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Does Android Violate the GPL? Not So Fast

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the sanity-check dept.

Android 186

jfruhlinger writes "Patent gadfly Florian Mueller's latest post has made a fairly bold claim: that virtually all Android licensees are violating the GPL because of their failure to redistribute the code, and have thus lost their rights to redistribute Android. Mueller here is mostly promoting ideas put across by patent lawyer Edward J. Naughton. But others in the community are skeptical of the claims. Software Freedom Conservancy head Bradley Kuhn says he's never heard from Naughton. 'Don't you think if he was really worried about getting a GPL or LGPL violation resolved, he'd contact the guy in the world most known for doing GPL enforcement and see if I could help?'"

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Troll is troll (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099160)

Florian is a net-kook, not of course on the level of some others like JVM and such. Of course the decade is still young and he has plenty of time to improve his kook ranking

Re:Troll is troll (5, Informative)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099444)

Why didn't anyone link to the http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20110815131443415 (Groklaw Debunk) [groklaw.net] .

The writers are soapbox trolls, who have ties to microsoft but have hid them. And they write articles about how GPL violations are in force (which it is the owner's decision to enforce or not)? Say it ain't so!

It is literally Florian quotes Naughton as his source, yet Naughton is basically a FUD machine.

Re:Troll is troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37100710)

“Mopping Up can be a lot of fun. In the Mopping Up phase, Evangelism’s goal is to put the final nail into the competing technology’s coffin, and bury it in the burning depths of the earth. Ideally, use of the competing technology becomes associated with mental deficiency, as in, “he believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Linux on the desktop.” Just keep rubbing it in, via the press, analysts, newsgroups, whatever. Make the complete failure of the competition’s technology part of the mythology of the computer industry.”

–James Plamondon, Microsoft

Re:Troll is troll (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100468)

He? Seriously?

Re:Troll is troll (1)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100940)

FM;DR

More Florian? (4, Insightful)

painandgreed (692585) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099164)

I'm beginning to remember the days of Dvorak articles as the happy times.

Re:More Florian? (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099478)

Just be happy that he's no Jon Katz.

Re:More Florian? (2)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100688)

But then, in this post-Columbine era, who is?

Re:More Florian? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37100974)

I miss reading Dvorak articles. He looked like a fat Phil Hartman (God rest his soul), and I always had fond memories that maybe Phil had not been killed, and that he along with Elvis were writing for PC Magazine. Wow I'm getting old. Kids..Phil Hartman was on Saturday Night Live, voiced characters on the Simpsons (the show before Family Guy), and was on Newsradio.

WTF (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099166)

Why do you continually link to this sensational asshole astroturder?

Does Slashdot get kick backs from his ad revenue?

Re:WTF (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099248)

Slashdot makes money for ads on Slashdot.
The more controversial the topic, the more comments, debates and page views.
So yes, Florian's extreme point of views are money makers for Slashdot and probably him too.

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099298)

I don't see any ads.
Install Adblock today and stop the shitty articles?

Re:WTF (2)

The Dawn Of Time (2115350) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099984)

I explicitly allow ads on Slashdot, and other sites I enjoy, since keeping them around is beneficial to my entertainment.

You should be thanking me for subsidizing you, but I know entitled assholes like you would never see it that way.

Re:WTF (1)

multi io (640409) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100348)

I explicitly allow ads on Slashdot, and other sites I enjoy,

That's not enough; you also have to click on the ads. Do you?

Re:WTF (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100544)

Sites this big likely get paid CPM, not CPC. This means merely seeing them is enough.

Re:WTF (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100744)

I'm sure it's some of both, actually.

Re:WTF (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100730)

I explicitly allow ads on Slashdot, and other sites I enjoy, since keeping them around is beneficial to my entertainment.

I generally run AdBlock for all sites, because Web ads are just so annoying and ugly, and keeping them around is detrimental to my entertainment. However, I don't have to feel guilty on Slashdot, because Slashdot graciously offers to not serve me ads if I choose, and I accept. I'm not sure why it does that, but I think the checkbox started showing up around the same time as Slashdot rolled out "Achievements." It's basically a perk for longtime participants -- which seems like a pretty good idea for a community-driven site, to me.

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099314)

Editors are in on it for the lulz/money. Or they're just stupid. Can't decide which.

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099492)

Astrotruder... nice!

Re:WTF (2)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099496)

I actually like the fact that florian gets linked on Slashdot. If we're lucky, when people google him, the Slashdot articles will be toward the top. When they click, maybe there is the slim chance they will be greeted with highly rated comments exposing Mueller for the fraud he is. Keep +1ing the truth, people!

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099626)

The problem is that he is a PR shill and hence his employers most likely measure his success based on how much he gets quoted. It doesn't matter that people debunk his nonsense, since he's obviously only hired to spread FUD (which is logical, because without a dedicated research back office, like the FFII during the European software patents fight, he can't do much; he really is not the brightest cookie in town).

And paying lawyers to write his opinion down and then quoting them is a standard tactic of his. He also used it during the software patents fight.

Re:WTF (2)

andydread (758754) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100862)

So is Florian the new Laura Didio? or Rob Enderle, Dan Lyons?

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37100330)

Florian is actually a hero of mine. Assholes like you need someone to piss on them from time to time.

Re:WTF (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100390)

Oh, hi Florian!

Re:WTF (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099732)

Why do you continually link to this sensational asshole astroturder?

Does Slashdot get kick backs from his ad revenue?

You are a visionary, using a word that's not even in urban dictionary yet! http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=astroturder [urbandictionary.com]

It will be later today, though if I can figure out what it means!

Re:WTF (1)

SlashV (1069110) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100498)

It will be later today, though if I can figure out what it means!

I fear the sound of whoosh, but wouldn't that just be a turdy astroturfer?

Florial Mueller == FUDster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099174)

And this is why people avoid GPL code. Whether Mueller is right or wrong (and he's pretty much always wrong) there is so much FUD spread over potential GPL violations all over the place that most corporations just don't want to even get within miles of the GPL for fear that some loser like Florian will try to peg shit on them. Clear up all this crap and you might see it embraced more.

Re:Florial Mueller == FUDster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099202)

And no, I'm not anti-GPL, but I don't blame companies for avoiding it when you have twits like Florian spreading FUD all over the place.

Re:Florial Mueller == FUDster (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099578)

Call me a skeptic but I don't think companies predicate their use of gpl'd software on what kooks like mueller have to say. As somebody in a company that makes actual decisions, I sign off on the software that will get the job done. Our servers run Debian. Our desktops run windows with some exceptions. For graphical editing, our people use Photoshop. For document sharing and email, we use Google Apps. Our sales people use Android tablets as that's what our catalog/order taking software runs on. Most companies probably do the same. To do otherwise would lend them eventually to being uncompetitive.

Re:Florial Mueller == FUDster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099792)

Quote:
  "Our desktops run ... For graphical editing.... For document sharing...."

Sorry, your company may USE GPL Software, but it's not Participating in the same way as companies who create Android.

I agree with GP that companies who are embedding SW into their products, or are "innovating" on top of other software are
turned off by twits like Mueller.

If i have a choice of building my next product on top of a GPL stack, or - something else - i will add the potential of
a GPL troll into my cost of development.

It's more likely to lead companies to re-invent the wheel than risk lawsuits.

IF the FOSS community would be more understanding of actual company needs more "real" companies would
contribute.... Check out Eclipse, and how their business friendly licensing bring a lot of "real" companies to
the table and has them contribute real value.

Re:Florial Mueller == FUDster (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100050)

The ggp said not a single word about embedding gpld code in products. He said "using" gpl software. And if he was referring to said embedding then he is just flat out wrong as Linux is exploding in the embedded space.

Even if he's right (5, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099188)

Even if he's right, do we really want the GPL to be a revokable license where an tiny mistake that might throw you out of compliance requires a Herculean effort to re-establish rights? That would make all GPL code nuclear hot for any and all commercial interests which would probably see 80-90% of all code development on GPL projects dry up.

Re:Even if he's right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099242)

I thought that was what RMS was trying to do with the GPLv3 anyway?

Re:Even if he's right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099440)

If you weren't a hateful ignorant little shite, you'd know that the GPLv3 contains explicit text to make it easier to recover from accidental violations.

Re:Even if he's right (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099672)

[[Citation Needed]]

I have seen companies completely change over from Linux embedded systems to Windows CE or other commercial products because the GPL v3 could be used as a sledgehammer to have all trade secrets handed over. For example, if I have an appliance that has a signed BIOS for tamper resistance, I cannot use GNU Privacy Guard unless I want to have anyone off the street have a judge give them any and all private keys, up to and including a domain root cert.

The GPL v3 has hamstrung Linux development incredibly.

Re:Even if he's right (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099974)

[[Citation Needed]]

I have seen companies completely change over from Linux embedded systems to Windows CE or other commercial products because the GPL v3 could be used as a sledgehammer to have all trade secrets handed over. For example, if I have an appliance that has a signed BIOS for tamper resistance, I cannot use GNU Privacy Guard unless I want to have anyone off the street have a judge give them any and all private keys, up to and including a domain root cert.

The GPL v3 has hamstrung Linux development incredibly.

Florian? Is that you?

Re:Even if he's right (1)

domatic (1128127) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100046)

You only have to make it possible to replace GNU Privacy Guard and other GPLv3 software you are using. You can still have a locked BIOS but you cannot make it impossible to replace or recompile the GPLv3 components. At worst, you can't do a Great Blob o Firmware where every single little thing is locked own tighter than a bug's ass.

Hell, before Sony pulled OtherOS out of the PS3 GPLv3 code could have been run on that platform without requiring everything to be opened up and quite a bit was still closed when OtherOS was a option.

You can still do that for any code you own. GPLv3 requirements would only apply to the system as a whole if they were used in a locked bootloader, signed kernel, or a core library like glibc. A GPLv3 utility that runs standalone will not impose the requirements you think they do.

Re:Even if he's right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37100144)

[[Citation Needed]]

How about you actually read the licence for the first time in your life?

Re:Even if he's right (2)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100526)

I have seen companies completely change over from Linux embedded systems to Windows CE or other commercial products because the GPL v3 could be used as a sledgehammer to have all trade secrets handed over.

Linux is GPL3? Perhaps someone shoud tell Linus, because he keeps including a GPL2 license in releases of the kernel.

Re:Even if he's right (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099316)

Even if he's right, do we really want the GPL to be a revokable license where an tiny mistake that might throw you out of compliance requires a Herculean effort to re-establish rights?

I wouldn't call failing to distribute the source a "tiny mistake".

Re:Even if he's right (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099536)

I wouldn't call completely invalidating compliance anything other than a "nuclear response", either.

Re:Even if he's right (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099728)

Wait, we live in a world where a copied cd is a serious offence right? GPL violators must be protected because they are an economic force and screw music buyers which are a comparable one? no wai. Screw those that pollute GPL code with their crap and hide it, no matter what you think of the GPL.

Re:Even if he's right (2)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099602)

What if just one branch for a new update doesn't get pushed out on the day of release, technically that's a violation which under a strict reading of the license could terminate your rights. I'm not sure where the line lies as far as compliance and regaining rights goes, but I think that actors who deal in good faith should not be punished disproportionaly to their transgression. In my mind Google's stance on Honeycomb was wrong, their partners don't have the right to withhold the source that they are distributing to the end user until it is "perfected" in the next major version some year down the line, but neither do I want to see anyone's rights effectively permanently terminated because they fell afoul of the license.

Re:Even if he's right (2)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099666)

What if just one branch for a new update doesn't get pushed out on the day of release, technically that's a violation

I don't think so. You can fulfil the source code requirements of the GPL by giving anyone who asks for it the source code. If nobody asks, you are fine. If someone asks, I don't think there is a definitive requirement how much time you would have.

Re:Even if he's right (2)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100344)

It goes against general operating practice and tradition, but strictly speaking, the only parties with the RIGHT to demand the source are parties who are licensed users of the GPL-licensed application itself. In other words, if HTC sells you an Android phone, you have the inalienable right to demand the GPL'ed source code. If I buy a Samsung Android phone, I have no right to demand that *HTC* furnish ME with a copy of the source, because I'm not their customer, and they never licensed Android to me. HTC can't stop my friend (who owns a HTC Android phone) from letting me have a copy, but they themselves have no affirmative duty to lift a finger and make it available to *me*.

Where things get ugly is the fact that HTC traditionally compiles its kernels into a monolithic binary blob, so the source is basically useless if your end goal is a working, fully-functional kernel suitable for a newer version of Android. Samsung, in contrast, DOES keep their proprietary modules neatly separated out as proper loadable kernel modules. A year ago, I thought that was a really big deal, and made Samsung heroes. Unfortunately, back then, I had no idea that Linux doesn't have a stable ABI, and a kernel module built for 2.6.32 is likely to be useless with a 2.6.35 kernel. Sigh. So, it looks like my next phone will be HTC, because (unlike Samsung), at least HTC tends to "unofficially" release new kernel builds in a timely manner instead of waiting for hell to freeze over. Now, if only they could be bothered to compile them with BlueZ HID profile enabled...

Re:Even if he's right (2)

Thomas Charron (1485) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100910)

Actually, you can't demand anything. You can ask. If they ignore you, then the COPYRIGHT owners can go after them. But not the end users. The GPL provides no legal recourse for users.

Re:Even if he's right (1)

WarlockD (623872) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099676)

A tiny mistake is "Hey sorry, we thought we posted all the changes. We will post them now" A serious one is, "Sorry, we put some of our proprietary code in there so we are not going to show it in like ever" I believe it needs to be revokable, but GPL has always been kind of murky on what enforcement will be about it. As a newer poster said, if you have a problem with GPL use MIT or something else.

Re:Even if he's right (1, Informative)

multi io (640409) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100462)

I wouldn't call failing to distribute the source a "tiny mistake".

http://android.git.kernel.org/ [kernel.org]

Looks distributed enough to me.

And I know that's only the kernel -- but that's all that matters. The userspace stuff isn't "derived" and thus doesn't have to be licensed under the GPL.

And I also know that the above is a Google-provided site, not one provided by the handset manufacturer. But that doesn't matter either as long as the handset manufacturer doesn't himself modify the GPLed parts of Android (i.e. the kernel) and then fails to distribute the source for that. As long as the handset manufacturer just distributes the Android kernel as-is, the source code is available under the above link, and that's it.

Re:Even if he's right (1)

Thomas Charron (1485) | more than 3 years ago | (#37101078)

That's for the copyright owners to decide. That's the point.

Re:Even if he's right (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099352)

Well, we do want it to be a revocable license. We don't want it to be revoked for piddly shit like a line here and a couple of code comments there accidentally making it into an Apache-licensed module rather than a GPL-licensed module. It needs to be revocable for intentional violations that are not being corrected when brought to light. Otherwise, if it could not be revoked, then people would have the right to continue to violate it and continue shipping code in violation of it. What should be necessary to use the license is to be a good licensee is good faith and correcting accidental violations when they are found.

That's pretty much how the disputes I've seen go, too. You can follow the license perfectly, and everybody thinks you're great. You can try but screw up sometimes, and they notify you and you can correct it. If you're just out to take GPL'ed code and lock the changes away, then you need to not be allowed to ship that derived code. Use the BSD, MIT, or Apache licenses if you aren't comfortable with sharing your improvements. If you're using a license which requires providing your altered sources, make a best effort to provide them to at least the letter of the license.

Re:Even if he's right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099796)

For many people, GPL already is nuclear and they avoid it like the plague when developing software because nobody wants to get hit with a law suit relating from some obscure developer in the Ukraine.

What that means is that whilst the run-time environment may be Linux, linking to libraries is fine as long as they're LGPL, but otherwise, get it that GPL fuck away from my project, thank you.

Florian Mueller (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099210)

Who the fuck is Florian Mueller and why should I care about what he has to say?

Re:Florian Mueller (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099232)

Obviously, you don't get out too often.

The search box is at the top of the page.

Use it.

Re:Florian Mueller (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099926)

Actually, not knowing who that person is may mean they get out too often.

Re:Florian Mueller (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099612)

He is a shill, and you need to know about him because the pointy haired boss is likely reading him. And, if you are lucky enough not to have a pointy haired boss, the next time you are at lunch across from someone else's pointy haired boss you might here his name. Ignorance. is. not. bliss. Know thy enemy,

Re:Florian Mueller (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100474)

He's either an idiot or a shill. He's frequently accused of being a shill, but I find it hard to believe. If I had a large marketing department and the budget to hire corporate shills, I'd hire ones who weren't so trivial to dismiss as idiots. It's possible to spread quite effective FUD about pretty much anything if you actually try, but Florian always jumps on things that are so obviously wrong that he's easy to discount.

YACS*, YMMV, HAND, GTFO (0)

Eggplant62 (120514) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099244)

*yet another (MS) corporate shill

Nothing further to see here. Move along, citizen.

Re:YACS*, YMMV, HAND, GTFO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099302)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florian_M%C3%BCller

not a microsoft shill. just another random asshole with an internet connection and some stupidity to post.

Re:YACS*, YMMV, HAND, GTFO (0)

Eggplant62 (120514) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099384)

Uh huh. And I'll believe that like I believe the moon is made of green cheese. He wouldn't post his rhetoric if there wasn't some financial incentive to do so.

Re:YACS*, YMMV, HAND, GTFO (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099746)

Did you have a financial incentive to post this comment?

Re:YACS*, YMMV, HAND, GTFO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099844)

He wouldn't post his rhetoric if there wasn't some financial incentive to do so.

Sure, but ad revenue linked to page views is a financial incentive.

I don't say he's not a microsoft shill, but the alternate explanation is plausible.

Re:YACS*, YMMV, HAND, GTFO (1)

The Dawn Of Time (2115350) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100016)

Not everyone who disagrees with you is being paid by some corporation to do so.

Re:YACS*, YMMV, HAND, GTFO (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100634)

Not true. On Slashdot, everyone who disagrees with the groupthink is a corporate shill. Everyone knows that. It's not possible to see anything Microsoft does as Good without a paycheck from them. It's not possible to see anything Apple does as Bad without a paycheck from Microsoft. It's not possible to see GPL as Bad without a paycheck from Microsoft (or at least one BSD-licensed project curated by the individual).

This fails the "5 seconds of thought" test (4, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099280)

Patent gadfly Florian Mueller's latest post has made a fairly bold claim: that virtually all Android licensees are violating the GPL because of their failure to redistribute the code,

Hmm, no, actually most (but certainly not 100% of) manufacturers that embed Android comply with the redistribution clause in the GPL. Samsung (one of the biggest vendors) has a web site set up specifically to redistribute code, and others make it similarly easy. Do you really think that the multi billion dollar likes of Samsung, Motorola, HTC, etc didn't bother having a copyright lawyer look over the situation to make sure things are kosher? Surely there are some vendors out there that are abusing the system and not putting up code as required, but if any one of the major vendors did that why not come out and say who it was?

Re:This fails the "5 seconds of thought" test (3, Interesting)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099324)

In addition, Samsung is extra careful to put up code BEFORE a device is released in most if not all situations.

The sources for the Rogers variant of the Infuse 4G (SGH-I997R) dropped the Monday before anyone had the device. (Devices showed up two days later on Wednesday.) As I understand it, it was the same with the initial Infuse release on AT&T.

Re:This fails the "5 seconds of thought" test (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37100026)

Do you really think that the multi billion dollar likes of Samsung, Motorola, HTC, etc didn't bother having a copyright lawyer look over the situation to make sure things are kosher?

They might, but mistakes seem to happen anyway. [cnet.com]

Re:This fails the "5 seconds of thought" test (0)

lkcl (517947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100318)

please moderate the parent comment down as completely misleading. a quick google search "HTC GPL Violation Android" shows a consistent and willful track record of GPL violations by HTC. the GPL violations rate, even on a simple non-authoritative survey, is well-known to be 90% or above. http://www.codon.org.uk/~mjg59/android_tablets/ [codon.org.uk]

One of these days, he's going to be right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099284)

God only knows when, but it's bound to happen some day.

He's wrong? (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099378)

The GPL parts of the code for Android are freely available. Google provides them, and I'd assume any licensee would just point to that if asked for the code (if they don't already make it freely available themselves. Can a redistributor just point to the original source under the GPL if they don't modify it? I assume they can). AFAIK most licensees don't modify the GPL portions of the code, only the front-end etc. which are licensed under Apache. I'm no expert on the GPL, but really this is just FUD created by (as others have commented) Florian Mueller, who just seems to glance at issues and post whatever he "thinks", without actually doing, well, any real thinking, much less actual research.

Now, if RMS said this, I might stand up and take notice. Doubt he would though, he knows well enough that poisoning GPL code like that would mean the death of OSS.

Re:He's wrong? (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099790)

. Google provides them, and I'd assume any licensee would just point to that if asked for the code (if they don't already make it freely available themselves. Can a redistributor just point to the original source under the GPL if they don't modify it? I assume they can). AFAIK most licensees don't modify the GPL portions of the code, only the front-end etc. which are licensed under Apache.

Virtually every Android device provider touches the kernel, as they have to integrate their board support files and hardware drivers. Many of these vendors sit on their ass and take ages to release their kernels, well after the devices have landed in people's hands. So not only do they not at all cooperate with the kernel community (which is why all these devices rot with old kernel versions) nor with the wider Linux community (which is why any non-Android install is a dirty hack instead of a clean setup) but they violate the GPL for a significant span of time until they release their sources.

My understanding is that the tablet vendors are by far the worst.

Re:He's wrong? (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099820)

Can a redistributor just point to the original source under the GPL if they don't modify it? I assume they can

You assume wrong, if the redistributor is doing it commercially. In that case they need to either include the source with the binary or else provide a written offer to give the source to anyone that asks.

For noncommercial distribution, providing a link to the original source is sufficient.

Re:He's wrong? (1)

lkcl (517947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100572)

Can a redistributor just point to the original source under the GPL if they don't modify it? I assume they can

You assume wrong, if the redistributor is doing it commercially. In that case they need to either include the source with the binary or else provide a written offer to give the source to anyone that asks.

For noncommercial distribution, providing a link to the original source is sufficient.

that's incorrect. commercial or non-commercial has nothing to do with it. re-read the GPL license. the only commercialisation allowed by the GPL is that it's ok to offer a warranty (and charge for it) or to charge for the distribution (sending a CD). that's all. there's absolutely no mention of differences between commercial or non-commercial redistributors.

correct answer: yes, a redistributor can just point to the original source if they distribute binaries which were compiled without modifications to that original GPL'd source code. it's actually a very good way for the redistributor to keep costs down.

Re:He's wrong? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37100874)

Maybe you should take your own advice:

3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

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

Pointing at someone else's source is insufficient (1)

Sits (117492) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100068)

It doesn't matter that you didn't modify the source you still have to distribute source yourself if you distribute the binaries. This has come up before in the context of Linux distribution - it is not sufficient to point to someone else's source when distributing GPL licensed binaries [lwn.net] .

For what it's worth, most Android companies seem to be taking releasing the kernel source seriously but only after delaying for as long as possible (coupled with the kernel binary driver gray area).

Send a check and wait for CD-R to arrive (1)

drnb (2434720) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100470)

It doesn't matter that you didn't modify the source you still have to distribute source yourself if you distribute the binaries. This has come up before in the context of Linux distribution - it is not sufficient to point to someone else's source when distributing GPL licensed binaries [lwn.net] .

Fine. They can offer you a link to the google source and we are done or they can wait for you to send a $10 or so check, wait for it to clear, and then burn and mail a CD-R to you. The later fully complies with the GPL. Your choice. Keep in mind that if you want to get letter of the law so can they.

Re:He's wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37100166)

If you are a commercial entity, you must either provide the source with the binaries, or you must provide a written offer good for 3 years which is transferable to any third party. If you are a non-commercial entity, you are allowed to point to the upstream libraries.

Because of this, I've always advocated putting all of the source in our release artifacts. Once I hand you the binary, I have met all of my obligations per the GPL as long as you get the source with it. It is far better than trying to ensure you meet the 3 year requirement for every different library potentially used.

massive assumptions (1)

lkcl (517947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100454)

unfortunately your assumptions are incorrect. many of the chinese tablet manufacturers are ignorant of software: they have to get a specialist in, to help them, as they are hardware-manufacturers only, in most cases. so they don't even HAVE the source code! i've repeatedly found this to be the case when dealing with chinese factories. there are many other things that are incorrect about what you've said, and i've cover them here, as well as providing some insight into what exactly is going on: http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2380756&op=Reply&threshold=1&commentsort=0&mode=thread&pid=37100038 [slashdot.org]

Genuine Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099434)

How is it companies like Hamstersoft (story from yesterday) [slashdot.org] have to release ALL their source code when they mix their code with GPL code and others (like various Android builds) dont seem to be held to the same standard?

Not trolling here. Does it depend on the version of the GPL? I've done some googling, read wikipedia, and determining what can and cant be done with GPL code is very confusing..

Held to the same standard. (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099616)

The Android handset makers have to abide by the same rules as everyone else. If they modify the kernel or any other GPL application, then they have to release that code as GPL (and despite Florian's lies they do). If they write their own applications to run on top of the kernel, and don't link against GPL libraries, then they don't have to release their code under the GPL unless they want to. This is no different from running proprietary game on a desktop Linux distribution.

And as an aside the Android Java libraries are all released under Apache and BSD-like licenses, not the GPL, so software that uses those can be released using just about any license they want.

Re:Held to the same standard. (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099708)

This is no different from running proprietary game on a desktop Linux distribution.

Except that it's a lot easier to get a proprietary game into the most popular repositories on Android than on desktop Linux. There's no culture of "either make it 100% free software and free cultural works or run your own repository with your own homemade authentication and payment system" on Android, unlike what I perceive on, say, Fedora.

Re:Genuine Question (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099640)

The reciprocal licensing requirement happens when GPL software and other software run within the same process. In Android, as I understand it, only the kernel is GPL; the rest is under an Apache license or something.

Re:Genuine Question (1)

Thomas Charron (1485) | more than 3 years ago | (#37101024)

They mixed code. Another wards, they didn't just call a library. They took the code, line for line, and copied it directly into their application.

    GPL code can run alongside applications. LGPL libraries can be used by your application. But taking a purely GPL set of source files, and incorporating them into your application, making your app indistinguishable from the GPL code, is the nono.

the text on the bottom says this post copyright ME (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099600)

You have no right to reproduce, including automatically, the text below except as outlined by me.

In order to reproduce this copyrighted text, you hereby agree, within 60 minutes of reading this notice, to reply with your e-mail address in human-readable form. I will write you an e-mail with payment details for the amount of $1, which you are to wire me within 90 days.

Failure to comply with these conditions means you will be punished to the full extent of the law. For each refresh cycle your screen reproduces this text (in violation of the terms above) shall count as a separate infringement, to total no more than $250,000 per business day.

To avoid the fine of up to $250,000 please comply with the instructions above immediately.

Re:the text on the bottom says this post copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37099880)

You have no right to reproduce, including automatically, the text below except as outlined by me.

In order to reproduce this copyrighted text, you hereby agree, within 60 minutes of reading this notice, to reply with your e-mail address in human-readable form. I will write you an e-mail with payment details for the amount of $1, which you are to wire me within 90 days.

Failure to comply with these conditions means you will be punished to the full extent of the law. For each refresh cycle your screen reproduces this text (in violation of the terms above) shall count as a separate infringement, to total no more than $250,000 per business day.

To avoid the fine of up to $250,000 please comply with the instructions above immediately.

Yoink!

Re:the text on the bottom says this post copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37100904)

You sonofabitch, that's my art-work. You have no idea. If I ever find out who you are I will be invoicing you the full ONE DOLLAR before you know what hit you, and if you don't like it there's $249,999 more where that came from!

Re:the text on the bottom says this post copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37100150)

Did you pat yourself on the back for being so clever? That joke hasn't stopped being funny the 90 million times it's been posted on the web since the early 90s.

Re:the text on the bottom says this post copyright (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100416)

And if someone did what you proposed, you'd be guilty of fraud.

I emailed one development house today [bhvr.com] for having that stupid "if you nevertheless choose to send any creative material or any other information to Behaviour, you agree that it shall be deemed and shall remain the property of Behaviour."

Ownership of copyrighted material is by written contract only, and any other attempt to gain ownership is fraud, same as your attempt to get a buck out of people by claiming that reading a post creates a contractual relationship is also fraud.

Now I know you're not serious about it, but really, can't you be more original in your trolling, Mr. A.C.?

Re:the text on the bottom says this post copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37100584)

this post is subject to the same terms as the previous one. destroy all copies (including in ram and video framebuffer, by navigating away from this page) if you do not agree with it.

no, you have no right to view the text I wrote, or this one. You might have had an "implied right" because I posted it to a public forum, but I am the copyright holder (per the terms at the bottom of the page) and I explicitly forbid you from reproducing it. Continuing to look at my post (i.e. reproduce it in memory, framebuffer, etc) without compensating me is a violation of the terms I have just outlined. Possession has nothing to do with it -- it's reproduction that matters. Stop reproducing my copyrighted text inside your computer right now -- please leave your details so I can invoice you or otherwise face up to $250,000.

Re:the text on the bottom says this post copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37100724)

the exact text is: "Trademarks property of their respective owners. Comments owned by the poster." Explain how charging you to view (i.e. reproduce) my comment is fraud? Granted it might be ex post facto, since there must be something implicit in posting it to slashdot, but I have explicitly revoked it. You have no right to keep reproducing/viewing either of my past two posts, and must allow me to invoice you if you do.

Re:the text on the bottom says this post copyright (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100962)

Basic contract law says that you are wrong. Any contract requires the agreement of both parties. Unless I explicitly agree, there is no contract, therefore any attempt to obtain money via such a ruse is fraud. You may own the comment, but you can't charge me for viewing it, or even reproducing it, unless we enter into an agreement to do so.

Now, if you really want to try it, you can get my real name and email address from my user profile. Then you can send me an invoice. Then, when I ignore it, you can try to sue me.

Or is that too complicated?

Now please, stop with the stupidity. If you're going to troll, at least make a half-hearted attempt to do it right.

Should have waited for Ice Cream Sandwich (1)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 3 years ago | (#37099778)

He should have waited for Ice Cream Sandwich before going public with his claims. Now he risks Android being killed before its most crucial update.

it's complicated (2)

lkcl (517947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100038)

there is a lot of misinformation about this topic, because many people do not realise that chinese manufacturers simply have absolutely no software skills - at all - and get supplied with GPL-violating binary firmware from a very limited pool of software specialist companies in china, completely by mistake. they then turn to those software specialists when asked for GPL compliance, and you typically get a very distorted and standard answer which indicates a complete lack of knowledge of the GPL.

but on top of that, the android source code that comes out of google simply is not enough, on its own. firstly: android is NOT just apache2-licensed applications: it sits on top of a GPL'd Linux Kernel which has had some very specific modifications made to it (mostly in the form of the android "security model"). secondly: many CPU manufacturers have to add hardware-accelerated video and 3D graphics engines in order to meet "cunsumaah dimarnd". these are backed up by proprietary software libraries that qualify - usually - as "System Libraries" under GPL exemption clauses. thirdly: android simply doesn't have a built-in video player nor a video player "API" so it is up to the vendors to put in applications which *do not* come from the android "stock" that comes out of google, and they usually do this by grabbing the nearest GPL source code they can find. fourthly: many software-builders for the OEMs / ODMs simply throw away portions of android source code and utilise the GPL equivalents (such as the GPL version of busybox, not the version that google implemented from scratch just to be able to "cleanse" the core android OS From All Gee Pee Ell code).

so this is the situation. and, as a result, yes, the vast majority of android devices in the world are GPL violating. let's go through a few coments that have made it past slashdot moderation.

baloroth states that google provides the GPL parts of android and that they are "freely available". well, yeah, but re-read the above and you'll see that that's completely irrelevant. he then states that he assumes that any licensee would just point to that if asked for the code. well, yeah, but re-read the above and you'll see that that's again completely irrelevant - not least because the licensee is required to provide the code that THEY have distributed, and it's usually been heavily modified by somebody else that they got in to do the software. he then states that "most licensees don't modify the GPL portions" which is wrong: it is absolutely essential to create an android-specific linux kernel which will support the android OS, on a per-CPU and even a per-device basis.

jeffmeden then goes on to try to state that we should all think that multi-billion-dollar companies like motorola, samsung and HTC don't bother to check if things are kosher? jeff - even a few seconds of checking on the gpl-violations mailing list or even just searching "HTC GPL Violation" would show you at least three GPL violations by HTC within the past year! samsung you're actually right about, and motorola i haven't kept up with but they are just in the process of being acquired by google, which is something that needs to be kept an eye on. it could be good, or it could be bad.

jeff also states "hmm no actually most manufacturers comply with the redistribution clause in the GPL". this is completely wrong. actually, according to an off-the-cuff survey of android tablets done six months ago by a redhat employee, he found that 95% of the 80+ tablets were GPL violating. he's maintaining the list here:
http://www.codon.org.uk/~mjg59/android_tablets/ [codon.org.uk]

this list is so long it would overwhelm the Software Freedom Law Centre's resources to tackle them all at once.

so... yeah. it would appear that there is a hell of a lot of ignorance surrounding android. the mistake that google made was to try to combine apache-licensed code with GPL code. apart from anything, this gives people the impression that all android code is apache2-licensed. what also isn't helping is that google is, naturally, a Copyright Holder of the GPL'd Linux Kernel Source Code (in particular, the android security model patches, amongst other things). but, if google starts to protect its Copyright Material, it has to do so by initiating lawsuits.... against the very people it needs to get as many handsets out there in order to increase search revenue!

so there is actually a massive conflict of interest for google, that would be easily resolved by google assigning all its GPL'd source code over to the Linux Foundation or to the Free Software Foundation. i believe that's much more interesting than this completely ignorant bickering.

Re:it's complicated (2)

Thomas Charron (1485) | more than 3 years ago | (#37101050)

The Software Freedom Law Center cannot do *anything* without an owner of some of the code requesting they do so. Which, no one has, as of yet. The article is rather correct in this manner. There are moocho, many companies which have not complied. But it doesn't make a lick of difference until the people with the rights, THE OWNERS, decide to do something about it.

More INFORMATION, not Mis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37100078)

http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20110815131443415

Is Android a derivative work of the kernel? (1)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100204)

For ages the GPL community has been rightfully baffled by the problem of defining what constitutes a derivative work that triggers the GPL. Copyright law itself isn't entirely clear on the matter, nor is making a binary distinction (derivative/not) particularly easily when there is a continuum of derivative-ness. FM seems to be absolutely certain that Android is a derivative work of the Linux Kernel. I'm not so sure, given that it runs entirely in userspace and access the kernel through well-defined interfaces (and that modifications to the kernel are posted promptly and under the GPL).

This comes up often enough in the context of binary modules for the linux kernel, ala NVIDIA. Their untested claim is that the module itself is not a derived work of the kernel and does not become so simply because it is designed to be dynamically loaded by insmod. Another frequent example is when someone writes a nice UI for a FOSS project, ala the Calibre dustup from earlier this week. This is only getting worse as more projects adopt the base+plugin module where it's nto clear if a plugin is a derived work subject to the GPL or not.

Certainly we can say that dynamically linking to a GPL library or project or calling a GPL utility with input and gathering the output are themselves not enough to mean that the work is derived. Otherwise every shell script that piped to 'cut' or 'tail' or 'awk' would be a derived work of the coreutils project, something we obviously reject in practice. Using 'tail' is not the same as making a work that's derivative of tail in the same way that writing code in Python isn't a derivative work of the Python language or implementation.

Conversely, calling a GPL utility or library, while not enough itself, certainly raises red flags about whether the project is so deeply entwined with the utility/library that it has become a derivative work. This judgment is necessarily one of degree -- a GTK app that uses the library's public API to draw windows and widgets is not as derivative as one that hooks into the GTK callback system and overrides some of the internal behavior.

Where does this leave us with Android? I'm inclined to think that it's a regular userspace application that is not a derivative work of the kernel even though it runs on that kernel but that's not much an argument as it is a judgment call.

Re:Is Android a derivative work of the kernel? (1)

lkcl (517947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100382)

again, you're completely ignorant of the situation surrounding the actual makeup of the android source code. the core android OS which was released BY GOOGLE is completely apache2 source code. it runs on top of a modified Linux Kernel, which has had patches made to it to add in, apart from anything else, the android security model. for more info see the post i made here: http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2380756&op=Reply&threshold=1&commentsort=0&mode=thread&pid=37100038 [slashdot.org]

bob, you really really need to get better informed about the GPL before making random comments like the ones you've just made, ok?

Florian Mueller is an idiot (1)

kawabago (551139) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100676)

Idiots quote Florian and idiots post links to his nonsense. He is as close to an expert on patent law as any character on Sesame Street. Any journalist that refers to him seriously is even more of an idiot.

What's this got to do with Android? (2)

Thomas Charron (1485) | more than 3 years ago | (#37100870)

The title of this article of absolutely Android FUD. GPL conformance by vendors has long been a thorn to end users, and Android is no exception. But this gives the inference that Android itself somehow violates the GPL, which is utter baloney.

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