)

MathFox (686808) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893147)

It sounds like a great business model:
  1. Bully Open Source developers
  2. Bully your employees
  3. Bully your customers when they ask for the source
  4. ...
  5. Profit!
And then "meet the SFLC!"

Re:Big Companies and Hotshot Lawyers (1)

Mauzl (1312177) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893347)

Don't "forget" step 3.5. Put lots of "quotes" around "random" words while writing about it.

Just ask Slashdot. (1)

Deleriux (709637) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892853)

Well by posting it on Slashdot a much larger number of people now know they are doing this.

I for one wont buy their products.

Re:Just ask Slashdot. (0, Flamebait)

dave420 (699308) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893079)

So you won't buy their perfectly-good product because you read on slashdot that they don't provide the source code? Idiot.

Re:Just ask Slashdot. (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893197)

How is it a perfectly good product? It relies on illegal copies of software to run.

Re:Just ask Slashdot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23893231)

How do you know? All the summary says is "I called and left a voicemail but they didn't get back to me". He doesn't even say when he did this. For all we know the guy at the other end of that mailbox is on holiday and will respond when he gets back. "No response" doesn't mean "Non-compliance" in this case.

GPL requires source code with distribution (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892855)

If you distribute someone's code which is under GPL, then you have to make available the source code.

You don't have to make available your own source code unless your code is a derivative of GPL code.

In this instance, they should be supplying the source code to the kernel and any other GPL applications they have bundled. That's the whole point to OpenSource and the GPL.

If they have altered the Kernel or BusyBox, which are both GPL'd, they have to release those alterations when they distribute. They don't have to release their application unless it was built using a GPL library, and that sort of kicks in at about readline, most of the basic libraries are LGPL.

LGPL you can link to and include without, having to release the source code of your library. Though if you alter a LGPL file though, you have to release your alteration, when you distribute. You still have to distribute (or make available) the source code to the LGPL when you distribute the binary.

So, yes where is the source code is what a lot of customers may be wondering, and any developers who have copyright over the code, may also be wondering why their code is being used outside of the license they gave for the use of it.

A developer who owns the copyright to GPL code, can distribute the code under another license if they so choose, they don't GPL it to themselves, They are the copyright holder, they can use it anyway they see fit inside of the law.

Often you will see copyright taken by the project lead on a GPL project because of this, but it doesn't always happen. At which point you sort of run the gauntlet of tainted copyright code, unless you keep clear distinction. So, if you distribute your code under a different license, but part of the application is GPL'd and someone else's that could be problematic. Linus would find it hard to sell Linux under a License other than the GPL, because not all the code is his.

So, there are two groups that are put out here, the consumer and the developers of the GPL code. The rest of us can just munch popcorn, and watch from the sidelines, we don't have a stake in it.

GPL makes me angry. (-1, Flamebait)

ikarys (865465) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892893)

For a FOSS license GPL seems to be very unfree - imposing restrictions or rules... just a crock of sh!t really. GPL makes me angry. MIT or BSD for the win. GPL for the sux.

Re: GPL makes me angry. (1)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892927)

Dude, you misspelt shit. Seriously, though, so what? Who cares how the GPL makes you feel? This is about a company *choosing* to use the GPL. If you choose to use a GPL'd app you do so in full knowledge of the copyleft restrictions that in requires. If the GPL "makes you angry" you don't use GPL'd applications. It really is that simple. It's easy to avoid the anger - avoid licenses that anger you.

Re: GPL makes me angry. (1)

ikarys (865465) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893077)

heh :). Thanks. It is simple, and I don't use them. I do contribute and use OS projects, but rarely anything with GPL. My wording was perhaps a bit emotive judging by the lashback posts. I really wasn't expecting that.

Re: GPL makes me angry. (1)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893155)

I think it's more that your post was utterly irrelevant to the topic at hand. It was little better than the "M$ is teh suxors" every time there's a post tangentially related to Windows, or "Theo is an asshole" every time there's a BSD story. When the topic is license violation, someone's personal view on the license tends to be regarded as irrelevant at best and trolling at worst, particularly when peppered with "...for the win" and "...for the sux". Let's have a grown-up conversation.

Re: GPL makes me angry. (1)

ikarys (865465) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893179)

Fair point :) thanks for the feedback. I've generally filtered for +5, so I've been a bit ignorant of what the bad/re-occuring comments are :)

Re: GPL makes me angry. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892941)

For a FOSS license GPL seems to be very unfree - imposing restrictions or rules... just a crock of sh!t really. GPL makes me angry. MIT or BSD for the win. GPL for the sux.

WTF?

The GPL applies only to GPL code ... in this case the Linux kernel and the Busybox code. It is a license that lets some people, who did not write that code, nevertheless use the code ... often without any fee. The only "restriction or rule" is that the code must not be hidden if you re-distribute it. Since you received the source code yourself, and you did not write it ... you are obliged to give it to other people under those same conditions.

Why should there not be such a condition? It isn't your code, you didn't write it ... and the source is already public anyway so how on earth does it hurt you to give the source out when you distribute your product?

Re: GPL makes me angry. (0)

ikarys (865465) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893099)

Why not just get the code from the respective sites? Ie, the original free source, or any of the plethora of free mirrors that people seem to love supplying. Sure, I can appreciate if the software is not available ANYWHERE online - then its beneficial having it supplied. What would you use the "supplied" code for?

Would you go and use the source of a linux kernel you got from from a disc that came with your IPTV, or would you go find it on the web from the creator?

Re: GPL makes me angry. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23893201)

Why not just get the code from the respective sites? Ie, the original free source, or any of the plethora of free mirrors that people seem to love supplying. Sure, I can appreciate if the software is not available ANYWHERE online - then its beneficial having it supplied. What would you use the "supplied" code for?

Would you go and use the source of a linux kernel you got from from a disc that came with your IPTV, or would you go find it on the web from the creator?

The GPL requires that if you make small changes to the code (that may or may not be beneficial to others) and you want to re-distribute the result ... since the vast majority of it is still the work of others then you are obliged to give out the source code as you modified it. BTW ... this is the only "cost" of using GPL code ... you are not allowed to obscure it.

It is not sufficient to say ... we got it from this link ... it must be possible for anyone who asks to get the code from you as you modified it, and they must be able to compile it and end up with the same binary executable as you are distributing. Those are the terms of using GPL code in the first place. If you don't like those terms ... don't use the code.

BTW: If the source isn't available anywhere ... then it isn't GPL code! GPL code is, by definition, released as source code to the public by its author. Clearly then if the author hasn't made the code available ... then it isn't GPL code in the first place.

Re: GPL makes me angry. (5, Insightful)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892967)

Ikarys, you either have a lot of fun trolling this way, or you've not looked into the history of the GPL and the other licenses. Your posting history shows that you enjoy doing these drive-by instigations, but nevertheless, some newer folks on Slashdot may not know enough to realize why some folks say this.

GPL was formed to protect developers and users against restrictive licenses that prevented them from seeing or modifying their programs. It's a bit paranoid, but with reason. The DRM being inflicted on software, the security by obscurity, the locking in of software by refusing to permit non-vendor software to be installed, the refusal to allow others to modify and publish the software, all have been a real problem with other licenses.

GPL has effectively prevent hardware/software lockins, by Netgear and Linksys. The new GPLv3 will block patent lockins, such as those espoused by Microsoft, and DRM lockins, used by Tivo. None of the other licenses would have prevented this. We've also seen very specific abuses of the other licenses already, such as the Microsoft abuse of the MIT license on Kerberos to break non-Microsoft published Kerberos clients. And the GPL has already helped several companies that I'm aware of from simply adding on their own modifications, refusing to publish their modifications, deliberately making it inoperable with other's versions, and locking clients in this way.

The GPL protects the freedom of users, and other developers. The sacrifice of what is not freedom over the software, but power over its modification, comes at the benefit of retaining such power over the rest of GPL freedom, and I find it very handy.

Re: GPL makes me angry. (1)

ikarys (865465) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893045)

Great post :) someone bothered to read my post history! - don't quite get the drive by instigation thing, but anyway...

The reason why it bothers me is I have restrictions on which licenses I am allowed to use - these are imposed on me from the commercial world... which is annoying to say the least, but understandable from my employers standpoint. I believe the license is the problem and not the employer in many of these instances.

MIT and BSD are real "free"... I can "freely" use the software without worry. Is that so wrong? I've reported and fixed bugs for various OS projects, I don't expect them to acknowledge me, I don't expect people to distribute my source if they use it.

I can appreciate not having hardware/software lockins.

I'm a bit amazed at the flamebait vote I got, my intent wasn't to piss people off, just to voice my dislike, and my preference for the other "better" (imho) free licenses. GPL feels very much like DRM... a set of restrictions which mean I can't use the software.

Re: GPL makes me angry. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23893317)

GPL feels very much like DRM... a set of restrictions which mean I can't use the software.

This is a pure misunderstanding on your part.

Everyone on the planet is able to use GPL code (as in run it) for any purpose whatsoever, without restriction. Fill your boots.

The only restriction on you, as a recipient of GPL code, is that since the source code is made available to you, then you must make it available to others under the same terms, if you re-distribute that code, or a derivative of that code.

In this context, the word "derivative" is used strictly in its legal sense from the copyright act ... ie. "a latter work is a derivative of an earlier work if it includes all or a major part of the earlier work".

In other words, you are only bound by the one restriction of the GPL (ie. that you must not hide or obscure the source code) if and only if you re-distribute a product that includes GPL code as its major part.

If you write your own code ... then it is your code and you decide how it is licensed ... even if it runs under a Linux (GPL) kernel so what? ... as long as it is your code and does not contain the work of others then it is not plagiarised and it is yours ... do do with as you will.

But that is for YOUR code ... we are talking here about something else entirely ... your using GPL code which is NOT your own code. Since in this case you did not write the GPL code in the first place, and the GPL code that you received is already public anyway (obviously, since you received it didn't you?) ... then how does it hurt you to re-distribute the source code to others?

Re: GPL makes me angry. (0, Flamebait)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893053)

..and this is why i'll never use *BSD because the community is full of GPL troll shits like you that waste time whining about forced freedoms rather then making a better OS.

Re: GPL makes me angry. (0, Troll)

ikarys (865465) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893059)

Well, thanks for the personal attack because I prefer different "more free" licenses. WOW!!

I use GPL code, but I don't understand the licence (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892907)

Correct me if I am wrong, or feel free to clairify:
If I use GPL code, I must provide the GPL code that I use.
If I code my own stuff using GPL, my code isn't automatically GPL too.
So if I make an game with security through obscurity, but use GPL code, I'm fine right? Or am I wrong, and all code I write using GPL code suddenly becomes GPL too?

Re:I use GPL code, but I don't understand the lice (1)

maestroX (1061960) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892963)

GPL (license) is about distribution.

Please give more information about the sold product you're referring to here on Slashdot so we can give you more detailed information :=)

Re:I use GPL code, but I don't understand the lice (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892977)

If you use GPL'd source code in your application, the whole application needs to be GPL'd if you release it. This is the same situation with any source code: you can't for example take parts from Microsoft Windows source code and include those in your application without following the license conditions given by the original author.

Re:I use GPL code, but I don't understand the lice (1)

taniwha (70410) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892993)

if you modify someone else's code the code you write has to become GPLed too if you want to distribute it (source or binaries) - but you only need to offer to distribute the source if you want to distribute just the binaries - using it inhouse without distribution is OK

security thru obscurity is bad in general, do it right! if your security can't handle source code examination it wont handle some hacker poking in the binary

Re:I use GPL code, but I don't understand the lice (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23893023)

If I use GPL code, I must provide the GPL code that I use.
If you distribute GPL'd code to someone, you must make the source code available to that person.

If I code my own stuff using GPL, my code isn't automatically GPL too.
If your code contains any lines taken from GPL'd source code, your code is a derivative project and can only be distributed under GPL.

So if I make an game with security through obscurity, but use GPL code, I'm fine right?
Assuming that part of the obscurity is hoping that no-one who plays your game asks for the source code.

Or am I wrong, and all code I write using GPL code suddenly becomes GPL too?
You're wrong. The whole point of GPL, as opposed to any other open source license, is for a first developer to be able to force all subsequent developers to release their source code.

Just linking to a GPL'd library does not necessarily constitute derivation (see Limited GPL), and using GPL'd tools (eg: EMACS, gcc) to create your code does not necessarily constitute derivation. GPL is written in pretty plain language. It's worth reading; it's worth understanding your rights; it's very important to understand your responsibilities.

Re:I use GPL code, but I don't understand the lice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23893033)

As I understand it, your game "suddenly becomes open source", as you say.
You can still make closed source softwar which works "with" an open source one, like propriatary drivers and games for linux, and I don't know where exactly they draw the line (which is an important question for libraries, etc). Different open source licence behave differently on that matter.

Then there is obfuscation of the code. Dunno how it works, too.

Re:I use GPL code, but I don't understand the lice (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893211)

If you use GPL code then yes your code must be GPLed to avoid violating the license for the code you use.

You can however use LGPL code, which most libraries are.

PHB (3, Funny)

Konster (252488) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892911)

I'd be a Pointy Haired Boss and comply with any request for GPL'd code by sending the requester the code...printed on paper. ;)

Re:PHB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23892969)

It has to be machine-readable. Paper doesn't count.

Paper can be machine readable... (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893127)

Ok then. Punchcards it is!

Re:PHB (4, Informative)

djcapelis (587616) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892989)

I know you're joking, but section 6 of the GPL prevents this most commonly by using the phrase: "on a durable physical medium customarily used for software interchange."

The GPL is a very carefully written document.

Re:PHB (5, Interesting)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893025)

It is, isn't it? While Richard Stallman certainly did not write all of it, the document shows his experience and intelligence at dealing with odd interactions. It's what I'd expect from someone so deeply involved in creating gcc and glibc and emacs, and the development of so many other GNU software tools.

Richard does not put in the odd language or strange requirements for no reason: he's usually quite correct in being paranoid of those strange cases, because as an experienced programmer and now an experienced political activist he's seen compelling reasons to handle them specifically. It's why code by older programmers often is longer and more extensive than the simpler, cleaner, but more trusting software written by less experienced developers. The new developers with exciting new approaches often haven't learned the lessons of our experience, and by the time they've done all the patching to avoid the same pitfalls, their code will be as arcane as ours.

Four years of computer science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23893289)

For four years of collegiate computer science, I had to print up code that I've written to give to my professors. Not to mention the CS classes from highschool.

Semantics are fun.

Re:PHB (1)

Quarters (18322) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893305)

The GPL stipulates that the source should be printed on the sheathing of a cat-5 cable? That's odd.

Re:PHB (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893049)

printed on paper.
... with line feeds and extra white space stripped out (can't go wasting paper now), double sided, on a dot matrix printer (9 pin in 'draft' mode), and bound in many separate folders.

Fortunately the GPL uses the word 'reasonable' in a few places to get around attempts at this sort of obfuscation :)

About 2 years ago I was approached by a company that wanted some changes made some in house software. The programmer had left and couldn't be re-employed to make the changes (he was pensioned off due to illness I believe). The documentation was almost perfect, the code was well commented and everything, I was quite impressed. What didn't impress me though was that the documentation I was given (about 12 folders worth) was for the current version of the code, but the source I was given was for about 8 versions ago - about 2 years prior. Lots and lots of changes made in the meantime. The company searched high and low but finally declared that a copy of the latest source code did not exist. I ended up rewriting it on a more modern development platform. Scanning the code in was going to be more trouble than it was worth.

Only copyright holders have standing here (1)

butlerm (3112) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892913)

If you do not hold a copyright in the material being distributed, you lack legal standing to enforce the license. That may be the reason why they are ignoring you. You need to contact someone who is a pertinent copyright holder and who is interested in enforcing the license to his or her work.

Re:Only copyright holders have standing here (1)

djcapelis (587616) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892999)

He doesn't actually lack legal standing to enforce the license... but he does lack legal standing to bring a claim of copyright infringement.

If they admit they are distributing the software under the GPL then anyone who receives it has enough standing to enforce the license.

It is when they say "no, we don't want to follow the GPL" that you need one of the original copyright holders to jump in. This usually doesn't happen as most companies realize this is an astronomically bad idea.

Point being... he actually could either enforce this himself or provide the copyright holders with an admission of copyright infringement.

Wording (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892957)

"Make available" and "Advertise Availability" are two different concepts.
I don't think they're in violation unless they deny a request for the source code.

Make sure to notify the FSF and gpl-violations.org (5, Interesting)

walter_f (889353) | more than 6 years ago | (#23892997)

FSF and gpl-violations.org are co-operating closely. gpl-violations and FSF have handled some cases regarding busybox before and have handled them successfully (i.e., out-of-court settlements have been achieved).

And a settlement resulting in GPL compliance - that's what enforcing the GPL is all about.

As Eben Moglen, legal counsel to the FSF for many years, put it (in a keynote address in October 2006):

---
When I went to work for Richard Stallman in 1993, he said to me at the first instruction over enforcing the GPL, "I have a rule. You must never let a request for damages interfere with a settlement for compliance."

I thought about that for a moment and I decided that that instruction meant that I could begin every telephone conversation with a violator of the GPL with magic words: We don't want money. When I spoke those words, life got simpler. The next thing I said was, We don't want publicity.

The third thing I said was, We want compliance. We won't settle for anything less than compliance, and that's all we want.

Now I will show you how to make that ice in the wintertime. And so they gave me compliance.
---

http://www.geof.net/blog/2006/12/10/eben-moglen [geof.net]

Not the first time (4, Informative)

l2718 (514756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893001)

Last year BusyBox successfully enforced their copyrights in at least two [groklaw.net] instances [groklaw.net] . While the terms of the settlements have not been disclosed, I'm sure the SFLC will be happy to get involved again.

What GPL says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23893107)

You need to read the GPL actually. Because it doesnt says "require that anyone using and distributing the binaries of this software make source available to everyone".

Go read the GPL, GPL zealot.

Re:What GPL says... (1)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893171)

Clever troll, you're almost right. Here's what the GPL, v.2 (the version Linux is licensed under) does say:

3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:
a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,
b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,
c) Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)

In this instance the complainant received the binaries, but did not receive the source code, and his attempts to obtain the source code have been rebuffed.

So you're right - the GPL doesn't require that Minerva make the source *available*to*everyone*. But that's an utter red herring. The complainant isn't asking for that.

P903iTV mobile phone (3, Interesting)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893139)

Different product, but I've seen and heard indications that my Docomo P903iTV by panasonic is running on top of Linux. I can't find any mention of Linux in the manuals, let alone an offer of source for the kernel, etc., or any indication of a way to access a shell, etc.

There is a java API, called, I think, iAppli. I haven't found much on getting dev stuff for it in the manuals, but it can be found on the web. I think. I haven't actually tried it yet, and it doesn't look like they make it easy to figure out where to start.

While I'm complaining, the USB adaptor is "not guaranteed to work with Macs or Linux". The sales guy I talked to seemed almost proud to say that and seemed quite anxious to discourage me from buying the adaptor to see if I can even mount the internal flash or the microSD card. I let him discourage me because money is really tight.

If anyone knows anything about this phone, I'd appreciate some pointers.

Lousy Japanese market. The government promotes Linux. Industry likes Linux in industry as long as it's nowhere near the consumer market. Marketing is strictly under the thumb of Microsoft/iNTEL. Can't get a Linux eeePC (not that I'm that anxious to buy an iNTEL processor) in Japan because "this is Japan, of course!" (Implicitly, otaku are expected to be happy to pay the Microsoft tax.)

Re:P903iTV mobile phone (1)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893277)

[...] Panasonic [...]

Panasonic as well as several other Jap CE producers maintain their own distribution for such embedded products. It is all done under roof of CE Linux Forum [celinuxforum.org] . Probably you can Google for more info.

Last time I read, their goal was not to fork and to distance themselves from the development - but to simplify communication with Linux community.

Chances are good that recent Linux kernels do support embedded device in your TV without extra patches.

P903iTV is a mobile (cell?) phone with TV function (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 6 years ago | (#23893337)

Can't remember if the FOMA/MOVA phones are properly cell phones or some other kind of mobile. I suppose wikipedia might tell me something if I weren't more interested in sleep.

There is one-seg TV on the phone. I don't find it very fun to watch Japanese TV on a 3cm x 5cm screen. Radio would be more useful, make it possible to listen to their public radio language programs to improve my Japanese while I'm on the train.

What I really want to do is get a shell and amuse myself by writing and compiling simple C language programs on the train. Hopefully one of the open source phones will allow me to do that shortly.

My friend joudanzuki seems to want to dig deeper into his phone, but I doubt the UI is under the GPL. He hates the input methods and has some ideas how to improve them for using English.

I don't particularly care for the UI either, but I'd prefer to have a proper QWERTY keyboard. (Wouldn't turn my nose up at a Dvorak keyboard, of course.)

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