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Are Third-Party Android Vendors Violating the GPL?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the checking-it-twice dept.

Android 132

jfruhlinger writes "Google's refusal to not release Honeycomb source code is kosher because the code in question is released under the Apache license. But the kernel at the heart of Android is GPL'd, which means that code must be released. Google has actually been a good citizen in this regard — but many third-party Android vendors, not so much. While Asus has released their code, there are a host of companies that seem to have not done so, and Matthew Garrett is maintaining a list."

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Android (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223012)

Seriously. Every day there is story about some new Android problems. Malware, GPL violations, rooted phones being blocked, Google not releasing the source code for new versions, people pirating apps so developing apps is useless, hardware fragmentation, phones saving location data and leaking all of your stuff to Google. Seriously just do a search for "android" on slashdot. Every freaking day something.

Last winter I was seriously considering getting an Android phone. I was thinking between iPhone and Android. I liked the openness of Android. But then the problems started showing up. Now I wouldn't touch it anymore. And having lived around the world and seeing lots of poverty too, I don't think the underlying system license and GPL really is top priority for lots of people. They just want something that works, they don't have time worry about those times. And now that I've grown too and have to support my family, frankly I dont either. Maybe as a teen, but not anymore.

Re:Android (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223028)

So wtf is your point? That your angsty nerdrage cannot be contained by a mere button-down shirt?

GPL violations occur from MANY companies, not just those using Android.

Re:Android (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223098)

Seriously. Every day there is story about some new Android problems. Malware, GPL violations, rooted phones being blocked, Google not releasing the source code for new versions, people pirating apps so developing apps is useless, hardware fragmentation, phones saving location data and leaking all of your stuff to Google. Seriously just do a search for "android" on slashdot. Every freaking day something.

Well it is the biggest smartphone platform in the world. iOS is a close second and naturally there are always stories about it too, the arbitrary app approval process, changing app guidelines, security issues, phones saving location data, hardware issues (odd since they maintain so few different configurations).

Re:Android (0)

xwizbt (513040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223324)

Yeah, but the arguments about iOS are about how they're stopping people doing dodgy things. The arguments about Android are about how people are running amok, able to do whatever they want despite Google. Never mind which allows you your freedom - you are not the average user. Which one - iOS or Android - is the one you choose to keep pictures of your grandkids on?

Re:Android (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223444)

Google pulls malware from the market. Apple stops people from putting apps into their market because they don't like them. There is a huge difference there. As an average user, you can still do everything you need to do. Security/system updates are there for everyone. It's open sourced so people can find the issues instead of hiding under a rock hoping someone doesn't find the flaws. The average user can just plug the phone into any computer and copy the files into the phone without having to use a computer with itunes to load the picture into the phone. Go back to kneeing at the feet of your lord and master steve jobs and keep drinking the kool-aid. Don't think, just regurgitate what your master tells you.

Re:Android (3, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223472)

Which one - iOS or Android - is the one you choose to keep pictures of your grandkids on?

That's obvious. Android. I want to be sure that I'll always be able to get to those pictures, and not have them under the thumb of a megalomaniacal sociopath.

Re:Android (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223636)

Which one - iOS or Android - is the one you choose to keep pictures of your grandkids on?

That's obvious. Android. I want to be sure that I'll always be able to get to those pictures, and not have them under the thumb of a megalomaniacal sociopath.

Right. JPEG, TIFF, UNIX - all products of a megolomaniacal sociopath. Calm down. Have some Kool Aid. Relax.

Re:Android (3, Insightful)

Cyberllama (113628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36225332)

You've been taken in by Apple's FUD.

Both the App store and Android market are curated experiences, though Apple's version is obviously a lot more restricted. They have both rules, they limit what can be submitted, and they remove things that violate those rules. Both have had problems with apps doing more than they claimed to do that resulted in apps being removed after these violations were discovered. Pretty much every story about Android malware has a corresponding iOS story if you've been paying attention. But similarly, neither platform has any *significant* issues. The recent instance of Google kill switching some apps that violated their rules were not actual Malware apps, just apps posted by a security researcher to demonstrate that people will blindly install apps that ask permission to access contacts/location/etc even though they have no legitimate reason to be doing so. They weren't actually stealing user data, just demonstrating how it could be done.

What makes Android "open" is that if you don't like Google's rules, you can make your own App store like Amazon has done or you can just sideload anything you want. It's worth noting that just as many iOS malware stories involve jailbroken phones, most of the Google Malware stories have involved side-loading because like Apple, Google *DOES* curate the Android Market to keep Malware out and, though both have let some shady pieces of software through, both companies have done a pretty good job of keeping it out. Most of the malware that has slipped through on both platforms is just a matter of people not paying any attention to the fact that the Bobble Head app they just installed for some reason requires permission to access the contact list . . .

P.S. It's funny that you mention "which platform do you want to store your pictures on' because I recently had to do tech support for a relative who was quite saddened to discover that her iOS firmware upgrade had wiped all her pictures (which included many she had taken of her new puppy when it was growing). As an iPhone user myself, I've had this same bug happen to me in the past (when i upgraded my 3gs to firmware 4.0 before I got my iphone 4). I did the firmware upgrade and the pictures were simply gone afterwards . . .

Re:Android (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36225462)

and the problem, both times, was not in the iphone.

why in hell are you using the iphone as a backup solution for your important stuff?

you should have known better.

Re:Android (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223362)

Add to the fact the 99% percent of the users could give a shit about the problems surrounding the source code used in their phones. This issue resonates in the techie community but has little impact on which phone a person chooses.

Re:Android (2)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223132)

You sound like you must be really scared of this internet thing.

Re:Android (1)

BluBrick (1924) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224646)

You sound like you must be really scared of this internet thing.

Nah, it's just a fad - it'll pass.

Re:Android (1)

RyuhoKudo (1911368) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223152)

I just hear grumpy old man talk. You could have saved all of us time by just saying "I'm too old for this shit, I need something that works so I got an iPhone."

Re:Android (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223370)

You could have saved us a lot of time by simply not saying that. Do you have a point to make?

Re:Android (0)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223274)

This may be a little premature, but you sound more than a bit like an astroturfer with anonymous talk like that. No offense or anything.

Re:Android (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223466)

Astroturfers typically have user names... How else are they supposed to get credit for their work.

GPL is why Linux is a bad choice. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223290)

I like Android but all this GPL nonsense shows how dangerous using Linux or other 'free' software can be.

That's why I prefer closed source software. Nobody need an army of anti-social nerds attacking them for using the operating system they promote.

If you don't want people to use Linux just say so. Don't encourage Linux use and then attack companies for daring to keep their intellectual property private.

I've never heard someone complain that source code wasn't released for Windows software.

Re:GPL is why Linux is a bad choice. (0)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223368)

I've never heard someone complain that source code wasn't released for Windows software.

That's because nobody provided source code to Microsoft for Windows under the GPL, dumbass.

Re:GPL is why Linux is a bad choice. (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223540)

You've been trolled [youtube.com]

Re:GPL is why Linux is a bad choice. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223404)

I like Android but all this GPL nonsense shows how dangerous using Linux or other 'free' software can be.

That's why I prefer closed source software. Nobody need an army of anti-social nerds attacking them for using the operating system they promote.

If you don't want people to use Linux just say so. Don't encourage Linux use and then attack companies for daring to keep their intellectual property private.

I've never heard someone complain that source code wasn't released for Windows software.

Linux use is encouraged in compliance with the license agreement.

If you can't follow the GPL, then don't modify and distribute the software.

Or: Try making a profit by disregarding the license agreement on software from Apple or Microsoft ... guarantee you it will be more an "anti-social nerds" requesting that you release some source code.

Re:GPL is why Linux is a bad choice. (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223490)

I've never heard someone complain that source code wasn't released for Windows software.

Are you actually that ignorant of the subject we're discussing? Because if you are, you're in way over your head. And if you're not, you're a troll.

Re:GPL is why Linux is a bad choice. (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223512)

I like Android but all this GPL nonsense shows how dangerous using Linux or other 'free' software can be.

Lol wut?

That's why I prefer closed source software. Nobody need an army of anti-social nerds attacking them for using the operating system they promote.

Usually nerds attack users of closed sourced crap like Windows or MacOS

If you don't want people to use Linux just say so. Don't encourage Linux use and then attack companies for daring to keep their intellectual property private.

The problem is it is not their intellectual property. Due to the license its open source.

I've never heard someone complain that source code wasn't released for Windows software.

LMAO Wut?
I must be feeding a troll.

Re:GPL is why Linux is a bad choice. (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224644)

No one is encouraging companies to use linux for their devices. These companies use it because the advantages of not having to build their own OS from scratch outweigh the disadvantages of having to release their improvements to linux. Only problem is that some companies forget to play by the rules.

Also people like GPL violations don't just launch an attack on linux violators with a lawsuit. They first attempt to contact them and work with them to release the needed source changes, rarely does it ever result in a lawsuit. You only see the worse examples where companies have repeatedly ignored or refused to release the improvements they've made on GPL'd source code.

The very same thing happens in closed source code as well. Lots of companies sue other companies over using their code which hasn't be properly licensed, etc. Same thing happens there, it's mostly worked out before it ever hits a court room.

This is why there is an appearance of there being lots of GPL lawsuits but no closed source ones, because the interested parties in the GPL cases are all of us and it's news, however the closed source cases involve only two parties, the companies directly involved.

Re:Android (0)

xwizbt (513040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223300)

Ignore the haters. I, and many others, concur. Android is a deathtrap of viruses, harvesting, trojans and misinformation. Fear, uncertainty and doubt. The opposite of a walled garden is surely an entirely open one, and unless you go round with the hoe, the weeds will grow. Apologies for rhyming; 'cause it's true. Equip Gran with a new 'droid tablet, and watch her money slowly be sapped from her account, or give her a new iPad and watch her shop at the App Store. Super stuff - no credit card drainage, no worries about trojans, no viruses. Sorted.

Re:Android (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223514)

Ignore the haters. I, and many others, concur. Android is a deathtrap of viruses, harvesting, trojans and misinformation. Fear, uncertainty and doubt. The opposite of a walled garden is surely an entirely open one, and unless you go round with the hoe, the weeds will grow. Apologies for rhyming; 'cause it's true. Equip Gran with a new 'droid tablet, and watch her money slowly be sapped from her account, or give her a new iPad and watch her shop at the App Store. Super stuff - no credit card drainage, no worries about trojans, no viruses. Sorted.

Uh ... what? Honestly, why are you even in a discussion about Android if you're not a hater? Go back to your walled garden and bask in the glow of Steve. The rest of us will continue to get things done.

Re:Android (1)

rogerdugans (902614) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223668)

roflmao

The funny thing about this one is how exactly it is wrong.
There is no possible way for it to be more completely backwards.

Re:Android (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36224334)

Equip Gran with a new 'droid tablet, and watch her money slowly be sapped from her account, or give her a new iPad and watch her shop at the App Store. Super stuff - no credit card drainage, no worries about trojans, no viruses. Sorted.

Yeah you can buy from anywhere on the net and give out your credit card details and it doesn't matter who you give them to because you're using an iPad and Apple will protect you! Yay Apple! Thanks for watching over me 3

Re:Android (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223346)

the only good reason not to get android is because Manufacturers aren't sending out updates a quarter as fast as they should, meaning you have to root the phone to get current security updates inside of a 6 month time scale.

New google movie features means that if you want google Movie means you can't have security updates.

One would think Google should have thought of that. The primary reason to root is to get around either stupid carrier lockout restrictions, or to upgrade your phone for the latest security updates in a timely fashion.

Re:Android (2)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223894)

Depending on how they are detecting root, you can always do a quick nandroid backup and then restore a non rooted firmware for the duration of your movie then just reverse the process. It is easier than it sounds and can be fairly well automated down to a sub 5 minute one-click process. The only real fly in the ointment is if they are detecting an unlocked bootloader or just the os itself. Of course, this will get razor sharp focus from very sharp hackers so expect a solution in 5...4...3...

Re:Android (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223508)

Malware, GPL violations, rooted phones being blocked, Google not releasing the source code for new versions, people pirating apps so developing apps is useless, hardware fragmentation, phones saving location data and leaking all of your stuff to Google.

Malware - I would assume a more open environment would give way to more malware than a walled garden for apps. If you're going to allow people to install what they want you will have malware (how many instances are design flaws and how many are end user approved I don't know). That's a pro vs con that is certainly worth considering but would ultimately come down to personal preference/needs.

GPL violations - I don't think this one is necessarily fair since for market share there aren't any alternatives that have/use the GPL to violate. One could argue it's a problem within the Android market but as pro vs con compared to other phones there's nothing that makes it a con. Certainly those involved with the code that's being used under violation should register their complaints and take legal action if necessary.

rooted phones being blocked - Android's not alone here [google.com] . But Google's 'honesty' is amusing [google.com] . Again, I'm not saying it's not a problem. Merely pointing out that compared to other options it's not much different.

Google not releasing the source code for new versions - Again a problem that only applies to Google because they're the only one (and those mentioned in TFA) that's expected to.

people pirating apps so developing apps is useless - Similar to the malware problem except affecting developers more where malware affects end-users. So open vs controlled and the pros and cons that come with it. Personal preference and I could go either way.

hardware fragmentation - Good and bad as with most things. Hardware fragmentation to one person is bleeding edge to another (I recognize the merits of that statement depend on a market where market fragmentation is due to technological advance vs technological control).

phones saving location data and leaking all of your stuff to Google - I don't know that I'd use the word leaking but the end result is the same.I will acknowledge that accepting any Google product probably means you should weigh the value of your privacy against it.

I think your thoughts are personally valid and valid for many but I wanted to add why others would still see Android as the 'best' choice if not the ideal one.

check before posting... (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223038)

Google's refusal to not release Honeycomb source code

Dude, you're not making any sense. I assume you mean refusal to release...?

Re:check before posting... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223662)

its all niggertalk to me

Kosher code? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223056)

What the fuck does that even mean?

Re:Kosher code? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223108)

It means the code is not written with mixing meat and milk.

Re:Kosher code? (1)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223142)

The code isn't kosher; the behavior is. Kosher has come to be an acceptable synonym for "legit", "okay", and "cricket".

Re:Kosher code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223206)

It contains no pork, and does not mix milk with meat.

Re:Kosher code? (0)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223394)

What the fuck does that even mean?

While kosher's actual definition doesn't fit here, it's clear by context that they intend it to mean cromulent.

Re:Kosher code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36225312)

It means you don't shellfishly keep it to yourself.

Kosher code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223070)

"Google's refusal to not release Honeycomb source code is kosher "

Look, its bad enough they have to throw in these long ass licenses (GPL/MIT/Apache etc).
Now they have rabbis standing by? Are you kidding me?

Re:Kosher code (2)

lucm (889690) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224092)

> Now they have rabbis standing by?

A friend of mine is working in a yeast factory and they actually have a rabbi standing by. I would love to see their ISO-9000 procedures for whatever the rabbi is doing.

A more concise summary (0, Offtopic)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223092)

Fact 1: GPL requires source code to be released.
Fact 2: License does not specify when it has to be released.

Reaction: ZOMFG, they're violating the license! Raise the pitch forks and aaaaah. Burn them at the stake! Open source means xyzzy, and stuff, and and and... it's just wrong

Rational Resolution: Update the license to have a reasonable time constraint.

Irrational Resolution: Google is evil and must be punished.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled flamefest, already in progress.....

Re:A more concise summary (1)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223144)

Fact 1: GPL requires source code to be released. Fact 2: License does not specify when it has to be released.

The GPL does specify when the code has to be released, it's just the ASL that doesn't.

Re:A more concise summary (1)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223170)

I just realised I didn't clarify that the ASL doesn't require source code release at all.

Re:A more concise summary (4, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223174)

License does not specify when it has to be released.

The GPL does. It must be delivered to whoever the binaries are given to. Playing stupid weasel games to disenfranchise people is idiotic (well, unless you hate open source and like screwing your customers.)

The rest of your post is ridiculous.

Re:A more concise summary (1)

BlueScreenO'Life (1813666) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224808)

It must be delivered to whoever the binaries are given to.

Yes, and the GPL'ed portion of the Android source code (the kernel) must be somewhere on the net (otherwise they are in violation of the GPL).

It just isn't very useful without the rest of the software stack, which is under Apache and does not have to be released. Whether that's ethical and smart or not is another matter.

Re:A more concise summary (1)

BlueScreenO'Life (1813666) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224868)

OK, after reading TFA, the complain does make some sense, it's about some device-custom kernel sources not being released.

Re:A more concise summary (4, Informative)

wrook (134116) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223240)

The GPL specifies very clearly when the source code has to be released. The vendor has a few choices:

1) They can release the source code with the binary
2) They can accompany the binary with a written offer to supply the souce code on request for a period of not less than 2 years.

Generally, vendors tend to do the second, but I have a couple of devices where I was given a CD containing the source code along with the device. Free software projects usually provide the source code and binary download at the same time.

My understanding is that these vendors are neither supplying the source code with the binary nor accompanying the binary with a written offer for the source code. If that is true, then they are in violation of the GPL. The reason for requiring the source code at the same time as the binary is that offering the source code at some indefinite point in the future is useless. If I have a problem that requires the source code, waiting an indefinite amount of time doesn't help me.

Re:A more concise summary (1)

Cyberllama (113628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36225336)

Are the vendors actaully changing anything in the Kernel? It seems like most of the changes they are making are just UI skinning . . .

Re:A more concise summary (1)

wrook (134116) | more than 3 years ago | (#36225486)

They don't have to change anything. If they are distributing the binary, they are responsible for also distributing the source code (possibly on request, but they have to supply a written offer to supply the source code in that case). Even if the upstream is supplying the source code freely, this does not absolve the distributor of the responsibility. I think this aspect of the GPL is confusing for some people and may be one of the reasons that the companies are not in compliance. It's possible that they merely need to be reminded what they should be doing. BTW, since I am at it, they only need to supply the source code to *their customers*. They don't have to make the code generally available.

In any case, I suspect that you are a bit confused anyway, because the UI skinning isn't happening at the kernel level. The UI code isn't covered by the GPL. This discussion is only focussing on kernel issues that are covered by the GPL. So a vendor may have to make some changes in order for the kernel to work properly with their hardware. It's important that customers get access to this code, because without it they can't create a working version of the kernel for their hardware (supposing they could load it in the first place... sigh...)

Re:A more concise summary (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223458)

Fact 1: GPL requires source code to be released.

Fact 2: License does not specify when it has to be released.

The license doesn't stipulate that you can delay. Under GPL v2 a commercial distributor has two options: Option 1) Distribute source code with the binary. That's pretty clear in not allowing for delay. Option 2) With the source code, distribute an offer to provide source to anyone at no more than the cost of reproduction. I don't think any reasonable court could read those two option, in the same paragraph and conclude that the distributor could delay.

However, it's unlikely that anyone but an author of the code in question has the legal standing to sue for breach of the license. The license is an agreement between the copyright holder and the distributors. The most an end user could do is bring it to the attention of the copyright holders.

As always, me no lawyer.

Re:A more concise summary (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224770)

You're second "fact" is incorrect. The code has to be released with the binary and any user may request the source code if not provided. Hence you are wrong about this, you can't delay releasing the source code to users that already have the binary.

Also no one is raising pitchforks apart from some news articles that as they always do attempt to blow something out of all proportion.

Re:A more concise summary (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224782)

I just noticed that your first "fact" is wrong too. The GPL only requires the source code to be released if you give it to someone else and only on improvements to the GPL code which may be separate from your proprietary code.

IOW (5, Funny)

kmdrtako (1971832) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223126)

"Google's refusal to not release Honeycomb source..."

I know that you believe you understand what you think you wrote, but I'm not sure you realize that what you wrote is not what you meant.

Re:IOW (1)

ZPWeeks (990417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223580)

I guess this post should have been from the checking-it-thrice dept.

Re:IOW (1)

Odin's Raven (145278) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224564)

I know that you believe you understand what you think you wrote, but I'm not sure you realize that what you wrote is not what you meant.

Inconceivable!

Re:IOW (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36225104)

I don't think you understand what that word means.

It just goes to show you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36225388)

The GPL is not restrictive enough. Not only should it nail you for monetizing the code in any way, but it should also cause you to be eligible for a ruining lawsuit if you make any money at all in other spheres of your life.

Re:IOW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36225200)

Hey, stop mixing languages while hes at it, kosher is not an english word.

Jag vet not heller why he uses a judiskt ord like Kosher in the middle of en mening.

No huge shock there. (2)

Microlith (54737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223140)

Google has explicitly made decisions to minimize the presence of open source (rather, copyleft) software in the purview of device vendors that utilize Android. Only a handful of bits (kernel, bluez, couple others) are actually GPL'd; everything else is Apache and doesn't need to be released.

I can see some companies just assuming they don't need to do anything at all (or like various vendors, they sit around and don't release the source for weeks.) Google certainly doesn't encourage openness and cooperation from their partners, let alone from random companies that grab the sources from the AOSP.

Re:No huge shock there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36225296)

Google has explicitly made decisions to minimize the presence of open source (rather, copyleft) software in the purview of device vendors that utilize Android. Only a handful of bits (kernel, bluez, couple others) are actually GPL'd; everything else is Apache and doesn't need to be released.

I can see some companies just assuming they don't need to do anything at all (or like various vendors, they sit around and don't release the source for weeks.) Google certainly doesn't encourage openness and cooperation from their partners, let alone from random companies that grab the sources from the AOSP.

Really? You think google is minimizing the presence open source because they use apache licensing? Does http://http://source.android.com/ look like a closed source project? Nearly every android device in existence has a cryogen port. Android has a huge open source following.

What about game emulators? (3, Insightful)

t0qer (230538) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223146)

There's a rash of game emulators based on GPL code that is for sale in the andoid market. I actually purchased one "nesnoid" but later while I was browsing around for SNES emu's I found SNES9X for android.

The description for it on the market said, "DON'T PAY ANY OF THESE CLOWNS FOR SELLING YOU GPL CODE!"

It just doesn't happen with kernels or OS components, it happens ALOT with applications. Another example I found was a WEP cracker. There was one (name escapes me atm) for $10 advertising "GET FREE WIFI ANYWHERE", while WEP cracker stated "These guys are ripping you off, their code is based on ngcrack and a few other OSS libraries and they're not giving you the source"

I understand that the GPL allows some recoup of costs for development and distribution, but at all times the source must be available for free. I'm sure THAT list of companies is much larger than the one Matthew lists on his page.

Re:What about game emulators? (3, Informative)

Junta (36770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223258)

I understand that the GPL allows some recoup of costs for development and distribution, but at all times the source must be available for free.

Actually, you only *need* to provide source to those who you provide binaries. So if your binaries require 20 dollars, you must provide the source to anyone who legitimately gets your binaries, but no more.

Of course, they can subsequently turn around and redistribute your source at will.

Re:What about game emulators? (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223480)

Actually, you only *need* to provide source to those who you provide binaries.

That's only true is you provide source with the binaries. If you do not provide source with the binaries, you must provide with the binaries an offer to supply the source to anyone who requests it.

Re:What about game emulators? (2)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224084)

"If you do not provide source with the binaries, you must provide with the binaries an offer to supply the source to anyone who requests it."

It depends on the version of the GPL. For GPL3, you're incorrect:

You may convey a covered work in object code form ... provided that you also convey the machine-readable Corresponding Source ...[if distributed in a physical product, then] accompanied by a written offer, ... to give anyone who possesses the object code ... a copy of the Corresponding Source ... [If you convey] the object code by offering access from a designated place (gratis or for a charge), and offer equivalent access to the Corresponding Source in the same way through the same place at no further charge.

So, there is no requirement to offer source to anyone, only those who legitimately possess the object code.

Contrast that with GPL2:

Accompany it with a written offer ... to give any third party...

Re:What about game emulators? (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 3 years ago | (#36225242)

So, there is no requirement to offer source to anyone, only those who legitimately possess the object code.

OTOH, anyone can legitimately possess the object code, because the original recipient who paid you for it is free to provide as many copies of it as they want to anyone they like, as long as they accompany it with a copy of your written offer. Theoretically, you could demand to see that copy of the written offer (or some other evidence that they have a copy of the object code), but it hardly seems worth it.

Re:What about game emulators? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36225352)

However, if I don't make an offer to supply source code later and instead I transfer only whole bundles, object and source code, then I don't have to deal with anyone except the people I supplied with the code. If I make such clean cut, then i can make deal with my customers that I will sell only a limited number of copies (I can't impose additional restrictions on recipients, but GPL says nothing about the conveyor willingly accepting restriction on himself) and request adequate compensation (recuperation of my costs and modest profit on top) for it. In effect, that is making artificially scarce resource out of the code, or more accurately, recognizing the fact that, prior to its dissemination, information is scarce .

Re:What about game emulators? (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224814)

Which is why you sell the first copy for a million dollars, i'm a genius!

Re:What about game emulators? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36225298)

Which is why you sell the first copy for a million dollars, ...

... over Kickstarter, e.g.

Re:What about game emulators? (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223436)

The GPL doesn't prohibit the sale of any product containing GPL code. The only requirement is that the source be made available to those you sell it to. As long as these vendors are making the source available to purchasers they are in full compliance with the GPL.

Might shock you to learn but every one of those PDF vendors that sell PDF printers are in fact selling the GPL PDF code in a windows driver. As long as they provide the source to the GPL bits they aren't in violation. The GPL has no statements about the sale of products with GPL code, you just can't stop someone that purchased the product from compiling it and selling it themselves. I'm always amazed when someone asserts a GPL violation because someone is selling GPL products which is absolutely not prohibited by the license.

Re:What about game emulators? (1)

Edmund Blackadder (559735) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223890)

"The GPL has no statements about the sale of products with GPL code,"

That is because it is assumed that when you sell a device with GPL code on it, you are distributing the GPL code which means that the GPL applies. When a store sells a computer with a copy of Windows on it, they are distributing a copy of Windows and they have to pay for the privilege and follow any contractual obligations Microsoft requires. The GPL works the same way.

Re:What about game emulators? (1)

Cyberllama (113628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36225368)

This seems to be most common scenario:

1) Project A is GPL, releases binaries, releases code. It's totally free.
2) Project B is based on Project A. It sells binaries, does not release code.
3) However, while project B might change the name, they don't make any real modifications to the code. They're just selling the same crap you could get free elsewhere.

Since Project B doesn't have any modifications over Project A, and Project A's source code is widely available, is Project B off the hook when it comes to releasing the source code?

This is extremely common, and as far as I can tell, it's legal--though slimy. I can't abide any business model which depends on ignorance--in this case ignorance that the exact same product is already available for free under a different name.

Re:What about game emulators? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36225472)

No. Project B in your example has to include the source, or a written offer to provide the source.

It doesn't matter if they changed it or not. They distributed it, so they have to provide it.

Re:What about game emulators? (1)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224352)

The description for it on the market said, "DON'T PAY ANY OF THESE CLOWNS FOR SELLING YOU GPL CODE!"

But you're allowed to sell software that uses GPL code.

Re:What about game emulators? (1)

dudpixel (1429789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36225404)

Correct, but it still makes you a clown, because your customers could get for free what you are trying to charge for...

Re:What about game emulators? (1)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36225478)

There was a story a little while ago about a guy charging for Blender (which he renamed to something else) but had all the relevant licensing info at the bottom of the page.

Re:What about game emulators? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36225068)

>I understand that the GPL allows some recoup of costs for development and distribution, but at all times the source must be available for free

No where in GPL does it say the source code should be available on a public web page. But they should provide you it if you ask.

Answer: Yes (0)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223148)

A better question: why are you phrasing it as a question? Some android manufacturers are violating the Linux GPL and nobody really cares. Hoo-ray, linux "won", whatever that means.

Matthew Garrett is maintaining a list.. (1)

dstyle5 (702493) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223162)

... but is he checking it twice?

Re:Matthew Garrett is maintaining a list.. (1)

asylumx (881307) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223638)

Your joke would be funnier if the post wasn't already from "the checking-it-twice dept."

Re:Matthew Garrett is maintaining a list.. (1)

lucm (889690) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224100)

> Your joke would be funnier if the post wasn't already from "the checking-it-twice dept."

When you think about it, it is actually much funnier...

Headline? (1)

kmdrtako (1971832) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223222)

Are Third-Party Android Vendors Violating the GPL?

Gee, I don't know, are they?

Is this what qualifies as "journalism" in 2011?

Can you image the New York Times headline of July 21, 1969: Did Americans just land on the Moon?

Oh, it appears that someone is keeping a list of Android GPL violations, so the answer is yes.

Re:Headline? (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224196)

I've long been in favor of the tag "punctuationpunditry"

Re:Headline? (1)

Cyberllama (113628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36225372)

But is he right? Only the kernel is GPL'ed, and the vendors are mostly doing UI skinning--do we even know if they're modifying any of the stuff that falls under the GPL?

REFUSAL TO NOT RELEASE ?? WHAT'S THE PROBLEM THEN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223334)

If one meant, REFUSAL TO RELEASE, then maybe your crying at the party can have some looking in to. Did you get raped in the ass ?? Did you get smacked around, maybe pistol whipped? So about what are you crying?

Who cares... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223418)

Who cares...GPL is a flawed license and will likely be the downfall of open source in general. Companies are going to get gun-shy of anything that doesn't come with an expensive license that makes them feel secure. Apache and LGPL are much better options.

This begs the question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223726)

How do you enforce the GPL? On this scale?

Re:This begs the question... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223866)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question#Definition

Re:This begs the question... (2)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224210)

Well aren't you nice. Welcome to human language. Meanings change over time. For example, the meaning of "nice".

all dev gpl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36223774)

Is all Android-deployed SW under the GPL?

Uh... HTC? (2)

drmacinyasha (1717962) | more than 3 years ago | (#36223940)

Just search for HTC and GPL on Google or Twitter. Need I say more?

Who gives a fuck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36224064)

Freetards like to shit on copyright by taking what isn't theirs to take? I say close the fucking software. Fuck the license. The license is an imaginary term that you don't need to obey. In reality you don't need to stick to it at all. Tell the EFF to go fuck themselves in their asses if they don't like it. Their ways are dead to me. It's time to rip it all down. No license should ever be followed in a truly free world.

Wait, it's distributed from the Marketplace... (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224136)

Wait, it's distributed from the Marketplace, that means Google is violating the GPL if I give Google the "binary" .apk for my GPL'd project. I must make the source code available to whomever I have distributed to -- this is Google not anyone else.

This means that, since Google is redistributing my .apk, they are responsible for responding to requests for the GPL'd source code, NOT ME. Google can ask me for the source code, and I'll give them a copy, but since they are going to distribute the GPL'd code, the hosting of said GPL'd code for those they distribute to is Google's burden!

We've already been through this with Apple's application repository. The result was that Apple didn't want to distribute GPL'd code anymore.

The GPL allows distributors to redistribute binaries if they are unchanged, and they can point requests to the available GPL'd sources, but in my contrived example, (where I do not publish the source code publicly), Google is in violation of the GPL if they distribute my application.

Re:Wait, it's distributed from the Marketplace... (1)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224972)

This means that, since Google is redistributing my .apk, they are responsible for responding to requests for the GPL'd source code, NOT ME. Google can ask me for the source code, and I'll give them a copy, but since they are going to distribute the GPL'd code, the hosting of said GPL'd code for those they distribute to is Google's burden!

That's a good point, but i would suggest that google redistributing the unchanged binary is akin to any hosting provider redistributing the binaries you place on their servers.

We've already been through this with Apple's application repository. The result was that Apple didn't want to distribute GPL'd code anymore.

AFAIK that was wrt the single-device issue of Apple's ToS.

Re:Wait, it's distributed from the Marketplace... (1)

wrook (134116) | more than 3 years ago | (#36225154)

This means that, since Google is redistributing my .apk, they are responsible for responding to requests for the GPL'd source code, NOT ME. Google can ask me for the source code, and I'll give them a copy, but since they are going to distribute the GPL'd code, the hosting of said GPL'd code for those they distribute to is Google's burden!

That's a good point, but i would suggest that google redistributing the unchanged binary is akin to any hosting provider redistributing the binaries you place on their servers.

I don't think this is the case. The app store doesn't give access to everyone. In some cases it charges for software. If you don't pay, you can't download the software. I think there's a strong case to be made that the app store is the one making the copy. It's not even like buying a router from a store with GPL software on it. We don't hold the store liable to redistribute the source code, but they aren't actually making a copy, so they aren't a party to the GPL. If the app store can be said to be making a copy, then they must be held responsible for making the source available.

There is already a precident for saying that even if the upstream party is making source available, it doesn't absolve you from the responsibility for making the source available if you distribute it (make a copy and give it to someone). At the very least, it seems to me that Google must make the written offer to provide the source code for GPL software.

However, the only one with standing to force Google to do this is the author of the software. And by virtue of the fact that they put the software in the app store to begin with, it seems that they are OK with the status quo. I find it very unlikely that anyone would put something into the app store and then complain that Google wasn't offering the source code. If Google were stripping the source code out of packages or something, that would be one thing. But they aren't.

Having said all that, it's a very interesting problem. It might be solved by Google simply requiring that all GPL software be distributed with source code in the apk. I suspect it's not something that anyone has really thought about.

Re:Wait, it's distributed from the Marketplace... (1)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36225308)

I think there's a strong case to be made that the app store is the one making the copy. It's not even like buying a router from a store with GPL software on it. We don't hold the store liable to redistribute the source code, but they aren't actually making a copy, so they aren't a party to the GPL. If the app store can be said to be making a copy, then they must be held responsible for making the source available.

But isn't there a caveat on that wrt the fact that it's an unmodified copy?
If you borrow a CD with a binary built from GPL code and you make a copy of that CD then who is the one that is required to provide the source? You made the copy but that doesn't mean it's you who has to provide the source to yourself. And if you asked me to loan you that CD it would seem pretty anti-freedom if i said i wouldn't give it to you because that would make me liable to provide you the source, surely i could loan you the CD and direct you to the author for the source.

However, the only one with standing to force Google to do this is the author of the software. And by virtue of the fact that they put the software in the app store to begin with, it seems that they are OK with the status quo.

I would say you're probably right there, if the stakeholders don't care then it's likely no problem.

Re:Wait, it's distributed from the Marketplace... (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 3 years ago | (#36225256)

I must make the source code available to whomever I have distributed to -- this is Google not anyone else. M/quote>

Not quite: you must provide a transferrable written offer to provide the source to anyone who has a copy of the binary. You're not allowed to just wait for google to ask for the code, you must be proactive in making sure they know it is available. Your offer to provide the source could realistically go in one of two places: a pop up message available from your application's UI somewhere, or in the market description. In either case, google is fulfilling their obligation to transfer that offer to the end user.

Article summary misse the point (1)

rubenerd (998797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36224178)

"Google's refusal to not release Honeycomb source code is kosher because the code in question is released under the Apache license. But the kernel at the heart of Android is GPL'd, which means that code must be released. Google has actually been a good citizen in this regard

Wait, hold on a minute. It's precisely the fact the Apache licence doesn't compel them to release the source that would make them "good citizens" if they did, rather than just giving it to a select few OEMs.

but many third-party Android vendors, not so much. While Asus has released their code, there are a host of companies that seem to have not done so, and Matthew Garrett is maintaining a list."

We were sold on Android being an open source and free alternative to iOS and the like, but unfortunately the reality is proving anything but. Part of this is Google going back on their stance on what constitutes open [twitter.com] , but also that they haven't more rigorously enforced compliance of the GPL by their OEMs.

It's a shame they have to do this for companies other than Asus and Samsung (good GPL folk, IIRC), but companies have proved time and time again their misunderstanding of what their responsibilities are under the GPL at best, and knowingly ignoring them at worst.

Google is not required to distribute source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36224258)

Only device makers, ie folks who ship devices are required to provide source of the kernel. As Google does not ship a device (HTC and Samsung do) the liability does not rest with them, rather the OEM.

I'll refrain from commenting on the relative knowledge of slashdotters regarding GPL...

ASUS did not release kernel source, either (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36224428)

Say GarminAsus A10/A50 series, the kernel source is still unavailable.

As if Google cares... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36224546)

Personally I don't think its very "kosher" not to release the source code right away. Sure, it maybe fully legal when following the very letter of the license, but whatever happened to following the intention of the license? A gentleman's agreement takes 2 gentlemen, simple as that.

And well, all Google cares for is money. I don't hold that against them, but all the nonsense around it like "do no evil" and "android brings democracy" really starts to sound very hypocrite to me.

Latest news: did you gain root access to your Android environment? Well; now you can no longer use Youtube's rental video services because Google has locked out "rooted Android devices" due to "CRM problems".

I think the licenses are the least of our problems here to be honest...

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