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Telstra Violating the GPL?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the not-playing-by-the-rules dept.

Australia 197

daria42 writes "It looks like Australia's largest telco, Telstra, hasn't exactly been paying attention to its responsibilities under the GNU GPL. Australian coder Angus Gratton has been investigating the company's branded T-Hub, T-Box and T-Touch products — all based on Linux, and all without any source code or GPL license attached. Naughty. However, it's not as though Telstra is the only one to blame — the goods are manufactured by Sagem, Netgem and Huawei respectively." Telstra responded quickly to Gratton's claims, saying they would work with the vendors to straighten out the licensing situation and fix any compliance issues.

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I dislike Telstra as much as anyone (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171600)

In Australia Telstra is the villain that everyone loves to hate. But in this case, it is not really their problem. They paid some OEM for a branded product that I very much doubt they had that much invested in. This is really a minor oversight that has been turned into a story.

Re:I dislike Telstra as much as anyone (1)

marky_boi (1427845) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171730)

Can't why this is flamebait, seems closer to the truth than not.....
GPL isn't part of the Telstra culture, I'm going for oversight and relying on the supplier to have crossed the "T's" and dotted the "I's"

Re:I dislike Telstra as much as anyone (4, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171862)

ignorance is no excuse. I've been told this by a judge while in court. Time for a Judge to tell Telstra.

Re:I dislike Telstra as much as anyone (3, Interesting)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172492)

Ignorance of the law is indeed no excuse (though it is often a mitigating factor), but in this case I'm not sure Telstra has broken a law. They sold and/or rented these devices to their customers as a reseller. Are they responsible for GPL compliance or is the original manufacturer? They slapped their brand on the things, but had nothing to do with design or manufacture. I honestly have no idea what their legal responsibility is, and I doubt anyone but an Austrailian IP attorney could offer a valid opinion. To my mind this is the OEM's problem not the reseller. After all we don't go after Best Buy if some product on their shelves is violating the GPL.

Telstra are the distributers (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172140)

> But in this case, it is not really their problem. They paid some OEM for a branded product

This is not the way that the GPL works, however. The copyleft requirements within the GPL, that require source code to be made available to downstream recipients, apply to the act of distribution of the GPL code.

It is not Telstra's code, and it is not the code of the OEM. The code belongs to the original authors, who wrote it. They get the rights awarded to them by Australia's copyright law.

The authors have stipulated that anyone may distribute this code as long as they provide the source code.

Telstra are distributing the code (that is not Telstra's code). This is the crucial bit. Telstra are the distributers.

Therefore, Telstra must either provide the source code as they used it in their products to any customer who asks for it, or they are in violation of Australia's copyright law.

It is not sufficient to merely provide links. Telstra must provide the source code.

However ... since the source code is open source anyway ... where is the downside anyway? Telstra simply provide it to anyone who asks for it, and everything is perfectly sweet.

Re:I dislike Telstra as much as anyone (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172602)

With the greatest possible respect, it's work for hire and has their name on it so they cannot deny responsibility.

Meanwhile, at Slashdot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171606)

Anonymous Coward responded quickly to claims of a high ping, saying he would work with Slashdots horribly slow comment system to get the first post and waste some mod points.

OMFG !! A COPTRIGHT INFRINGER !! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171626)

Get the RIAA MPAA and fucking MAFIA on those scumbags pronto !! We can't have no stinking copyright infrngers (and NO it is not STEALING ANYTHING, I know !!) invading our living space !!

Yours,
I. Ron Ick

OMFG !! A COPYRIGHT INFRINGER !! RUN AWAY !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171646)

Get the RIAA MPAA and fucking MAFIA on those scumbags pronto !! We can't have no stinking copyright infrngers (and NO it is not STEALING ANYTHING, I know !!) invading our living space !!

Yours,
Sir Castic, Esq.

Just because they have branded it (2, Informative)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171650)

Just because they have branded it does not mean they have changed any source. I have never seen one of these things so I don't know anything about them; but they may not be obligated to distribute any source. Also you don't have to provide the source with your binaries to satisfy the gpl. You just have to make the source available in a useful format if someone wants it. Has anyone asked Telstra or any of the manufacturers for the code?

Re:Just because they have branded it (3, Informative)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171666)

You must tell your customers that you are using GPLed code.

Re:Just because they have branded it (3, Insightful)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171778)

If Toyota were to slyly use GPL'd code in some part of one of their vehicles, it probably would be ridiculous to try to make the case that the local privately-owned Toyota dealership had failed to live up to its responsibilities under the GNU GPL, even though they were the one that sold you the car. In all likelihood, the dealership has no clue about where the code in the car's processors ultimately comes from, because only Toyota would have source code for the stuff.

It would be helpful to remember that Telstra might similarly have contracted out to have some Internet appliances made; if the manufacturers didn't tell Telstra that the code was legally encumbered, then you wind up in this sort of situation, with no intentional malfeasance on the part of Telstra, and lots of confusion when you start making accusations.

The idea of holding the seller responsible for a manufacturer's use of GPL code is interesting. I'm pretty sure our local retail stores sell things like generic DSL modems and wireless access points without providing access to the source code. I'm positive that the local T-Mobile reseller who rents a kiosk at the mall had no idea he was required to provide access to source code for the T-Mobile WRT54G-TM's that were being sold a year or two ago. He was selling products in a box, there are no markings on the box that would indicate encumbered GPL code was in use, etc. It would be interesting to see if a case had ever been brought against such a retailer.

The Telstra case may well lie somewhere in the middle; their engineering department was probably aware of the design of the devices at some level.

I'm sure this will be read as an anti-GPL message by some zealot with an angry mod finger, but come on people, let's at least try to be fair and openminded. Telstra can be damned if and when the facts are established that they willfully and knowingly violated the GPL.

Re:Just because they have branded it (4, Insightful)

dattaway (3088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171814)

In your analogy of Toyota distributing cars without following terms of the license, the dealer is NOT authorized to distribute under terms of the license. It becomes a copyright violation. The GPL is very clear about this.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1, Insightful)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171890)

I despair gently over the fact that copyright is /.'s worst enemy 90% of the time, and then someone mentions GPL...

Re:Just because they have branded it (2, Interesting)

contra_mundi (1362297) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171992)

There isn't much cognitive dissonance. GPL just uses the strong copyright to keep itself and derivatives one sort of free.
A much stranger position to me is hating copyright and GPL, because you at the same time hate the former which takes away freedom (to use and copy) and the latter which gives freedom (to use and copy).

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172328)

The latter gives one form of freedom by encumbering the code; this whole topic is about that encumbering, and the obligations Telstra and/or their OEM have, so let's please not try to argue otherwise.

You can hate (typical) copyright because it requires things of you. For example, it may require you to not copy something that you'd find useful copied. Or it may require you to go to effort to distribute source, as in the GPL.

The BSD license is less onerous in that regard because its restrictions are passive in comparison, primarily requiring that you retain copyright notices and not claim the code as your own.

From that point of view, then, one could hate both (typical) copyright and GPL, because both encumber you with restrictions against activities that you might wish to engage in.

Looked at in that light, the BSD license is substantially more "free."

Of course, not everyone wants to allow nearly unrestricted use of their creative efforts. I view that as a personal choice. We should realize that the GPL only gives freedom in some senses, while taking it away in others (i.e. an OEM using GPL code is not free to distribute binaries only).

Re:Just because they have branded it (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171996)

I believe the word is "hypocrisy".

Can't have it both ways, children.

Re:Just because they have branded it (2, Insightful)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172082)

The GPL is designed to short-circuit copyright and subvert it against itself, so there really is no hypocrisy. In both cases, the "slashdotter" you're complaining about is railing against copyright.

Re:Just because they have branded it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172098)

You do realize there are a lot of people here and not everyone that is not you is one person who needs to have a consistent set of opinions?

That said, I don't think Iv'e seen anyone arguing for the complete abolishment of copyright on the one hand, and it's importance to the GPL on the other, as you imply.

Now, expanding fair use to permit non-commercial copying is a different matter, but it wouldn't hurt the GPL.

copyright length (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172636)

I despair gently over the fact that stupid copyright length is /.'s worst enemy 90% of the time, and then someone mentions GPL...

FTFY.

Let's not mention software patents either....

Re:Just because they have branded it (5, Informative)

Stray7Xi (698337) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172008)

In your analogy of Toyota distributing cars without following terms of the license, the dealer is NOT authorized to distribute under terms of the license. It becomes a copyright violation. The GPL is very clear about this.

The point is they don't need to agree to the license, the GPL never forces anyone into it (section 9). By not agreeing to the license, all normal copyright law restrictions apply to them. However in this case they aren't infringing copyright, they're merely abiding by first sale rule.

In fact a case can be made that apps that include a click-through EULA of the GPL violate the GPL. Since clicking I disagree will refuse to install the app which is an additional restriction (section 10). You can't force someone into the GPL, only pursue them for copyright infringement if they disagree.

Pursuing Telstra is stupid, they should be attacking the OEM manufacturers.

9. You are not required to accept this License in order to receive or run a copy of the Program. Ancillary propagation of a covered work occurring solely as a consequence of using peer-to-peer transmission to receive a copy likewise does not require acceptance. However, nothing other than this License grants you permission to propagate or modify any covered work. These actions infringe copyright if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or propagating a covered work, you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so.

10. ...
You may not impose any further restrictions on the exercise of the rights granted or affirmed under this License. For example, you may not impose a license fee, royalty, or other charge for exercise of rights granted under this License, and you may not initiate litigation (including a cross-claim or counterclaim in a lawsuit) alleging that any patent claim is infringed by making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the Program or any portion of it.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172658)

In fact a case can be made that apps that include a click-through EULA of the GPL violate the GPL. Since clicking I disagree will refuse to install the app which is an additional restriction (section 10).

I consider those a little bit like the reading of your Miranda rights, they're not *given* to you by the reading. They're rights you already have, it's just giving you a summary of them. Same with the GPL, the part about not accepting is basically a short reading of copyright law. Perhaps the acknowledgement that you have been given notice of this should be slightly different than "I agree", but you're nitpicking on something no judge would substantially care about.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172012)

I can write a license that says you must kill your first born child if you use this code. Does that make it legally enforceable?

"The GPL is very clear about this" is not compelling. It is clear in this case that the *manufacturer* has a responsibility to distribute the code. However, whether or not such responsibility can be transferred to a third party who merely purchased and resold a product is not necessarily that clear.

Consider this the other way around. Let's say I run a kid-themed restaurant. I go out to Best Buy and buy the movie Cars, and start playing it in my restaurant. The movie contains a copyright statement that says "Licensed only for personal home viewing." Does Pixar get to sue Best Buy for my violation of that condition? Or would that be laughed out of court?

Re:Just because they have branded it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172202)

> "The GPL is very clear about this" is not compelling. It is clear in this case that the *manufacturer* has a responsibility to distribute the code. However, whether or not such responsibility can be transferred to a third party who merely purchased and resold a product is not necessarily that clear.

Wrong way around. Telstra are distributing the GPL code to the customers, not the OEM.

The copyleft requirements apply to the act of distribution.

Therefore, Telstra, who are distributing the GPL code, must provide the source code. If they don't make the source code available to anyone who asks for it, then Telstra have no permission to distribute that code.

Under copyright law, the act of distributing code that someone else wrote requires that the party doing the distribution must have permission to do so. Distributing works without permission is a law-breaking act.

Under the GPL license that applies to this code, the only way that Telstra can get that required-by-law permission is for Telstra to make the source code available to anyone who asks.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172228)

Again, that's a nice theory, but has yet to see a meaningful test in the courts. That's the real world.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172256)

Stranger things have happened...

This is America, home of the litigious after all...

Assuming the case even made it to trial, it probably would be dismissed with prejudice, and Pixar would probably be told to go sue the person who exhibited it in public.

Now, if Best Buy tampered with any of the copyright notices, or otherwise encouraged you to violate Pixar's copyright by showing it in public, they may be liable to for breach of warranty to you, if they falsely claimed that it could be shown in public when in fact it could not. Supposing Pixar DID sue your balls off for showing it in public, even though Best Buy said you could use it to show in public.

Best Buy would have made a warranty about the product it sold to you. A warranty that was breached when Pixar sued for infringement. Best Buy would then be responsible for your damages at least to some degree if you could prove that their promise of public exhibitability was an express warranty.

Re:Just because they have branded it (2, Informative)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172534)

Actually to keep things even moderately on topic it should be Australia. Just sayin'.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172292)

I can write a license that says you must kill your first born child if you use this code. Does that make it legally enforceable?

I doubt they can force you to kill your first born child, but you have no right to use the software if you dont.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172502)

AFAIK you do as that part of the licence gets struck out as if it wasn't there.

Re:Just because they have branded it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172362)

No, Pixar doesn't do that. They send Elastigirl to tie you up while Woody yells, "there's a snake in my boot!" in your ear for 96 hours straight while Buzz keeps shaking his wrist and saying "Star Command, come in Star Command. There's a copyright violation down here."

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

u17 (1730558) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172540)

I can write a license that says you must kill your first born child if you use this code. Does that make it legally enforceable?

If you cannot meet the terms of the license then you don't have any rights to the code.

If the license is not legally enforceable, i.e. it is an invalid license, then you don't have any license, hence you don't have any rights to the code.

What seems to be the problem?

Re:Just because they have branded it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172592)

Yeah, but there's a big fucking difference between "Tell people you're distributing GPL'd code and provide source code to people who ask for it" and "kill your first born child". One is a quite reasonable request, the other...need I say it, is not.

Also, your "Cars" analogy is nonsensical. The difference is that Best Buy has, quite clearly, done nothing wrong in your example. In the case of these modems, it's possible that either Sagem has done something wrong or that Telstra has done something wrong....depending on whether or not Telstra knew about the GPL'd code (And I would bet dollars to donuts that they did.)

This isn't some random guy buying 4 or 5 boxed modems from D-Link and selling them in his shop, this is the biggest ISP in Australia buying $millions worth of hardware from several different manufacturers and re-branding those modems as their own. They were either wilfully ignoring the GPL or being outrageously negligent.

Re:Just because they have branded it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171830)

Yes,
but being a reseller does not automatically make you legible to continue selling stolen code.
So while the local toyota dealer would likely not be required to repair damages done by their supplier, the local
toyota dealer would quicker than quick be legally blocked from selling any other vehicles containing stolen code.

If you have some other theory about "innocent merchant" can continue selling "illegal or stolen goods" I would like to hear about them
in case I want to set up business as a "fence".

So would a lot of other people.

Re:Just because they have branded it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171870)

Just asking

because I see business opportunity here on buying, with no proof of ownership and paying in cash and no receipt, goods
such as diamonds and other kinds of jewelry, or say stereos,
and selling them much more expensively to genuine customers.

If you could help explain exactly which part of the law that makes me, or my business, immune to prosecution in such case the goods in question were of less than 100% legally acquired status, that would help immensely.

Re:Just because they have branded it (2, Informative)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171982)

I know I'm replying to a troll here but what the hell...

Theft and violating a software license are not the same thing.

A more apt (although still flawed) analogy would be if Toyota started manufacturing cars containing stolen components (although they had not done so previously) and these were then sold on to retailers. The retailers would have no reason to suspect that the cars contained components that had been stolen and in most jurisdictions they would at worst be forced to give up the cars or at least the stolen components and be reimbursed by Toyota for their costs. Of course, as I already stated this analogy is also flawed.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172054)

Yes. You could get an injunction gainst the dealer selling cars fairly easily, but you would actually need to get the injunction. There is a difference between stealing and copyright infringment. There are laws explictly dealing with handling stolen goods. Whether there are laws about resellers of copyright infringing media or not I don't know but if there are they're different from those dealing with stolen goods.

Re:Just because they have branded it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171836)

If Toyota were to slyly use GPL'd code in some part of one of their vehicles, it probably would be ridiculous to try to make the case that the local privately-owned Toyota dealership had failed to live up to its responsibilities under the GNU GPL, even though they were the one that sold you the car. In all likelihood, the dealership has no clue about where the code in the car's processors ultimately comes from, because only Toyota would have source code for the stuff.

It would be helpful to remember that Telstra might similarly have contracted out to have some Internet appliances made; if the manufacturers didn't tell Telstra that the code was legally encumbered, then you wind up in this sort of situation, with no intentional malfeasance on the part of Telstra, and lots of confusion when you start making accusations.

I don't see the problem. If (Toyota dealer/Telstra) did not have anything to do with the code and did not have any knowledge of the use of a license violation, they cannot be held responsible. However, (Toyota/Sagem/Netgem/Huwei), the one that (made the changes/used the code), is supposed to inform who-ever they sell the equipment to about the license (especially since there is probably an agreement between the two companies). Thus, (Toyota/Sagem/Netgem/Huwei) is at fault and should be held responsible for breach of license accordingly.

(obligatory IANAL note)

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171882)

So if my computer distributes copyrighted movies without my knowledge then it is also not my fault, am I right? or does the situation change when it's an actual person rather then a faceless company breaking copyright laws?

Re:Just because they have branded it (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172312)

Unfortunately, the economics of pre-trial negotiations often boil down to who can survive the gravy drain the longest.

Until you get to court, it's survival of the fittest, where backstabbing cheating, financial muscles, and outright bribery rule.

Faceless companies can outspend individuals any day, which is why they often win before the game even starts.

Re:Just because they have branded it (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171912)

My LG Android phone has a long file of OSS licenses which detail which binaries the licenses apply to. At the bottom of the list there is a statement from LG that they will provide the source code to me on CDROM. It gives an email address I have to contact with my request. For me they are fulfilling with the requirements of the GPL by doing that. Now I wonder if the Telstra products have the same license window and if the ultimate supplier has filled in the statement at the end with the offer of the source.

My guess is that Google actually take care of some of this and provide a procedure to follow and boilerplate documents with some CM work thrown in. They don't want Android to get a bad name, I am sure.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172060)

Right, but the question here is more along the lines of, can you go to the store that sold you that LD Android phone and demand that *they* provide you with that code. The GPL (v3 sec 6) would appear that it might require that. The obvious counterargument is that the seller can point you at the manufacturer's web site, but if the manufacturer isn't distributing the code or has gone out of business, that doesn't seem to work.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

nosferatu1001 (264446) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171948)

So if you dont perform due dilligence (yes, this applies when buying items to resell) you shoudl somehow not be responsible for the products you sell, claiming ignorance that was entirely avoidable?

Re:Just because they have branded it (2, Informative)

abhi_beckert (785219) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171834)

That is simply not true. If you commercially distribute a GPL or GPL-derived product, you must inform all users that it is GPL, and inform them how to get the source code, and all tools needed to work with/build said code.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171874)

If they distribute the hardware they must make the source available. They can't just point to kernel.org.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171908)

You almost can...

"Convey the object code in, or embodied in, a physical product (including a physical distribution medium), accompanied by a written offer, valid for at least three years and valid for as long as you offer spare parts or customer support for that product model, to give anyone who possesses the object code either (1) a copy of the Corresponding Source for all the software in the product that is covered by this License, on a durable physical medium customarily used for software interchange, for a price no more than your reasonable cost of physically performing this conveying of source, or (2) access to copy the Corresponding Source from a network server at no charge."

- GPL v3, section 6b

So... as long as they can offer it from a networked server, they're fine. You don't actually need to ship the code with it.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

kangsterizer (1698322) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171918)

I'd just point out that the kernel is GPLv2 btw :) Slight differences here and thee although not really for that case.

Re:Just because they have branded it (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171968)

But if they point to kernel.org and I fetch the code on a day when Linus is changing a power supply then I can go back to the manufacturer and ask what gives? What if Linus has blocked my IP address because of my notorious trolling on his mailing lists?

My reading of that paragraph is that the (manufacturer|supplier|distributor) have to directly provide the code, or pay Linus to explicitly provide it to me.

OMFG !! A COPYRIGHT INFRINGER !!! WHAT SHALL WE DO (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171660)

Get the RIAA MPAA and fucking MAFIA on those scumbags pronto !! We can't have no stinking copyright infrngers (and NO it is not STEALING ANYTHING, I know !!) invading our living space !!

Yours,
Up !!

We are truly sorry... (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171676)

that we got caught. We will ensure that it won't happen again.

Not sure that is fair. (1)

seeker_1us (1203072) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171690)

Did Telestra even know they were violating the GPL?

Re:Not sure that is fair. (3, Interesting)

abhi_beckert (785219) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171782)

How could they not have known? You don't spend a hundred million dollars promoting a product without hiring competent lawyers to cross your t's and dot your i's.

Any IP laywer would check the origin and license of the software.

Re:Not sure that is fair. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171832)

Any IP laywer would check the origin and license of the software.

We're talking about something that they will probably regard as purely hardware though.

Do you really think they would they do a background check on the firmware running on the routers? Would Telstra even hire an IP lawyer to vet hardware purchases?

Re:Not sure that is fair. (1)

nosferatu1001 (264446) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171978)

Given it is part of due dilligence YES they should have done.

Either it is negligence on their part of deliberate violation. Ignorance of the requirements is, however, NO defence in this matter.

Re:Not sure that is fair. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171842)

Having contracted for Telstra for 7yrs on one of their mission critical system I can say without hesitation you give them way too much credit in the due dilligence department.

Re:Not sure that is fair. (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171916)

Just flipped through Telstra's latest Annual Report to Shareholders (01/10/2010 12:21PM) and although they only mention T-Box and sales, they do use other examples of businesses consuming other licenses for T-Suite products.

They are fully aware of license conditions. You don't sell different levels of licenses for products and claim that "you were not aware" other other license conditions.

This was deliberate.

Re:Not sure that is fair. (1)

nosferatu1001 (264446) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171964)

You're trying to say they didnt perform due dilligence and so shouldnt be liable for their negligence?

Re:Not sure that is fair. (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172348)

Not knowing is not a legal defence. Also you're talking about a company who once actively supported all things GPLed by hosting most of the major Linux distributions and many major projects on it's servers for it's subscribers download metered free, the very same kind of servers which now host the T-Box media. So let's assume they are not a complete stranger to the GPL.

Hanlons Razor (1)

Zevensoft (1784070) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171684)

As evil as Telstra is, this isn't their brand of evil. It's more like an administrative oversight.

Re:Hanlons Razor (1)

lazybeam (162300) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171768)

I haven't read TFA but my first thought was when I heard about these T-things was that they limit you to using more Telstra products. For example the T-hub doesn't work if you don't use Telstra Bigpond as your ISP. Wouldn't that go against the GPL?

Re:Hanlons Razor (2, Funny)

Cytotoxic (245301) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171790)

They have a special bundle that includes the T-Hub, T-Box and T-Touch all in a velveteen container. They call it the T-Bag.

Re:Hanlons Razor (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171858)

Really? We have some "T-Bags" here in the states, perhaps youd like to trade.

Here in the states they may also be referred to as "D-Bags" or "Teabaggers"

Sorry, I couldnt resist the joke.

Re:Hanlons Razor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172214)

Call them Congressman, while you're at it.

Re:Hanlons Razor (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172100)

No. But you must be able to change the code to remove those restrictions. They don't have to tell you how though, that's up to you to figure out.

Re:Hanlons Razor (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171770)

Worker: There might be a licensing issue that we need to look at.
Manager: OK, send a message to legal and ask them to look in to it when they have some time over.

The reason they haven't done anything about it is probably because they were to busy doing things that actually results in profit.
So, what is evil? Do you think Mr. Überevil from the movies really exists, the persons who tortures people, not because it gives them a hardon but because it is just evil. The kind of evil that will destroy the world, not out of profit but because it is the evil thing to do?

No, this is a company that just like every other company prioritized profit before what is right. It is the most common form of evil and the kind that harms us the most.

Sagem is ok with the GPL (1)

romiz (757548) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171764)

Sagem usually releases the source code for their boxes. For the box used in France by Orange, the hosting site [livebox-opensource.com] is provided by the operator. It does not look like Sagem directly provides the source code, probably because they only sell the boxes to operators, and the GPL only states that you need to provide the source to your clients.

I hope it goes to court (5, Insightful)

abhi_beckert (785219) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171772)

Telstra should get a serious ass kicking over this. The amount of money they've spent on advertising alone for this product line wipes out any possible "we didn't know" excuse.

They had to have been told, by multiple lawyers, that this is happening.

If an ordinary person can get fined millions of dollars for minor IP violations, then a corporation the size of Telstra should be fined tens of billions for knowingly violating the GPL in a flagship product. But of course, the law is never fair.

Re:I hope it goes to court (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171838)

I don't think you understand why governments and laws in general were set up.

Re:I hope it goes to court (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171850)

You know, I don't buy it. Those same hypothetical multiple lawyers would have told them that if the advice was ignored, they'd be caught just like this.

I expect a couple of engineers mentioned it, and maybe one or two legal staff confirmed it, but that was way back near the wellspring of the project. In the ensuing roar of activity by executives and marketing, the entirely foreign concept of GPL was probably just lost in the noise. It was boffin-speak to the rest -- they didn't know it was something that mattered any more than what thread the bolts were.

But now they do. And they're fixing it quickly. I don't expect they'll do it again.

Re:I hope it goes to court (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171894)

If an ordinary person can get fined millions of dollars for minor IP violations, then a corporation the size of Telstra should be fined tens of billions for knowingly violating the GPL in a flagship product. But of course, the law is never fair.

Who are these tens of billions going to go to?

Normal people are fined millions for minor IP violations because the IP they are violating is owned by a single profit driven behemoth that doesn't allow for copying. It's a rather different scenario to some GPLed code that may have legally passed through hundreds of hands.

Re:I hope it goes to court (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172108)

To whichever Busybox developer it is that sues everyone for GPL violations. Though to be fair, he doesn't do it for the money.

Re:I hope it goes to court (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172280)

He must be doing it for the bitches then, right?

Re:I hope it goes to court (1)

Mr_Silver (213637) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171896)

Telstra should get a serious ass kicking over this. The amount of money they've spent on advertising alone for this product line wipes out any possible "we didn't know" excuse.

Not quite.

Because Telstra have no access to the source code, they will have asked their third parties to agree to unlimited IPR indemnity on the basis that it is the responsibility of the software company (and not Telstra) to ensure they are in compliance with the licences for the portions of code that they have in their firmware.

This indemnity basically says "Yes! We stand by our claim that the code we have developed is either ours or licenced correctly and if we muck up, you the customer won't be penalised". As such, any legal challenges and the costs associated with one towards Telstra for these products will simply be passed onto the hardware manufacturer.

Speaking as someone who has worked for two other network operators developing products in exactly this way, it is standard practise and you'd be extremely stupid not to sign an agreement like this as the costs of going to court (for a product you had no control over) can run into millions.

Finally, the amount you spend on advertising doesn't make the slightest bit of difference.

Re:I hope it goes to court (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171986)

If an ordinary person can get fined millions of dollars for minor IP violations, then a corporation the size of Telstra should be fined tens of billions for knowingly violating the GPL in a flagship product. But of course, the law is never fair.

Okay, it shouldn't have gotten to this stage, but the only remedy required by the GPL is they release the source code to the GPL bits and supply it upon demand. In a modern context, that means hosting the source code on their own web browser and making it easy to obtain.

The reality these days is virtually many TVs, routers, phones, set top box, blu ray player etc. have Linux in there somewhere. But even if the vendor supplied the GPL bits, it would meet their obligations but most likely it would not do anything for anyone else hoping to hack the box. Most likely you would get some kernel source code, a few libs and busybox. The actual meat and potatoes, whatever application or libs made the box do something could and would be withheld.

Don't get your hopes up (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172232)

Just like Walmart was shocked (shocked!) that their sub-contracted cleaning crews were mostly comprised of illegal aliens (because of the massively low-ball contracts WM offers), Telstra will also wholly blame those they hired.

And don't forget IP Vision in the UK.... (1)

rklrkl (554527) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171860)

IP Vision in the UK are in a similar boat. They ship near-identical hardware (branded as a Technika 8320HD) to the Telstra T-Box, with the only difference being DVB-T2 twin tuners instead of DVB-T. They too run Linux and have a "legal information" dialogue box in the user interface, but I haven't seen any source code for the GPL'ed items they use either. More 8320HD info in my blog [blogspot.com] ...

Re:And don't forget IP Vision in the UK.... (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171902)

http://gpl-violations.org/ [gpl-violations.org] - If there is no source code then report it.

Stories like this don't help (4, Insightful)

kevingolding2001 (590321) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171880)

Until my contract ended, I was recently working for a large IT company (50K people worldwide).

The company did a sales demo recently, and one of the main concerns of the client was that 'we don't use open source in any way'. The client was shit scared of anything to do with 'open source' because they believed that if any were used for anything, suddenly they had to give away all their proprietary secrets to the world.

I tried to explain the differences between the licenses to my boss (BSD vs. GPL vs. Apache etc) and what the GPL really meant (If you don't distribute you have no problem) but since it was my leaving do and people just wanted to drink beer, I don't think anyone was listening.

Stories like this about Telstra just pander to the FUDists.

Re:Stories like this don't help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172090)

I wonder how many lawyers get paranoid about open source licensing and yet don't bat an eyelid when presented with a business software license that gives the vendor the right to audit the client at any time at any business location to check for license violations, or other such wackiness that you can find on the contracts for super-expensive business software.

Re:Stories like this don't help (2, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172498)

I wonder how many lawyers get paranoid about open source licensing and yet don't bat an eyelid when presented with a business software license that gives the vendor the right to audit the client at any time at any business location to check for license violations, or other such wackiness that you can find on the contracts for super-expensive business software.

Probably because they are dealing with one specific vendor whom they can reach an agreement with, or go to court against, if they have a contractual dispute; unlike GPL code where many different people who are involved. The first gives them certantity and a familiar set of circumstances while the second looks like anarchy and confusion. Not hard to see which they'd prefer.

On the flip side... (1)

contra_mundi (1362297) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172128)

What would happen if we ignored GPL violations?

I posit that GPL would no longer remain relevant at all and the end result would be far more welcome to "the FUDists" than what we have now.

Easy (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172188)

Just tell them that instead of open source software, you are using free software. :P

Re:Stories like this don't help (1)

Cluelessthanzero (1885004) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172346)

people just wanted to drink beer
see, the concept of "free as in beer" is sooo much easier to convey.

Branding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34171926)

I also don't think Deutsche Telekom is happy with Telstra stealing their branding system.

punishment clause (1)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34171988)

I think there needs to be a punishment clause. Bringing these people into compliance is one thing, but the way it played out in the past - do whatever you please until someone calls you out, then promise compliance and slowly and partially do something - means that the optimal strategy for a business is to try to get by without adhering to the GPL first, and only if that fails put some effort into compliance.

No surprise they act like that.

Everywhere else where people don't live in a dream world, there are punishments for this kind of behaviour that make sure the rational choice is the right one, because the punishment offsets any profit non-compliant behaviour could have gained you.

Please, some Linux contributor sue them. How about $5000 per device they distributed illegally? Hey, if it's acceptable damages for a single song, it certainly is acceptable for a piece of software.

Re:punishment clause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172050)

I take it that people who pirate content like music, games, movies also therefore deserve to be "punished"?

Re:punishment clause (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172454)

Absolutely.

Re:punishment clause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172696)

There are some cases when non-commercial unauthorised copying is morally right and some (fewer) where it is also legal. However, all commercial unauthorised copying is morally wrong and illegal. Therefore, such commercial copying should be punished, but the situation is not clear with non-commercial copying.

DTH Operators = Evil? (1)

Clueless Nick (883532) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172046)

The GPL may be enforceable, at least till Telstra continues to distribute the devices on outright sale. DTH operators, on the other hand, make their customers sign a contract that specifies that the Set Top Boxes / DVRs being provided are solely the property of the operator, and are being leased to the customer with minimal rights being transferred. Most of these devices use the Linux kernel and other GPL / open source tools to function.

In such a case, the operator may take a plea that by leasing the device, it is not Distributing the software, and therefore is not liable for compliance with GPL. This plea may be used even if there is no provision for return, replacement or repair of the device beyond its warranty period, and the payment made by the customer is equal to the market price for similar equipment.

I am not sure if the excuse mentioned by the operator is legally tenable (in whichever jurisdiction), but it sure does put a stop to many people's impulses to tweak and tinker.

Now, I have received a free HD DVR with my TV purchase, and I can't even try to hack it to do more or expose its guts. What a shame.

Why do I even know about this? (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172058)

Telstra responded quickly to Gratton's claims, saying they would work with the vendors to straighten out the licensing situation and fix any compliance issues.

What's the problem, exactly? They've been notified of their noncompliance and have stated that they'll fix it. Isn't that what we want them to do? Let me know if they've failed to do so after a reasonable amount of time, but until then, I guess I can't be bothered to care.

Re:Why do I even know about this? (1)

bug1 (96678) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172184)

They have stated that they will fix the T-Hub and the T-Box is fine.

The T-Box has notification that it uses GPL'ed software, provides a link to the GPL License, but they dont think to provide a link to the source, so i dont see how they are in compliance with the GPL with the T-Box.

There also might be issues with the T-Box in regard to "scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable" as the firmware is encrypted.

Does anyone know the accepted interpretation of that part of the GPLv2.0 as it relates to firmware, should they be obligated to provide keys to decrypt the firmware so the GPL'ed binaries can be "installed", or is that wishfull thinking on my behalf ?

Re:Why do I even know about this? (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172406)

I'm fairly certain they're not legally obligated to, as that was a large part of the motivation for GPLv3.

Re:Why do I even know about this? (1)

bug1 (96678) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172512)

Some of the software included on the firmware is GPLv2 (or later), so perhaps GPLv3 could be applied to unlock the firmware ?

Its all in the contracts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172144)

Contracts for supplying things to Telstra include the requirement that the supplier ensures all required 3rd party licenses are obtained, and that whatever the supplier supplies is not in violation of any 3rd party licences.

The suppliers clearly sign up to take that responsibility on. They typically indemnify Telstra against any claims by 3rd parties for licence violation as they understand they are responsible in that area.

Its good that Telstra has made an effort to have the issue tidied up and Im sure it will be - and quickly....but legally the responsibility for any violations in this instance more than likely resides with the supplier. Telstra trusted them to carry out their end of the agreement. In this case based on the original /. post, it would appear the supplier may not have.

not selling just renting (1)

Cluelessthanzero (1885004) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172284)

If the provider is not selling but merely renting the user premise equipment (as it very often is the case in Europe) is he still obliged to share the source code? I don't believe it was the case with GPLv1.

There are many GPL violators out there :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172428)

I got a Selteka TV setup box but my attempts to get source have failed :( At their own web page Selteka are advertising Linux use in their setup boxes, still there's no info in web page or product documentation where to get source. They don't answer e-mail source requests. Not everyone has money/time to go full legal way :(

Here's Selteka web page: http://tc402.tvpriedelis.lt/en Click on "Features" to see Flash video about Linux use in their products.

Re:There are many GPL violators out there :( (1)

angloquebecer (1821728) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172746)

Which is why you can use this: http://gpl-violations.org/ [gpl-violations.org]
Report them.

Huawei, respect license terms? It is to laugh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172596)

Why would a company that blatantly ripped off Cisco's IOS [zdnet.co.uk] even blink at violating the GPL?

For the record... (1)

PriceChild (1138463) | more than 3 years ago | (#34172710)

I'm from the UK and have had two small Huawei adsl modems delivered to me by isps. BOTH included a little piece of paper with details of the gpl & where to get the source. Never followed up on it, but at least that slip was there which made me smile.

Not on that continent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34172736)

They don't have GNUs in Australia, unless someone imported some. They do have roos though. They probably occupy the same niche.

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