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Software Freedom Conservancy Wins GPL Case Against Westinghouse

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the do-the-dance-of-joy dept.

GNU is Not Unix 225

fishthegeek writes "The Software Freedom Conservancy has received a judgement against Westinghouse Digital Electronics for $90,000 in damages, $50,000 in costs plus a donation of all of the offending HDTV's that were using BusyBox in violation of the GPL. Given that WDE is nearly bankrupt it's likely that most if not all of the cash will disappear in a legal 'poof,' but it is a victory regardless."

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Confused (-1, Troll)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148840)

A copyright ruling...but it is good for freedom...

Head explodes

Re:Confused (-1, Troll)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148886)

It isn't good for freedom because it involves copyleft. It does nothing to keep anyone free. It's just another sort of shackle. Throw off the shackles! [copyfree.org]

Re:Confused (4, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149024)

The GPL vs BSD license argument never gets old for some folk does it?

Some say BSD-like licenses are bad because they permit people to use the code in a closed, non-free way.
Some say GPL-like licenses are bad because they forbid the same behaviour.

Each to their own, but the GPL allows people who contribute to the public good to make sure that their work is not abused (as they see it), by taking their effort, profiting from it and not sharing back. If that's not the way you roll, so be it, but it gives freedom to users that the BSD license does not.

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149354)

The GPL has, and never will, have any stipulations about profiting from GPL'd code.

Re:Confused (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149556)

...profiting from GPL'd code.

The parent included an additional qualifier that you seem to have missed:

profiting from it and not sharing back

Re:Confused (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149390)

Each to their own, but the GPL allows people who contribute to the public good to make sure that their work is not abused (as they see it), by taking their effort, profiting from it and not sharing back.

Key words emphasized there. As I see it, if I am truly contributing to the public good, then that should allow anyone (the "public") to do what they want with that contribution (the "good"). Even if that means using it in a closed way. It does not detract from the original contribution which is still there for anyone else to use.

I personally don't believe that it is in good form to expect something back from a voluntary contribution. I do it because I want to do it, not because I want something out of it.

If that's not the way you roll, so be it, but it gives freedom to users that the BSD license does not.

Just as the BSD licence gives freedom to users that the GPL licence does not. They are different types of freedom but, objectively, one is not "more free" than the other.

Re:Confused (0, Troll)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149580)

What extra freedoms are granted users by bsd style licences?

I know developers and distributers have more rights, but I can't think of any extra ones for users. Only the loss of right to request code.

Re:Confused (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150038)

I think it's more of a theoretical vs practical kind of thing: copyleft gives users more theoretical rights (that they mostly can't use anyway, not being programmers...) should anyone actually write software, while BSD makes it easier to actually write that software in the first place.

Re:Confused (1)

IshmaelDS (981095) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150202)

How does the license style make it "easier to actually write that software in the first place."? I understand you may have more people interested in writing the code if it's able to be closed source, but that doesn't make it easier to code.

Re:Confused (5, Insightful)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149448)

but it gives freedom to users that the BSD license does not.

Or, you could say, it TAKES freedom from users (ie: developers using a library) that the BSD license does not.

Not saying BSD is better, just saying GPL doesn't give "more freedoms" on a whole, it just assigns them to different people.

Re:Confused (2, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149668)

It takes the freedom to take away freedom.

I will never, ever, feel any sympathy for anyone who thinks they are actually less free as a consequence.

Re:Confused (1)

hahiss (696716) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149704)

It isn't quite right to say that the GPL takes freedom away from anyone, since there is no obligation to use GPL-licensed code. Every freedom has some constraint or other (e.g., the freedom to swing my hand is constrained by the presence of someone else's nose), and even the 2-line BSD license prohibits redistribution without copyright notices. Even the WTFPL (http://sam.zoy.org/wtfpl/) requires a name change if the file is changed.

Re:Confused (4, Insightful)

orasio (188021) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150028)

but it gives freedom to users that the BSD license does not.

Or, you could say, it TAKES freedom from users (ie: developers using a library) that the BSD license does not.

Wrong. It takes freedom from those developers only while they are wearing their distributor hats. They can use GPLed libraries as much as they like. They are just limited from distributing in a way that takes freedom away from users. Their freedom as _users_ is not harmed.

Not saying BSD is better, just saying GPL doesn't give "more freedoms" on a whole, it just assigns them to different people.

You are right here. It takes freedom away from distributors, and gives it _all_ to users. Just they are not necessarily different people, just different roles.

Re:Confused (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149110)

You're talking about the freedom of different people. The GPL maximizes the freedom of the recipient of derived code. The BSD license maximizes the freedom of the distributor of derived code. In many cases the original programmer is also the recipient of code which was derived from his own work, so he maximizes his own freedom by using the GPL. He can after all dual-license his own work at any time. People who argue against the GPL usually do so because they want to use other people's work without reciprocating and therefore recommend the BSD license to other people. People who choose to use the BSD license for their own works have different motives, but they're rarely involved in these discussions.

Re:Confused (1, Insightful)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149784)

I have no problems with reciprocating when I am so inclined. To be forced to do so is ridiculous.

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149934)

Of course, no one is forced to use GPLed code, so the point is non-existant.

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150150)

The GPL does not force you to reciprocate. You're just not given the right to distribute derived code if you don't reciprocate. The GPL gives rights, it doesn't take them away.

Re:Confused (2, Informative)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149178)

Simple public domain will do...

Re:Confused (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149286)

Please tell us how one would magically put their code into the public domain without first dying and then waiting a few decades.

Re:Confused (3, Insightful)

hcpxvi (773888) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149494)

Please tell us how one would magically put their code into the public domain without first dying and then waiting a few decades. I think you can just release it with a statement that says something along the lines of "This software is public domain. I, the author, hereby forego any copyright on it." Or you could write it as part of your job while an employee of the United States government. There is a fair amount of numerical software that is public domain for that reason.

Re:Confused (1)

Golddess (1361003) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150208)

Until some corporation comes along and "convinces" a few congresscritters to give it to them instead [slashdot.org] .

Public domain is NOT simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149424)

Public domain is anything but simple. Take for example this public domain license which was taken from a NASA website:

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:
This software is in the Public Domain. It may be freely copied and used in non-commercial products, assuming proper credit to the author is given. IT MAY NOT BE RESOLD. If you want to use the software for commercial products, contact the author. No copyright is claimed in the United States under Title 17, U. S. Code. This software is provided "as is" without any warranty of any kind

tldr: public domain can still be restricted to academic use only (or any other restriction you want to add)

Re:Public domain is NOT simple (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149526)

Then what term can we use to mean "unrestricted in any form"? Plagiarism issues aside for the moment..

Re:Public domain is NOT simple (2, Insightful)

hcpxvi (773888) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149554)

IANAL, but ... My guess would be that public domain is actually quite simple. You forego copyright on your code, thereby placing it in the public domain. And then anyone can do whatever they like with it. I also guess that whoever wrote that pseudo-license on that (unlinked) NASA website had a very shaky understanding of both software licensing and of copyright law and has written something which is self-contradictory. If he wanted to retain some control over the code he should not have placed it in the public domain. By placing it in the public domain he has foregone any right to tell people what they can and can not do with it. (Can any actual copyright/licensing experts confirm my guesses?)

Re:Public domain is NOT simple (1)

jbolden (176878) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149652)

I'm not sure that license is valid at all, and seems to self contradict. I wouldn't use it as an example of anything other than bad lawyering.

Re:Public domain is NOT simple (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149750)

There is no "license" when something is in the public domain. The only way one could enforce such as license would be by holding a copyright or some other sort of IP right to the code, but such a thing doesn't exist for public domain works.

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149190)

Is that copyfree.org website yours? If it is, I would like to politely point out an error.

The website claims this: "In essence, where document foo is covered by a copyleft license and document bar is covered by some other license, combining the two documents in a single work must, by law, result in a work available under the terms of the copyleft license."

That is not correct. By law, where document foo is covered by a copyleft license and document bar is covered by some other license, combining the two documents in a single work creates a derived work.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derived_work

Ownership of the derived work is split in proportion to relative contributions of the original works foo and bar. The authors of foo and bar must come to some mutual agreement before the derived work (call it foo+bar) can be legally distributed.

Often it is the case that foo might be dual-licensed. In this case, the author of bar might buy a commercial license for foo, and hence release foo+bar as a commercial proprietary product, even though foo itself is also available under a copyleft license.

Re:Confused (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149814)

The website is not mine but I will pass on the information.

Re:Confused (3, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149044)

I know! Distinguishing between different situations is so hard! It strains my brain cell.

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149586)

Have a beer. That should take care of that final, pesky cell.

Re:Confused (2, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150148)

Have a beer. That should take care of that final, pesky cell.

Believe me, there have been many such attempts on its life, and it has survived them all and come out stronger and more resilient. Following the Cliff Clavin Theory of Drinking, this is the most lean, efficient, and bad-ass brain cell in history. It is equal to a hundred normal brain cells. If my brain was a computer simulation, it would be The One.

It's still just one lonely brain cell though. Back to trying to kill it with beer!

Nearly bankrupt? They made an assignment==busted! (2, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148876)

It helps explain all those crappy 37" Westinghouse TVs that were being blown out by retailers on the cheap last year.

Re:Nearly bankrupt? They made an assignment==buste (1)

Theoboley (1226542) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148940)

Makes sense about the Olevia TVs too a few years back.

Re:Nearly bankrupt? They made an assignment==buste (2, Interesting)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149240)

And the 47" units that were discontinued within a year of them being sold, including no service/warranty parts being available.

I purchased a 47" 1080p Westy 3 years ago or so and was pretty happy with it, until it died 30 days before warranty expiration. (I also had a BB service plan due to making the calculation that this model with a so-so reliability rep plus the cost of the service plan was less than the cost of a model that had a good long-term reliability reputation.) It took almost a month for BB's service contractor to determine that it was not possible to obtain ANY service parts for this unit. End result is BB gave me a free upgrade to a brand new Sharp Aquos (Smaller screen but better contrast and MUCH better reputation, and at that point a lower MSRP than what I paid for the Westy.

Correct me if I'm wrong (3, Insightful)

JazzXP (770338) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148888)

Isn't this the first proper test of GPL in a court of law?

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148968)

Sure. Just like last time was also the first time, and the time before that...

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148980)

Isn't this the first proper test of GPL in a court of law?

I'm not a lawyer so maybe I'm not understanding the weight of "first proper test" but there have been many court cases [wikipedia.org] I think most are settled out of court though. Example:

In 2002, MySQL AB sued Progress NuSphere for copyright and trademark infringement in United States district court. NuSphere had allegedly violated MySQL's copyright by linking code for the Gemini table type into the MySQL server. After a preliminary hearing before Judge Patti Saris on February 27, 2002, the parties entered settlement talks and eventually settled. At the hearing, Judge Saris "saw no reason" that the GPL would not be enforceable.

This might be the first one inside the United States to come down to a court decision without being short circuited by a settlement, yes. Keep in mind that they claim to find one violation per day [slashdot.org] so it's awfully kind of them to give years worth of warning before starting to take legal action. I'm sure that if someone with money really wanted to stick it to their competitors and they are listed as violators of the GPL (like any retailer who competes with Best Buy) they could probably be a real thorn in their side. The last thing you want is big companies afraid to use GPL'd code because it's a legal liability -- adoption and buy in from a huge company is one of the best things that could happen to a small GPL project because it means you'll always be around.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong (5, Insightful)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149270)

It would've been pretty easy to fully comply with the GPL in this situation without giving anything of substance away to competitors.

There's no reason to be afraid of using GPLed code as long as you actually READ THE DAMN LICENSE and comply. For something like busybox there is almost no one who would suffer any competitive disadvantage by publishing the source code for the GPL software used in compliance with the license, and a pretty good market advantage (don't have to develop any of the basic functions busybox provides, so you can focus on developing the product-specific functionality).

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong (1)

udippel (562132) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149408)

If only I had mod points ... !
Now I even endanger my karma; but I can take a hit.
This is just too beautifully written. Have heard this really, really stupid argument just too often over the years. What the hell are your competitors to do with your code on their hardware? Except your name is Steve The Maniac of Cupertino. Of course.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong (2, Insightful)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149994)

The source code itself probably won't run as-is on different hardware, but there are clues and hints and subtleties that can be copied. A more efficient algorithm for this, or a creative way of doing that. Something clever like Carmack's inverse square root which most sane people would shy away from until proven are great examples. An efficient, error-tolerant input achieved by creative hit testing might give your interface usability advantages.

Clever ordering might save users from the problem I have where my cheap Dynex TV takes forever to change channels, where a better TV would implement frequency locking and input independently, with a way to 'cancel' the signal acquisition. My TV seems to take the approach of channel down, update frequency, aquire signal, begin display, then return to looking for input. Maybe it's a simple check before signal locking for additinoal input, or maybe it's a limitatino of the hardware that something in process can't be cancelled. The source code modifications would be a clue to that.

You're right that the source code as-is wouldn't be helpful, but there are certain levels of competitive secrets that might be interesting to lift, and with the GPL it's legal. Lift and improve, good for customers but bad for trade secrets.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150072)

The source code itself probably won't run as-is on different hardware, but there are clues and hints and subtleties that can be copied. A more efficient algorithm for this, or a creative way of doing that.

In Busybox?

Just because you've got busybox in your TV doesn't mean you have to give away the source code to the rest of it.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong (4, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150154)

OK, name a single one of the functions you described that would be handled by busybox.

Just because one component (busybox) to handle basic OS housekeeping functions is open source doesn't mean your main application (the TV stuff) has to be. That was my whole point. You can save a LOT of development time on OS housekeeping type stuff with busybox, and then publish that source code in compliance with the license and your competitors get NOTHING, because the stuff that matters is in another fully independent software component that does not fall under the GPL.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150152)

Have heard this really, really stupid argument just too often over the years. What the hell are your competitors to do with your code on their hardware?

Everything your product does without having to spend time and money figuring out how ?

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150074)

Unless they also licensed proprietary code from another company and mixed it with the GPL code. At that point, they would have to make a choice between breaking their contract with the other company and violating the GPL. If I were incompetent or unethical enough to get myself into that situation, I probably would have violated the GPL gambling on the probability that the copyright holders don't have the time or money to take me to court.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150188)

No. See MySQL AG vs Progress Software.

Not what it seems (5, Informative)

ledow (319597) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148904)

As has been discussed in the million other websites that jumped on this news earlier in the week:

It wasn't so much a win as a "no contest":
- The company that's gone bankrupt, went bankrupt (in a real, non-SCO fashion) and couldn't have afforded to fight the case.
- The people handling the bankruptcy don't want the lawyers who were working the case representing them any more (presumably they stopped paying them).
- The lawyers handling the case stopped defending it because they were asked not to provide any further representation.

In many senses it was a "win by default" - it was unchallenged, they couldn't afford to challenge it, and they were bankrupt anyway. In terms of legal precedent, this is like saying "I *do* own an acre of the moon because I presented it in a case against NASA and NASA went bankrupt before they could file any defence whatsoever" and then using this as a legal precedent that everyone with the same paper as you owns an acre of the moon. It's not a "win", it's not even a "loss", it's just a "nothing" in legal terms.

Re:Not what it seems (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148948)

"de fault" the two sweetest words in the English language.

Homer Simpson

It may be a win by default.... (4, Interesting)

maroberts (15852) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148950)

..but what matters is that a judge has issued a ruling on the matters before the court.

Its a common practise to start with little guys to get precedents and then work your way up to the bigger fish; the bad guys (eg, patent trolls) have been using this technique for ages, so its no biggie if the Good Guys learn from them,

Re:It may be a win by default.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149434)

You really aren't a lawyer or have a loose grip on reality.

Re:It may be a win by default.... (2, Informative)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149546)

But there isn't any precedent here. It basically says "the defendants didn't show up, so I'll assume everything the plaintiffs said is true and give them everything they asked for". There's no decision on whether there actually was any infringement, because that assertion was never contested. (Plus, I think only appeals courts set precedent?)

Re:Not what it seems (4, Interesting)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148952)

I think this might be a win in the sense that the court recognized the GPL as being a valid license, regardless as to how well contested the case was. It also sets precedent that the GPL is valid for use in future cases.

Re:Not what it seems (2, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149016)

That the GPL is a valid license was never seriously in question.

Certainly not among competent contract lawyers. SCO lawyers might argue it isn't, sure, but that's what I mean.

That's why out of all the GPL cases the EFF has brought, so many are settled out of court and in the EFF's favor.

Never in serious question (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149572)

Never in serious question but that doesn't stop people going "it's never been tested in court" what about in Germany? "it's never been tested in US court" what about here? "it's never been tested in court and found legitimate by the judge rather than settled before then".

Well, now we've got an answer to the NOT SERIOUS question "it's never been tested in court without being settled out of court before the judge gets to it".

Though I guess that there'll now be the question "It's never had to pass being contested in front of a Judge in a US court".

Just because the GPL has never been seriously contested as a legitimate copyright license doesn't stop people questioning the GPL as a valid license.

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149518)

Do we get the source code? This isn't a win unless the source code is released, as required by the GPL. If this is just a precedent against a bankrupt entity then it may not be possible to enforce any contractual obligation.

Re:Not what it seems (5, Insightful)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149164)

In many senses it was a "win by default" - it was unchallenged, they couldn't afford to challenge it...

How typical... He with the most money wins! God our justice system needs an overhaul!

Oh wait... we won... nevermind!

Disapear in a legal 'poof' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148918)

Well I guess pride is coming up so they'll need the money.

once again (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148966)

A victory for lawyers...

Maybe I should give up being a techie.
So long slashdot.
I suppose I should be getting my news from weaseldot.org now?

WDE? (2, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148970)

I had to RTFA to find out that WDE is Westinghouse Digital Electronics.

Westinghouse is currently in General Assignment, an alternative to bankruptcy under California state law

I don't get this at all. The US Constitution says bankruptcies are in Federal court and not a state matter. Is there a better FA somewhere?

Re:WDE? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149078)

I don't get this at all. The US Constitution says bankruptcies are in Federal court and not a state matter. Is there a better FA somewhere?

Bankruptcy has been handled at the state level longer than I can remember, or at least, the laws for same are wildly different in different states. Florida is a home for retirees specifically because going to Florida permits them to evade debts. California is also a great place to be in debt.

Re:WDE? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149376)

Bankruptcy is in Federal Courts exclusively; state courts are not allowed to hear bankruptcy cases. However, different state laws may impact how certain aspects of the bankruptcy, including what assets are protected, are handled.

Re:WDE? (3, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149578)

However, different state laws may impact how certain aspects of the bankruptcy, including what assets are protected, are handled.

Well obviously IANAL. I guess the next logical question is what happens when someone feels that the federal court has disrespected the state laws.

Re:WDE? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149618)

Well obviously IANAL. I guess the next logical question is what happens when someone feels that the federal court has disrespected the state laws.

They can just appeal the decision to the Federal appellate court, which in turn can certify the question to the state supreme court if they want, but that is at the Federal court's discretion.

Re:WDE? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149532)

Florida is a home for retirees specifically because going to Florida permits them to evade debts.

There's more to it than that. It's also got a tax structure that is favorable to them. Many are looking to 'get out of the cold', which is why they aren't going to Alaska. Better cost of living than AK as well.

Re:WDE? (0, Flamebait)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149114)

> The US Constitution says bankruptcies are in Federal court and not a state matter.

It says no such thing. It does not cover bankruptcy at all, even indirectly.

Re:WDE? (3, Informative)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149196)

It does not cover bankruptcy at all, even indirectly.

Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 4 [usconstitution.net] . Which doesn't specify that all bankruptcies are to be in Federal court, just that the Congress may specify uniform treatment.

ob Onion [theonion.com]

Re:WDE? (0)

quantumplacet (1195335) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149342)

What were you banking on no one reading your provided link? It says nothing about bankruptcy, the "uniform treatment" you mention is in reference to Imposts, Excises and Duties. The closest it gets to bankruptcy is the mention of debts, but its referring to debts the federal government owes.

Re:WDE? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149406)

What were you banking on no one reading your provided link? It says nothing about bankruptcy, the "uniform treatment" you mention is in reference to Imposts, Excises and Duties. The closest it gets to bankruptcy is the mention of debts, but its referring to debts the federal government owes.

What about the part where it says:

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

?

Re:WDE? (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149534)

Are you an idiot in real life, too, or do you only play one on slashdot?

Re:WDE? (1)

Courageous (228506) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149694)

Your browser has a search function. Please learn to use it before accusing someone else of not reading. That was just stupid.

You had to RTFA? (1)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149552)

I had to RTFA to find out that WDE is Westinghouse Digital Electronics.

From TFS:

"The Software Freedom Conservancy has received a judgement against Westinghouse Digital Electronics for $90,000 in damages, $50,000 in costs plus a donation of all of the offending HDTV's that were using BusyBox in violation of the GPL. Given that WDE is nearly bankrupt it's likely that most if not all of the cash will disappear in a legal 'poof', but it is a victory regardless."

Did the summary get edited to include that, or what?

Re:WDE? (1)

kilgortrout (674919) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149608)

This isn't a court proceeding. A General Assignment, i.e. an assignment for the benefit of creditors, is a private out of court transaction where the debtor assigns all his assets to an assignee that he has chosen who takes the property in trust for the benefit of all creditors. The assignee is charged with the responsibility of liquidating all of the debtors assets and distributing the proceeds to the creditors on a pro rata basis subject to whatever creditor priority laws may exist under state law, if any. A General Assignment is frequently done by those not wishing to have the independent scrutiny of a bankruptcy trustee or bankruptcy court.

The title. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148972)

Something is wrong with the title, look carefully and you will see it.

Not the EFF.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149004)

Not the EFF - the Software Freedom Conservancy.

donation of HDTVs? (2, Funny)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148984)

plus a donation of all of the offending HDTV's that were using BusyBox

Huh, WDE has to give away their HDTVs? Where do I sign up?

To clear things up a little, from TFA:

SFC has also secured the right to compel Westinghouse to hand over all unsold products loaded with BusyBox for donation to charity.

That sounds cool, but the cynic in me believes that won't happen for a variety of reasons ("we don't have any unsold products! The last ones went on eBay for 1$ each!")

Re:donation of HDTVs? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149018)

Particularly since they are currently undergoing some sort of bankruptcy proceedings -- they may be legally required to liquate the remaining merchandise before they comply with this particular court order.

Re:donation of HDTVs? (4, Interesting)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149162)

they may be legally required to liquate the remaining merchandise before they comply with this particular court order.

I don't think so. This is a court order assigning ownership of this property, not an unsecured debt. I think that it will be considered senior to the claims of the other creditors in the same way that a lien is senior to unpaid bills.

Re:donation of HDTVs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149946)

Actually, they went to buy.com, woot.com, and ecost.com -- they've all been liquidating Westinghouse TVs dirt-cheap off & on for the past ~year. And tapered off lately, suggesting the supply is run out.

How do they do it? (2, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149006)

I have always wondered how these GPL folks determine that a product contains GPLed code. How do they do it?

Having been around computers and electronic equipment for a while, I know that we users only receive a working piece of equipment and a manual probably. Now how one delves into getting to establish that GPLed code [or firmware] is contained withing the equipment troubles my mind.

How do they do it?

Re:How do they do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149042)

Take a ROM dump and run strings over it.

Re:How do they do it? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149050)

Depends. Maybe someone sees a version string somewhere, or an interface that looks familiar. Maybe on some machines they have a way to get to the binaries and extract strings and symbols from them.

With a tv, I have no idea though.

Re:How do they do it? (4, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149090)

One thing you can do is reverse engineer the product and keep an eye out for certain strings in the firmware. From what I have seen, most GPL violators do not even bother to try to cover their tracks, and will often leave author names, GPL notices, and so forth in the software. The biggest challenge with consumer electronics is actually reading the contents of the firmware; once you can do that, you can just do some basic checks.

Of course, that is not an easy thing to do, so it is possible that a number of consumer products contain GPL violations that go unnoticed.

Re:How do they do it? (3, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149702)

Don't forget all the firmware that you can download without so much as a serial number.

And then there's all the photos of serial numbers on the internet, which can reduce the number of unchecked cases still further.

Don't think that there's not nerds out there with nothing better to do than to download firmware and run it through strings.

Re:How do they do it? (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150198)

Don't think that there's not nerds out there with nothing better to do than to download firmware and run it through strings.

Nerds? Yes.
Nothing better to do? "Nothing better to do" is a condescending way to say, should be doing something else with their time. Time is a limited quantity in ones life. They are literally doing a public service for free and you shit on them? Whether they are living in their parents basement or taking time out from the rest of their real life, these geeks are policing companies infringing on the free software world, while you are making fun of them on /. .

Re:How do they do it? (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149818)

Using unique string patterns in your code that can be easily searched for helps too ... not that I've ever done such a thing of course.

Re:How do they do it? (2, Informative)

bigrockpeltr (1752472) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149144)

well here are a few ways i can think of.
  • A firmware update became availbale online and it looked similar to a linux-base firmware and then causes the person to investigate further.( not reallly applicable in this particular case )
  • The device has some kind of boot message that at least gives a hint of OSS software.
  • The device has a NIC or serial port. you connect to the device and try to ssh or telnet to it. then do further investigation.
  • someone found some manufacturer's manual or some insiders information or something (speculation).
  • accidentally or otherwise find some hidden menu that may give an indication and then they investigate further.

im sure there are many other different more complex ways. but i guess it all comes down to someone sitting and looking at the device (e.g.) and saying this has a nic port there must be some kind of shell on it lets see. then they realise it is using GPL software and check to see if the manufacturer has posted the code online or try to contact the manufacturer and try to get the code.

Re:How do they do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149176)

Some easy ways are: strings, diff and subpoena

Re:How do they do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149590)

Some TV's have either a serial port, an USB port, or an ethernet port. Connect the serial port to a computer and choose a reasonable baud rate, 57,600, 19,200, 9,600, etc usually 8n1. Press enter a few times for each setting. Maybe you get a prompt, possibly you get the BusyBox banner.

The USB port is trickier. It may only be a USB host for flash drives to update firmware, sometimes it's a OTG/host/peripheral port, which replaces the physical serial port, instead it's a virtual. Connect and do the same

The ethernet port, well, telnet works 99% of the time, sometimes SSH will need to be used. Chances are you get a prompt, it may be the BusyBox banner.

If all that fails, then there's always the firmware check...

Re:How do they do it? (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149858)

Lots of ways - many of the cases I've read about the device/software behaved in a way unique to their product - usually an exhibited bug in an early version or something.

Once you know you can disassemble the device/software, dump the strings out of the firmware - stuff like that and gather evidence.

NOT EFF (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149058)

> EFF Wins GPL Case Against Westinghouse
Give proper attiribution, please!
Neither SFLC http://www.softwarefreedom.org/ [softwarefreedom.org]
nor SFC http://conservancy.softwarefreedom.org/ [softwarefreedom.org]
are EFF, and as far as I can see, they have no relation to EFF.
So why is EFF in the title?

Re:NOT EFF (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149262)

So why is EFF in the title?

Because slashdot editors get their jobs by being friends of its founders, and don't actually do any editing. Anyway the EFF has taken credit for other organizations' wins in the past, maybe they'll do that here too...

Re:NOT EFF (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149442)

Wait, in this case the editor got his job by being the founder, I guess.

The EFF was not involved (5, Informative)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149074)

I cannot figure out why the headline says that the EFF won this case. This case was brought by the Software Freedom Conservancy [sfconservancy.org] , with the Software Freedom Law Center [softwarefreedom.org] acting as the Conservancy's legal counsel. The EFF was not, nor has ever been to my knowledge, involved in anything to do with the GPL.

Also, winning the whole case is probably inaccurate. What's been achieved here is a permanent injunction and judgment against one of the violators. Thus, the case against Westinghouse has been won, but there are other defendants in the case as well.

— bkuhn, President, Software Freedom Conservancy

Re:The EFF was not involved (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149332)

I cannot figure out why the headline says that the EFF won this case. This case was brought by the Software Freedom Conservancy, with the Software Freedom Law Center acting as the Conservancy's legal counsel. The EFF was not, nor has ever been to my knowledge, involved in anything to do with the GPL.

Plus, they actually won, which also makes it unlikely it was the EFF...

God says... (0, Offtopic)

Trivial Solutions (1724416) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149122)

youth offence that hairs omnium significations lack reminded remain breath owed injured roared An accomplished reflect spirit letter Virgil array breathe enough terribly case unpassable nights successive talking sentences orally comprehended choler It Seek adorned hesitated church wind wheel abyss perfecting dost vainly witting Covetousness Madness conquered infinitely orderest stated nursery presidest halved stays toiled inspiring sharers liberal consumest genuinely resisting forget acknowledged struck private usury brittle magnified discoverest infinite roarest deem compact pronounce

The actual judgment is available online (4, Informative)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149150)

Slashdot readers might be interested to read the actual judgment as issued by the Court [sfconservancy.org] , which is available Conservancy's announcement of the decision [sfconservancy.org] . I also wrote a blog post about the decision [ebb.org] that may be of interest.

— bkuhn, President, Software Freedom Conservancy

Tone it down a bit (1)

allometry (840925) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149186)

We may want to hold off on using words like "major" in response to this victory. I'm not sure how major it was and I'm not feelin' like I should ranting and raving about victory. Is it really a "major victory" to beat-up on something that is already dead?

Winning a case against Samsung would be a major victory.

Re:Tone it down a bit (1)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149236)

I agree the victory is not "major", but "important". As for Samsung, they already settled their part of this case and are (to my knowledge) in compliance on their TV products.

— bkuhn, President, Software Freedom Conservancy

Re:Tone it down a bit (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149496)

My Sony TV uses BusyBox and the manual has a link where you can download the software from. They also print out the GPL.

As Eistein would say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149634)

They've been Westinghoused !

Yay! Copyright rules!! Wuh? Oh,, right, copyrigh (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149842)

GPL copyright good
RIAA copyright bad
MPAA copyright bad
Disney copyright bad
Pixar copyright bad
Apple copyright bad, good? bad.

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