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Hamstersoft Ebook App Rips Off GPL3 Code, Say Calibre Devs

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the permission-to-spindle-and-maim dept.

Piracy 283

Nate the greatest submits news of a claim that a recently released ebook application from Hamstersoft is actually built from code lifted from calibre, the ebook library app. He writes "It turns out that one calibre contributor is now reporting that his code was pirated for Hamstersoft. You can find the full details over on John Schember's blog. It's technically complicated and quite long. You can also find a non-technical summary. The short-short version is that Hamstersoft needs to give away a complete source code for the Hamstersoft Ebook Converter because that app uses parts of calibre, which is licensed under GPL v3. John gave Hamstersoft a month to comply and they did not. Now that app is clearly a GPL violation."

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Infection. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37087672)

The short-short version is that Hamstersoft needs to give away a complete source code for the Hamstersoft Ebook Converter because that app uses parts of calibre, which is licensed under GPL v3.

The behavior of a virus.

Re:Infection. (2, Insightful)

nattt (568106) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087700)

Surely the behaviour of a criminal, stealing code that they didn't intend to obey the licence of?

Re:Infection. (3, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088636)

Surely the behaviour of a criminal, stealing code that they didn't intend to obey the licence of?

They didn't steal anything - everyone still has the original code. No one lost anything. What they did was a copyright violation, not theft.

Isn't that the standard /. argument when someone equates copyright violations with theft?

Of course, this is the GPL so out come the pitchforks and torches...

And this will be moded down by someone who disagrees or dislikes having /. hypocrisy pointed out...

Re:Infection. (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088642)

Lets be fair, copyright violation is not theft, no matter who does it or what copyright is violated. Nothing was stolen, nothing was "lost" here. The original code is still safe and sound.

Re:Infection. (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087748)

This is the entire intent of the GPL (for good or bad). If Hampstersoft don't like it, they shouldn't have ripped off the code. Now I hope they get sued.

Re:Infection. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37087894)

If Hampstersoft don't like it,

Why is it that so many slashtards can't spell the word 'hamster' correctly? Especially when it's right in front of their fucking faces!

Re:Infection. (1)

darkshadow88 (776678) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088010)

It's because of Hampster Dance. 13 years later, people still think it's spelled "hampster".

Re:Infection. (1)

e9th (652576) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088512)

From now on, thanks to your misspelling and their behavior, I'll just call them Dumpstersoft.

Re:Infection. (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088566)

But this makes me think of something I've been puzzling over for awhile now....WTF is wrong with BSD? Seriously, is it broken? Is it shit? Is it a hard to use incompatible mess, what?

Because I just don't get why if you don't want to play the GPL game you'd even bother with GPL code when BSD is right there. hell it is good enough for Apple, it was good enough for MSFT when they needed a temporary TCP/IP stack to get the original WIN NT out the door on time, so WTF? If these companies don't want to play the GPL game then just don't mess with GPL code, is that so damned hard? To me it is almost like a klepto, that just can't be happy unless they are snatching something.

Either use BSD or just buy off the developer so they'll give you a non GPL license to their code, is that really so hard to follow? It seems to me a hell of a lot more logical than all the hoop jumping and possible bad press when someone finds out they ripped GPL like in TFA.

Re:Infection. (1)

Kielistic (1273232) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088670)

BSD has pretty much nothing to do with Calibre would be the main reason. GPL != GNU/Linux.

Re:Infection. (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087822)

Or a software company. You can't use code from other company projects unless you release the modified code to the company's ownership.

Re:Infection. (1)

kthreadd (1558445) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088338)

The behavior of a virus.

No it's not. If I make a piece of software and releases it under closed proprietary license no one would accuse it of being a virus, however if I opened it up just a bit and said that other people are free to use it just as long as they do the same then it's virus? Don't want to comply? Don't use it.

Sigh... (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087674)

Queue the GPL critics praising the BSD license. The short-short-short of it is that if these fuckers didn't want to have to abide by the GPL3 license, they shouldn't have been lazy pieces of worthless stealing shit and wrote their own fucking code.

I hope they get sued into fucking oblivion.

Re:Sigh... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37087818)

Um what? GPL, BSD, WTFPL whatever, it's still a license breach and GPL vs. BSD has nothing to do it. We argue that GPL doesn't achieve it's stated goals regarding freedom, how does that relate to someone breaching a license? That it wouldn't have occurred under BSD? So what? It's not BSD licensed and it's clear by picking the GPL that the author wants the things the GPL provides which the author has every right to do, even a BSD fanboi can't argue with that. You're post is flamebait.

Re:Sigh... (3, Informative)

Stiletto (12066) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087820)

"Queue" the GPL critics?

Really? "Queue"?

Re:Sigh... (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087874)

It's an amusing bit of word play, even if it's probably not intentional.

Re:Sigh... (4, Funny)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088174)

there's a lot of them !

Re:Sigh... (0, Flamebait)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087824)

Why is the above poster moded Flamebait? He's completely right. If you take GPL code you have to release your application under the GPL. What's so hard to understand about that? People accept the most ridiculous license terms for proprietary software but once it's about the GPL they start whining when they realize they can't use it for their proprietary shit software. Well, guess what, write your own fucking code!

So let me chime in and say: Hopefully these assholes and all other GPL violators get sued into fucking oblivion!

Re:Sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37087974)

It's flame-bait because he's saying all us BSD'ers think it's just fine and dandy what they did. It's not. They broke the license and should pay the penalty. An author has every right to pick whatever license they like. I choose BSD. If someone else likes GPL, that's fine, and anyone using their code needs to respect that.

The grandparent should likewise respect that others can prefer a different license without condoning other people breaking other licenses.

Re:Sigh... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088028)

Unless you are on slashdot. Then it matters who you are. If you are a record company people should not respect any of your licenses, copyrights, etc. If you are Adobe, people should just take your stuff (break your copyright, etc.). If you are a GPL code author than anyone who breaks your copyright is evil incarnate and must be sued into oblivion. Let's just admit we have a double standard on this and move on.

Re:Sigh... (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088136)

There's a lot of libertarians around here. But most folks are just concerned with the abuses of power that the RIAA and MPAA engage in and the robbing of the public domain to profit an oligarchy.

Few people here think that a person shouldn't be able to make a living creating copyright works, just that the time period needs to be balanced with the right of the people to own their culture.

Re:Sigh... (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088492)

Unless you are on slashdot. Then it matters who you are. If you are a record company people should not respect any of your licenses, copyrights, etc.

Absolutely. Record companies (at least RIAA and equivalent members) are the enemy and should be treated that way.

If you are Adobe, people should just take your stuff (break your copyright, etc.).

Adobe is a member of the BSA, an organization whose thuggishness knows little boundary. Not quite as bad as the RIAA (as they aren't writing new laws, though their predecessor organizations used to), but there's still a case for treating them as the enemy.

Re:Sigh... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087938)

With the BSD license it would be a non-issue because people can do what they want with it.

That's not to say that people like like the BSD license think it's OK to violate the licensing agreement.

Pirating BSD-licensed code is possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088830)

It is easy to pirate BSD-licensed code too. Not everyone includes the notices required by the BSD license when distributing such code as a part of some other software in binary-only form.

For example, AVR libc is under BSD license. Many AVR microcontrollers are flashed with programs that have been compiled with AVR-GCC and contain some code from AVR libc. It's easy to skip including the BSD license text and copyright notices when shipping products that include microcontrollers with such code. It's especially easy because most people won't have any clue that there is a microcontroller in the product, let alone what code it might contain.

Re:Sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088480)

You mean the original devs don't have their code anymore?

Re:Sigh... (0)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088528)

I wonder how much code the original authors had stolen from them? It's gone forever unless they make Hamstersoft give it back!

Re:Sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088732)

Queue the GPL critics praising the BSD license. The short-short-short of it is that if these fuckers didn't want to have to abide by the GPL3 license, they shouldn't have been lazy pieces of worthless stealing shit and wrote their own fucking code.

I hope they get sued into fucking oblivion.

The GPL critics usually don't have a problem with the GPL by itself. The issue is rather that many GPL critics have a problem with people calling code released under GPL free. Both code released under GPL and under BSD license are open but only BSD is free.

relocated subdomain s/stuff/store (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37087744)

Dear submitter:
    They appear to have moved stuff.hamstersoft.com to store.hamstersoft.com to dodge search engine blocks.

man (0, Troll)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087752)

This is a perfect example of how intellectual property is morally bankrupt and lawyers are terrible people and how IP law holds back true innovation and ... oh wait, because the holder of the copyright released it under a license we like, then let's completely reverse our supposedly deeply held beliefs: nothing is wrong with intellectual property, the infringing party should be sued to smithereens, etc. etc.

Amazing observation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37087806)

Hope ./ readers see this one and realize the error of their ways!

Re:Amazing observation (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087844)

Stallman et al view the GPL as a transitional measure -- as long as copyrights exist, they need to use the system to protect themselves. Once it's gone (haha) they are well aware their GPL will be gone too. This is their plan.

Now I think they're crazy, but I get mildly annoyed at people who can't see beyond the length of their own nose thinking that if you are against an institution like copyright or patent then you are somehow morally bankrupt if you also use it. Patents in particular, you need defensively if you want to do anything remotely new.

Re:Amazing observation (1)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087914)

Actually, no. The only way to enforce code sharing is via the GPL, and thus copyright. Without copyright, nobody would be forced to share their code, even if they took it from someone else.

Of course, you would be free to reverse engineer it, but it wouldn't be the same as what you get from the GPL. Basically, the entire concept of the FSF's idea of free software requires copyright in order to exist.

Re:Amazing observation (3, Interesting)

HiThere (15173) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088036)

I approve of the GPL, but the copyright period is FAR too long. Of course, that's not the doing of the FSF, so don't blame them, but they could have thrown the code into public domain after five years. Or maybe ten.

Without copyright, annotated disassemblies (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088318)

Without copyright, nobody would be forced to share their code

Without copyright, people would be making and openly trading thoroughly commented disassemblies of proprietary software.

Of course, you would be free to reverse engineer it

And students with more time than money would do just that.

Re:Without copyright, annotated disassemblies (1)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088366)

I'm sorry, but a commented dissassembly does me almost no good if I don't know assembler (I do, but most people don't).

Re:Amazing observation (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088576)

Actually, no. The only way to enforce code sharing is via the GPL, and thus copyright. Without copyright, nobody would be forced to share their code, even if they took it from someone else.

Technically, that's probably true, but if copyright was truly gone, there probably wouldn't be much point in not sharing the code to begin with.

Re:Amazing observation (1)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088718)

Huh? The same reasons would apply to not share the code. To make it harder for others to use your code to take money out of your pockets. If it becomes legal to reverse engineer and share the source code, then business will spend more effort protecting their code from reverse engineering.. making it even more obfuscated, encrypting it at multiple levels, etc...

Re:Amazing observation (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088808)

Oh, right. I guess I was just assuming that if copyright was abolished, we probably wouldn't be using money anymore.

Re:man (1)

Shyfer (1875644) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087812)

IP laws (in general, not all of them do) currently DO hold innovation. But those guys knowingly violated GPL licensed software because they were too lazy to write their own. I don't support him the same way I wouldn't support someone stealing code from a closed project to use in their product.

Re:man (3, Insightful)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087880)

It's not hypocritical to believe in GPL and simultaneously despise the way intellectual property works in modern life.

I believe in intellectual property where it is public property, something distributed openly and protected from corporate schills who want to strangle the path of innovation lest it lead away from their business model. You can be anti-corporate and against 75 year copyright yet still believe in the value of short legal monopolies and in the good of clearly defining (and protecting) public property.

I feel about long-lasting intellectual property restraints the way I feel about jet fighters: in public hands, yes. In private hands, break out the pitchforks.

Re:man (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088124)

The problem is the people who used this software then DIDN'T release under the GPL.

Re:man (1)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088148)

I don't think anyone thinks that copyright hold back innovation... that would be patents.

Even if they were, most people who find it ok to steal^Hcopy for their own personal use think it is not if you're going to publish-for-profit.

Furthermore, there are a lot of readers and commentators on slashdot. Quite likely, they have different interests and opinions.

Finally, most people have a least some double standards.

Re:man (1)

amorsen (7485) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088400)

I don't think anyone thinks that copyright hold back innovation...

You would be wrong then. At least one person thinks that copyright holds back innovation. Me.

Re:man (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088314)

Of course those people didn't just copy. They plagiarized.

Re:man (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088388)

OK, I've now seen from other comments that they didn't actually plagiarize, but just didn't release their own parts, as required by the GPL. Sorry for the confusion.

Re:man (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088558)

And everyone here thinks the exact same way.

Hamstersoft Offers Code? (2, Informative)

MatthiasF (1853064) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087762)

It looks like they do offer the code for the product?

http://ebook.hamstersoft.com/en/support [hamstersoft.com]

Link to a ZIP file at the bottom of the page above.

So, is this a non-issue or did the company throw the code up quickly to avoid the DMCA?

Re:Hamstersoft Offers Code? (4, Informative)

Nate the greatest (2261802) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087794)

I'm told that it's not a complete set of source code. - signed, guy who submitted the story.

Re:Hamstersoft Offers Code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088356)

Do you believe everything you're told or did you check it yourself?

Re:Hamstersoft Offers Code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088712)

Do you often submit stories accusing others of crimes without bothering to actually check if it's true first?

Re:Hamstersoft Offers Code? (0)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088804)

I'm told you beat your wife.

Seems legit. Time to write a story!

Re:Hamstersoft Offers Code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37087816)

In the long version they explain that Hamstersoft released an incomplete source tree, with only the source of the parts that directly interface with calibre. This is not enough according to the GLP, and they've been informed of it, with no response in a month.

Re:Hamstersoft Offers Code? (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087888)

Hamstersoft doesn't appear in the Wayback Machine, but Google's cached version [googleusercontent.com] is dated August 6th and includes the download link. Both the linked accusations are from the last couple of days, so it looks very much like while John Schember may have correctly accused Hamstersoft over a month ago he forgot to check the download page before publicly spouting off on his blog.

Re:Hamstersoft Offers Code? (2)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087976)

Scratch that. You need to go to the original blog post to get the facts, but John's post claims Hamstersoft hasn't posted all the code, as required by GPL3. I guess that means it's torches and pitchforks after all.

Re:Hamstersoft Offers Code? (1, Informative)

galaad2 (847861) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087982)

i think you're right, this is not a gpl violation, according to their server the source code zip archive was uploaded (and possibly also made available) on july 21. This includes the source code for that dll file.

media.hamstersoft.com/hamster.ebookconverter.project.zip

HTTP headers returned by media.hamstersoft.com:
[...snip...]
Content-Type: application/zip
Content-Length: 64444164
Last-Modified: Thu, 21 Jul 2011 07:53:35 GMT

Re:Hamstersoft Offers Code? (1)

galaad2 (847861) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088142)

actually...scratch that.. i looked through the zip file again, the source code for the UI dll (HamsterEbookConverterUI.dll) doesn't appear directly as a source file... maybe it's generated by another source file?

THEY DID NOT RELEASE BULK OF CODE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088182)

Would someone mod down the parent post. If you would have read the article, you'd learn that they neglected to post the bulk of the source code, and instead released a compiled binary with some wrappers around it. An outright dirty trick.

Re:Hamstersoft Offers Code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088214)

I just looked through the source code located here:

http://media.hamstersoft.com/hamster.ebookconverter.project.zip

No license appears to be included in the package. The website also states the following:

"Everybody may use Hamster Free eBook Converter on any computer at home, in business and government organizations without any restrictions and any amount of hosts. You don't need to register or pay for Hamster Free eBook Converter. No one needs to pay for any further updates and plugins."

This gratis license contradicts the GPL3 (IANAL). If the code for Calibre is contained within the zip file (as a folder with the name indicates), then the authors of Calibre have a good case.

Re:Hamstersoft Offers Code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088560)

There is a big difference between putting up a file that says source.zip and actually putting source code in it. They included two binary blobs of calibre components. No calibre source. They put in a small amount of C# code and there is a reference to a linked binary component called HamsterEbookConverterUI.dll which doesn't appear anywhere but as a reference in the Visual Studio project file.

Why Do We Care? (1, Insightful)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087786)

We all know you shouldn't steal public property for personal profit, and this theft wasn't unique or creative in any way. Where's the news?

This isn't really any different than stories about random violent crimes or bad weather in other states. It's not relevant to your life, it doesn't teach you anything you didn't know already, and it's only purpose is to generate page views. It's not like I don't care about protecting GPL or preventing corporate malfeasance, I just question how this story tells me anything I didn't already know.

I like news that tells me something...new.

Re:Why Do We Care? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37087804)

It is probably so there is a "prior story" to link to next week when the Calibre guy seeks donations to "fight the man" and take this to court.

Re:Why Do We Care? (2, Insightful)

Shyfer (1875644) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087842)

Well this is still news, not really surprising or important but still news. Sometimes stories like this generate interesting discussions (along with troll and flamebait shitstorms), so I'm ok with it.

Re:Why Do We Care? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087850)

I like news that tells me something...new.

Son, I've got some bad news for you. This is Slashdot. We aren't into that sort of thing around here.

But whatever floats your boat.

Re:Why Do We Care? (1)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088520)

It's important because, while we know that ripping off GPL software is a rampant practice, it is not always so easy to bring the people who do that back into compliance. We've had numerous stories posted on /. about people who know that their code is being stolen, but they don't have the legal and/or financial resources to fight back.

What use is the GPL to people who don't have the resources to enforce it? That's why this is an important story.

Re:Why Do We Care? (1)

ilsaloving (1534307) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088816)

Because the only way to combat stuff like this is through vigilance, and you cannot be vigilant if you don't know it is happening.

One of the reasons the world isn't better than it is, is because of people like you who think that if it doesn't have some kind of novel entertainment value, then it's not important. Maybe if people tried a little harder to care about things in between episodes of American Idol, our cities and countries wouldn't be ruled by obnoxious tools.

Search Results (2)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087830)

In response to a DMCA takedown notification

Yahoo was the first to respond. They said they get all of their search results from Microsoft via Bing and referred me to Microsoft. So no luck there.

I don't care who they get their search results from. They are the site provider and are responsible for following the DMCA. Failure to do so will strip them of their safe harbor provisions and open them up to liability alongside Hamstersoft.

Re:Search Results (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088166)

Unless Yahoo is hosting the files, why on Earth should they be responsible for refusing to change their search results? The last thing we need is for search providers to drop results just because they're illegal.

HamsterSoft Products (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37087836)

It appears that nearly all of HamsterSoft's products are based substantially upon code released under versions of the GPL or LGPL. (There's also a 7ZIP-based archiving utility for which I can't find the relevant source code; and an FFMPEG-based video transcoding utility).

I wonder if their CD burning application is based upon CDRecord/CDRTools, too...

NOVEL IDEA !! HIRE AN MPAA LAWYER !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37087854)

Those guys can get stuff done !!

Re:NOVEL IDEA !! HIRE AN MPAA LAWYER !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37087884)

The ironing. Bitch and moan about them and turn around and bitch and moan about the other them. Such an ironing.

Re:NOVEL IDEA !! HIRE AN MPAA LAWYER !! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088342)

The ironing.

I hope it's at least done with a steam iron. :-)

Re:NOVEL IDEA !! HIRE AN MPAA LAWYER !! (1)

chromas (1085949) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088526)

If you iron it enough then it could definitely become irony.

Source and Binary Release (0)

SJ2000 (1128057) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087858)

Hamstersoft's source-code release package (~65MB) [hamstersoft.com]

It is not clear if they modified calibre because the binary builds are only part of calibre not the entire program as it is officially distributed.

Why not just decompile the binary? It's written in C# .NET and things like .NET Reflector are fairly good at it.

Re:Source and Binary Release (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088186)

You mean other than the fact that the GPL mandates that the source be provided? I don't personally agree that people should be forced to release their own code because they borrowed somebody elses code, but the GPL does require that and so they have to do it.

If they don't want to, there are options, such as getting the license changed or not using the code. But, it is a violation of the terms of the license.

Re:Source and Binary Release (1)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088460)

The GPL does not require all code in an application to be released, only when such code is considered a "derived work". There are lots of examples of how you can legally get around the GPL, such as by making the code into it's own executable and shelling out to it, or making it a web service, or any number of other physical seperations.

There's even a lot of dissent within the community as to whether DLL's are considered derived works. The FSF thinks they are, but lots of other lawys think they're not.

Re:Source and Binary Release (1)

SJ2000 (1128057) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088614)

I did not mean it as a means for license compliance but rather to check if modifications have been made.

A key weakness in the GPL... (0)

AtlantaSteve (965777) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087868)

Unless the Calibre developer invests tens of thousands (or more) and a few years of his life, all into suing a company that is probably one guy working out of his apartment anyway, then this is just some online whining.

The GPL is not a magical hall monitor shield, which forces people to show you their hall pass when you wave it. Rather, it simply gives you the right to sue if you have the resources to pursue that road. In this case, I don't know if the Calibre guy has those resources, or if the Hamster guy has enough resources to be worth suing anyway.

Re:A key weakness in the GPL... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087944)

On the other hand, largely because of the efforts of team MPAA, even the vaguest hints of something resembling copyright infringement are your authorization to more or less auto-DMCA the target whenever they poke their heads up in parts of the internet under US jurisdiction...

Re:A key weakness in the GPL... (1)

kthreadd (1558445) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088446)

At some point you have to trust people. Most criminal acts ends up being unnoticed, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't have a police force and sue when appropriate.

Hamstersoft doesn't understand copyleft? (5, Interesting)

kwikrick (755625) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087886)

From their EULA: (http://hamstersoft.com/eula)

RESTRICTIONS

The source code, design, and structure of HAMSTER free software are trade secrets except software licensed under GNU GPL 3.0, LGPL, MPL, BSD-licensed or Free components used to compile. You will not disassemble, decompile, or reverse engineer it, in whole except to the extent expressly permitted by law or except GNU GPL 3.0, LGPL, MPL, BSD-licensed or Free components used to compile HAMSTER free software. You will not use HAMSTER free software for illegal purposes. You will comply with all export laws. HAMSTER free software is licensed, not sold.

---

Sorry guys, you can't have GPL'd code and trade secrets in one piece of software.

Re:Hamstersoft doesn't understand copyleft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37087922)

Of course you can you stoopid asshole. Look at google. If you don't like it don't use it. Seems obviously simple that even a moron like you should get that.

Re:Hamstersoft doesn't understand copyleft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088406)

Well, you can, but not if it's GPLv3'd...

Re:Hamstersoft doesn't understand copyleft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088842)

Sorry guys, you can't have GPL'd code and trade secrets in one piece of software.

Yes you can assuming the proprietary piece of code and the GPL piece of code reside in separate executables. I expect a front-end / shell convertor is more likely to invoke another process to convert between two random book formats than link to it.

Before anyone gets ahead of themselves... (5, Informative)

zx2c4 (716139) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087990)

I'm a good friend of John, the blog post author, and have been working with him throughout this process in trying to unravel Hamstersoft's deceit. I want to make a few things pretty clear:

Yes, they posted a zip of code on a hard-to-find link. But they did something sneaky. They included the very short and trivial C# wrapper around Calibre, but they only included a compiled (well, .NET dll) binary blob of the bulk of the application code -- the user interface. And of course, since all the heavy lifting is in Calibre itself, this code is the most important part of the application. They went through pains to extract the source of the UI components and only include it publicly as already compiled. They even packaged it up in a nice Visual Studio Solution so that you can load it up and hit "compile" and you get the software. It looks, at first, like they've complied. But then you dig into the source code actually provided, and it becomes obvious that they haven't provided the majority of the code at all, but only the wrapper code and a few call outs to the provided compiled DLL.

Cheap trick.

The other thing to take notice of in John's post is that in fact the search engines and Facebook have hardly complied -- there are still search results and Facebook pages for this company. Now, you can debate and troll and bikeshed and argue the validity and ethics of the DMCA all you want, but the fact of the matter is that when the big companies want to use it against the small, it seems to work, but when some OSS devs want to take the case up with giant companies, the response is exceedingly lackluster. (Likely, this being on /. will change things, we'd hope...)

The final point to consider is what this all means for GPL and OSS. Hamstersoft is Russian, so good luck trying law suit or anything. But at the very least, shouldn't the OSS community have an army of lawyers willing to work probono, or financed by various foundations, for this kind of thing exactly? John mentioned he tried contacting one such organization, and was unsuccessful. He's told me that at another point, he got in contact with a lawyer from another place who didn't offer to do any work for him but vaguely suggested he send these notices to Google, Facebook, etc. That's pretty lackluster. I don't want to complain to loudly, but instead I just want to suggest that this issue call our attention to the bigger issue -- what institutions do we have in place to protect OSS software effectively as small OSS devs? Do such institutions work? In this case, thus far, they don't seem to be working.

Re:Before anyone gets ahead of themselves... (1)

seandiggity (992657) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088302)

what institutions do we have in place to protect OSS software effectively as small OSS devs? Do such institutions work?

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought this is why some projects assign their copyright to the FSF, so that there is a dedicated group that will pursue violations: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-violation.html [gnu.org]

At any rate, since this seems to be getting a lot of attention and could turn into a high-profile case, you may want to contact the FSF or SFLC or both.

Re:Before anyone gets ahead of themselves... (3, Insightful)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088424)

This looks to me like the exact same situation of an application shelling out to a gpl'd app. This is allowed by the GPL, and is even explicitly allowed in the GPL faq IIRC.

There is a huge debate in the open source legal community as to whether DLL's are considered "derived works", and there's lots of law on both sides to support their case. This probably won't be solved until a legal case decides the issue. So, until that time, it's just a case of everyone having an opinion, and it's not a clear cut case of violation.

Re:Before anyone gets ahead of themselves... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088826)

The shelling issue is just one part of it. They're also distributing a modified binary version of calibre as part of their application. They're refusing to release source for their version calibre. This is a clear GPL violation.

He is abusing the DMCA. (5, Insightful)

pavon (30274) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088434)

The DMCA take-down notices are to be sent to the providers that are hosting the content. The search engines are not hosting this content, and sending them take-down notices is a heavy-handed abuse of the law.

So either John misunderstands the DMCA or is willfully abusing it. Either way it makes it a lot harder to sympathize with his attempt to address violation of copyright law, when he himself is willing to resort to the very behavior of other copyright abusers.

But at the very least, shouldn't the OSS community have an army of lawyers willing to work probono, or financed by various foundations, for this kind of thing exactly?

What exactly do you expect them to do? The offender is in Russia and is hosted in Russia. How is a small donation-funded organization supposed to enforce copyright in situations where even large well-funded companies like Microsoft have been unable to do so?

People sometimes get away with breaking the law, especially far away countries. It sucks, but it's life and you have to learn to accept it. The people who won't are exactly the ones that drive us further and further into a police state in their unending drive to "decrease crime", not understanding the trade-off they are making.

Re:Before anyone gets ahead of themselves... (1)

filmotheklown (740735) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088496)

But at the very least, shouldn't the OSS community have an army of lawyers willing to work probono, or financed by various foundations, for this kind of thing exactly?

Hah! Almost spit milk through my nose reading this line. Lawyers? Probono on commercial work? (even if it's unpaid, it's commercial work). Lawyers expect to get paid for work just as most software developers expect to get paid at their day jobs. Defending a license like GPL isn't something a lawyer can do with a few hours of labor on Saturday afternoon.

And it would take an 'army' of them to fight these infractions. So unless everybody in the OSS community wants to pay dues to some foundation to fund a staff of 8 to 10 lawyers and their 16 to 20 support personnel this isn't likely to happen. Even EFF has only about 9 staff attorneys and they cover a huge mandate, not just FOSS software violations. http://www.eff.org/about/staff [eff.org] Their budget is close to 3.6 Million per year.

So if you want an army of lawyers to defend GPL or other licenses, build a foundation and raise 4 million per year.

Of course you can DIY the law yourself, you just have to spend your own time and money doing it.

Re:Before anyone gets ahead of themselves... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088550)

The final point to consider is what this all means for GPL and OSS. Hamstersoft is Russian, so good luck trying law suit or anything. But at the very least, shouldn't the OSS community have an army of lawyers willing to work probono, or financed by various foundations, for this kind of thing exactly?

While it would be nice for some foundation to offer to aid John no one is obligated to. The GPL is a license. It allows the copyright holder to take legal action should the license be breached. Whether third parties come to the aid of the copyright holder is outside the purview of the license.

Should there be a foundation for this kind of thing? Maybe. There's nothing stopping you from forming a co-op where GPL projects could band together for legal issues. Another option for some people is to assign copyright to the FSF. I believe they enforce the licensing terms of their projects.

Re:Before anyone gets ahead of themselves... (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088556)

I don't want to complain to loudly, but instead I just want to suggest that this issue call our attention to the bigger issue -- what institutions do we have in place to protect OSS software effectively as small OSS devs? Do such institutions work? In this case, thus far, they don't seem to be working.

They're the same institutions which protect copyrights in general. So the answer is an emphatic "NO"! What did you expect?

You really want to get to them? Reverse-engineer their code and post the reconstructed source publicly. Of course, since they're Russian they may not feel the US institutions which protect copyrights will work for them, so they'll just have you killed.

Using the DMCA to attempt to censor search engine results just makes you the bad guy.

Re:Before anyone gets ahead of themselves... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088736)

I know that this isn't what the issue is even about (yes, the code _should_ be provided), but if anybody really does want the source, it's easy enough to get. You'd figure with them being so reluctant to release it, that they'd at least have gone to the trouble of obfuscating it or something...

Anyway, download their current 'source' archive, & then load HamsterEbookConverterUI.dll into ILSpy (http://wiki.sharpdevelop.net/ILSpy.ashx), hit "Save Code", and you have the full source of HamsterEbookConverterUI.dll. Apparently without so much as a single obfuscated variable name.

Ummm?? (0)

neo8750 (566137) | more than 3 years ago | (#37087992)

LGPL Hamster Free eBook Converter made by HamsterSoft and based on Calibre-engine created by Kovid Goyal and inherits all GNU GPL 3.0 restrictions. NOTE PLEASE: Everybody may use Hamster Free eBook Converter on any computer at home, in business and government organizations without any restrictions and any amount of hosts. You don't need to register or pay for Hamster Free eBook Converter. No one needs to pay for any further updates and plugins. Source code

http://media.hamstersoft.com/hamster.ebookconverter.project.zip [hamstersoft.com] thats the source got that from: http://ebook.hamstersoft.com/en/support [hamstersoft.com]

Who gives a shit? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088140)

A free app using code from another free app, oh my god!

Re:Who gives a shit? (1)

copsi (2429192) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088416)

Different kinds of free though.

Calibre developers chose (either consciously or through ignorance) the GPL licence, which means free as in free speech. Nobody should be able to distribute programs based on the Calibre code without also releasing the source. Hamstersoft software, however, is free as in free beer (since they don't distribute sources, claim there are trade secrets in their software etc.).

you know he likes it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37088254)

This is the exact kind of righteous indignation that GPL users secretly crave. This guy's blog post should be read as a long moan of ecstasy.

They can not be forced to disclose the source code (2)

Cigaes (714444) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088564)

They can not be forced to disclose the source code. This is a common misconception about the GPL.

If a GPL violation goes to court, the judge can order the infringing party to stop the distribution and pay damages to the copyright owner, but he will not order the disclosure of the source code. The disclosure of the source code is only a gesture that most FOSS developers will accept to drop the charges.

Of course, if the software is only a thin layer of sugar around a core of GPL code, stopping the distribution means closing the business.

On the other hand, the situation can be reverted: the GPL code may be just a small, non-essential part of the software. Think readline, for example: a software is more comfortable with line editing, but it is in no way necessary. In such situation, the violator may decide to pay the damages and remove the GPLed code from its software, to keep in business with its proprietary model.

Re:They can not be forced to disclose the source c (2)

bk2204 (310841) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088820)

It depends on what you sue for. There is a thing called "specific performance," which is basically forcing the defendant to comply with the terms of the license or contract in cases where there is no adequate remedy in monetary damages. An injunction is also possible, and even likely, in copyright infringement cases.

So what? Who's going to do anything about it? (0)

jasenj1 (575309) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088628)

So some company is violating GPL v3, who is going to do anything about it? Who's going to hire the lawyer(s) to take them to court to get settlement money - the vast majority of which will likely to go the lawyers? Or do you report them to "the authorities" and some government funded lawyer chases them down?

Even if you do go to court and get a judgement against the company, then what? Hamstersoft doesn't sound like a company with deep pockets. So they declare bankruptcy, and the officers open another company doing the same thing with a different name.

Perhaps I'm overly cynical or naive, but I see the effort of enforcing the GPL to be greater than the harm done by violating it. Yes, perhaps the company deserves to be driven out of business for flagrantly violating GPL and stealing other peoples' work. But it will take a lot of effort & money to make that happen.

pedantry (1)

nog_lorp (896553) | more than 3 years ago | (#37088780)

Now that app is clearly in violation of the GPL.

FTFY. An app cannot be a violation, the violation was the act of noncompliance! /pedantry

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