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Sigma Designs Accused of Copyright Infringement

michael posted more than 12 years ago | from the vengeance-is-mine-saith-the-horde dept.

GNU is Not Unix 417

Cygnus v1 writes "The XVID team has ceased development of the XVID video codec for the time being because they say that Sigma Designs' REALmagic MPEG-4 Video Codec software includes their code and has claimed it as Sigma Designs' own work. The current XVID homepage includes some binary-level comparisons." Update: 08/23 03:14 GMT by T : Apparently the folks at Sigma have seen that no good is likely to come from this; an anonymous reader submits a link to this release on Yahoo! which says "complete source code will be available for download starting August 23, free of charge, through Sigma's website."

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greetings! (-1)

on by (572414) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121499)

an early post for everyone everywhere!

fp? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121512)


Why stop coding? (2, Insightful)

DigitalCH (582593) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121524)

Why did they stop coding though? So what someone is stealing your stuff... Sue them.. ignore them... but don't stop...

Re:Why stop coding? (2, Interesting)

ethereal (13958) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121598)

The only reason that I could think of would be if they thought Sigma was dependent enough on their code that stopping coding would leave Sigma high and dry. But that's a pretty roundabout way to get back at somebody. I'm going to guess that there are other legal machinations going on right now that they haven't mentioned that contributed to the decision to stop (publicly) coding at the moment.

If these guys are real hackers, they have their own private copy that they're still working on. Whenever this is resolved, expect a huge jump in Xvid functionality :)

Re:Why stop coding? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121743)

Your crap is just going to get you more 9-11s... Here that... Separation of God from State has much more consequence then just YOUR RIGHT NOT TO BE OFFENDED.

Re:Why stop coding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121792)

Separating religion from state has the consequence of a MUCH better country. Look at those shitholes in the middle east and then compare them to real countries that allow freedom of religion (USA, England, Australia, France, etc). I'd kill myself before I moved to the middle east, but I'd gladly move to other real countries.

Re:Why stop coding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121753)

I'd say it's equally likely to expect Xvid to tank completely. This is the bane of open sorce. Companies and coders come and go by the dozens weekly. Was that something you were using? Well it's gone now. (Or you can take over all 250,000 lines of code and all 5000 bugs yourself, horray!)

Re:Why stop coding? (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121688)

...When there are enough KIDS on /. to hack 'em off the planet?

Re:Why stop coding? (2)

mcfiddish (35360) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121768)

So what someone is stealing your stuff.

Then why bother putting your code under any kind of license at all?

The XVID guys used the GPL for a reason, and they should expect others to abide by it.

Re:Why stop coding? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121770)

Uh, so someone doesn't have a free lunch off your code? These folks released the code under the GPL, not BSD, license. If code was taken, it should be called on.

Ignoring them won't help (not sure why you suggested that--if MS used GPL code, say, the kernal, instead of developing their own idea, you'd say ignore them?). You mention sue them--sorry, but copyright infringment usually falls into civil, not criminal (there are exceptions, e.g. DMCA, the other one Ashcroft is using that Clinton signed into law in '97) court. Civil court cases are darn expensive. And if you lose, you're liable for the other parties legal bill.

btw, project development stopped; that's not necessarily all coding.

It's probably the best solution for them.

There are lots of evil things out there... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121527)

But, geez, this really tops the list. Talk about adding insult to injury.

press release text (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121537)


ERLANGEN, GERMANY -- August 22nd, 2002 -- The XVID development team, author of the popular XVID MPEG-4 video codec, claims that Sigma Designs' REALmagic MPEG-4 Video Codec is an illegal copy of the XVID software and publicly requests the company to stop violating their software license and copyrights.

XVID is a leading open source MPEG-4 video research project: software distributed by XVID is covered by a Free Software license, the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL). The XVID team announced that Sigma Designs' REALmagic MPEG-4 Video Codec includes wide portions of XVIDcodec software. By not offering a corresponding source code distribution and by claiming sole authorship on the product, Sigma Designs' Inc. is violating the GNU General Public License and the copyrights of the XVID authors.

XVID learned about the license violation in early July, soon after the initial release of the REALmagic software (version 1.0). Sigma Designs' were immediately contacted, and replied confirming the violation and promising to replace all violating code.

Version 1.1 of the REALmagic software was released on the 9th of August. After examining the new version, XVID developers concluded that the violating code was not replaced, but disguised by programming and compiling tricks. Sigma Designs' were again contacted and asked to remove the REALmagic download link from their website. Thus far, they have not shown any sign of cooperation.

In a statement to the XVID development team, project founder Michael Militzer showed his disappointment regarding Sigma Designs' behaviour: "We have been quite reasonable and have given Sigma Designs' ample opportunity to resolve this issue. Apparently none of our demands have been taken seriously. Nearly two months after the initial release of the REALmagic MPEG-4 Video Codec, Sigma Designs' is still knowingly infringing the GNU General Public License."

Militzer believes this infringement might be of high general interest: "This is an unfortunate event, not only for us but for the whole Free Software movement. Therefore we hope to receive wide support from the Free Software community in our efforts to convince Sigma Designs' to respect the terms of the GPL."

Evidence supporting the claim has been published on the XVID website.

About XVID (
XVID is a leading open source MPEG-4 video research project, founded by the German student Michael Militzer in August 2001 to continue the efforts of DivXNetworks' former OpenDivX project. Today, the XVID project consists of users and developers from all over the world. XVID publishes all its software under the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL).

About Sigma Designs Inc. (
Sigma Designs' headquarters are located in Milpitas, California. The company specializes in MPEG based video hardware for encoding and decoding. Recently Sigma Designs' introduced the Xcard, the first consumer hardware MPEG-4 decoder in the form of a personal computer add-on card.

About GNU GPL (
The GNU General Public License is the most frequently used software license for Free Software development and is supported by the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Software distributed under the GNU GPL grants everyone modification and redistribution rights, on the condition that derived or redistributed software carries the same license.


For contacting the XVID team please use the e-mail addresses or

Please address your request to one of the following persons:

Daniel Smith (USA)
Michael Militzer (Germany and international)
Christoph Lampert (Germany and international)
Edouard Gomez (France)

MOD Parent Post up! (1)

Linuxathome (242573) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121586)

I know it's posted anonymously, but this news release is important background that is not attainable through the links of the original post.

Re:MOD Parent Post up! (4, Insightful)

gimpboy (34912) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121678)

I know it's posted anonymously, but this news release is important background that is not attainable through the links of the original post.

if by not attainable you mean that clicking on the link to then clicking on the press releases in the files section is an impossible feat, then yes the information is not attainable throught the links in the original post. it is indeed a harsh reality.

how about the unattainable information in pdf [] format.

for more unattainable information i would goto this oracle of truth []

yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121551)


copyright is slavery anyway.

As someone who once worked for Sigma Designs... (5, Informative)

StevenMaurer (115071) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121565)

...all I can say is that I'm not one bit surprised. Many companies are morally flawed somehow, but not all of them revel in it quite so obviously.

Re:As someone who once worked for Sigma Designs... (2)

SanLouBlues (245548) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121904)

Be a huge friend. Email the XVid folks and offer your testimony on the character of said company.

How retarded. (0, Interesting)

inteller (599544) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121567)

So this is how you enforce a GNU stop coding? Wow....that's really gonna hurt them. Now that they have most of the code they don't need them anymore. They'll just make a few tweaks to make it proprietary and call it version 2 and be done with it.

Re:How retarded. (2)

MadAhab (40080) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121697)

Apparently they already tried this. But they didn't change enough to fool xvid. That's illegal: they have to replace ALL the code to make it legal. The next step is legal action. That's how you enforce a GNU license.

Sue them (3, Interesting)

RailGunner (554645) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121569)

This is a good opportunity to show just how enforcable the GPL is. If Sigma is using GPL'd code, and not giving proper credit and opening the source, then civil action should be taken.

This sucks.. I've had people claim my code as their own and it just deflates your morale. Looks like it deflated XVID to the point where they pulled a Cartman*.

*"Screw you guys, I'm going home."

Re:Sue them (2)

Quasar1999 (520073) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121592)

And Where is the money for this lawsuit going to be coming from?

Re:Sue them (5, Insightful)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121850)


There should be a donation system to finance a lawsuit for the GPL - perhaps with the EFF or the Free Software Foundation being the collector.

We are the GPL. We are the ones who use it, live it breath it - and if we are truly a community that believes that the sharing of ideas is more powerful then the hording of them, then we must be the ones to pay for its support.

Re:Sue them (2)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121905)

Depending on how big and solvent Sigma is and how straightforward the case then it should be possible to get a lawyer to work on it for a share of the award. The XVID folks are almost certainly going to be able to get damages (if they win).

Lawyers are more than happy to work for a percentage on cases that have the potential for large damages.

Re:Sue them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121729)

Or how unenforceable. If I were a GPL supporter, the last thing I would want is a court challenge. The contract will probably not stand up. The distribution of the contract is already know to not be legally binding. Untill all GPLed software comes in shrinkwrapped GPL boxes or from websites that require "signing" when DLing GPLed software, it won't stand for a second.

Re:Sue them (1)

sgifford (9982) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121886)

This probably isn't true.

If it were a license to *use* the software, then the contract perhaps wouldn't be legally binding (even with a shrink-wrap license), since the user has downloaded the software legally and is only using it.

But the GPL is a license to *copy* the software and incorporate it into your own work. If Sigma didn't read the license, they might assume that they had the normal rights that copyright grants them under the law, which do not include incorporating the software into your own code (or even making a copy of it, for that matter). If they don't agree to the terms of the GPL, they cannot copy the software at all, and if they do they have to abide by its terms.

I think that the GPL would stand up just fine in court, particularly in a clear-cut case such as this (assuming XVID's allegations are true).

Re:Sue them (2)

Darren Winsper (136155) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121920)

Then the code would revert to bog standard copyright law and Sigma would have no right to distribute the code. Either they GPL the code, or they must stop distributing it immediately.

Re:Sue them (1)

twistedcubic (577194) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121924)

This is a good opportunity to show just how enforcable the GPL is.

People say this a lot. Actually, one never gets to steal someone else's works just because the copyright is flawed or illegal. That would be absurd, even in the USA. The GPL is as "enforcable" as any other copyright license. At worst, if a judge has a serious problem with the GPL, the authors of GPL code just have to rewrite their licenses. Plagiarism is plagiarism, regardless of copyright, and theft is theft.

GPL Powerless (2, Insightful)

Skuto (171945) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121575)

This is why I avoid using the GPL as much as possible for my own work: if someone infringes upon it, they can just ignore your complaints and take an 'so sue me' attitude.

If you're a small developer and they're as resonably sized company, the prospect of shelling out bucks to stop them from copying something you don't make money off anyway is no good.

Being closed source doesn't protect your work from being copied, but it's at least a lot harder to rip it off and stick your name on it.


Re:GPL Powerless (5, Insightful)

gorilla (36491) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121603)

if someone infringes upon it, they can just ignore your complaints and take an 'so sue me' attitude.

They can do this for any license, including one where you only release binaries (I've seen at least one instance where the only difference between two programs is that one had the startup messages patched to display a different message).

Re:GPL Powerless (1)

Skuto (171945) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121796)

>They can do this for any license, including one
>where you only release binaries (I've seen at
>least one instance where the only difference
>between two programs is that one had the startup
>messages patched to display a different message).

Doing the binary patch at least takes some effort. Changing a printf anyone can do.


Re:GPL Powerless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121637)

XVID is based in Germany. In Germany the loser pays the legal fees, so if they win a hypothetical trial theyre shelling out zero money.

Re:GPL Powerless (2)

TheAwfulTruth (325623) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121710)

But given the nearly random outcome of all "trials" in any country. You have to be willing to shell out the money yourself, no matter how right you know you are.

Re:GPL Powerless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121647)

you are funny! as if your puny ass with it's fully closed copyrighted code can be any different.

If MS or a big company wanted to steal your work and not give you credit, they can sue you out of oblivion over your own stuff..

Clueless morons like you are a prime example as to why shareware DOESN'T and WILL NEVER work.

Re:GPL Powerless (1)

puff-d-dwaggie (599561) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121724)

nope, shareware wont work, never has, never will. RIIIIGHT. I still play Castle Wolfenstein and I actually PAID for it via the shareware system, along with a lot of other shareware. If it didnt work, why has it lasted so long? Yea, Yea, I know, obvious troll, but I couldnt resist.

Ray Moore
Puff D Dwaggie

Re:GPL Powerless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121680)

I wonder if the FSF won't step up and take legal actions for the developers of the GPL'd software.

sign your copyright over to ... (1)

gimpboy (34912) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121735)

i cannot remember where i read it but if you sign over your copyright to either the fsf or gnu they will defend such cases. i believe this is the case, but i cannot remember for sure.

Re:GPL Powerless (5, Interesting)

Bonker (243350) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121726)

Tell that to Avery Lee [] who got his code stolen. The FSF was very helpful in forcing the individuals who stole it to comply with GNU terms.

Being that Xvid is a larger project than Virtual Dub, I would be highly surprised to not see the FSF step in at some point.

Re:GPL Powerless (2)

(startx) (37027) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121822)

when was virtualdub ripped off? I haven't seen that one.

Re:GPL Powerless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121728)

I would write the companies legal department about this, I assure you they will not be pleased. Include proof, if possible.

Re:GPL Powerless (5, Informative)

kuroth (11147) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121861)

The best legal advice I ever recieved was from my father. It was, simply "I don't need a lawyer. I'm right." It's a philosophy that's been working for him for decades as a small business owner. It's worked equally well for me, also as a small business owner, for six years.

If someone plagarizes your work, sue them. The only information the judge is going to need is a copy of their source, and yours. Are they the same? Judgement for plaintiff.

Finding a couple of pro-bono expert witnesses in this case should be a snap, if that's even necessary. Hell, ask Stallman, he's always looking for a pulpit.

Over the years, I've had three or four clients who didn't want to pay for work I had performed. A couple of them even said "We're ready to be the 800 pound gorilla on this matter." (That's a direct quote from one, BTW).

Ok, you be an 800 pound gorilla. I have all my notes, all the specifications, all the correspondence related to the project ready to go. I have notes on every phone call, every meeting, every conversation. It costs me $40 to file, and all I have is time. If you want to tie up your $150 an hour lawyers for six months fighting an angry badger about a $20K project, go right ahead.

Funny, the check always shows up after that.

Don't let people push you around because you're a small operation, or because they think having more money guarantees them victory through intimidation.


Statutory damages for willful infringement (3, Informative)

phr2 (545169) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121929)

If the infringement is willful, which the XVID case almost certainly is, the infringer can be liable for up to $100,000 in statutory damages per infringement even if there are no actual damages. That actually happened to Keith Henson, who got stuck with $75K of statutory damages for posting a couple of pages of Scientology crap on a newsgroup. This XVID thing on the other hand is what statutory damages were intended and make sense for.

So suing Sigma Designs is not necessarily a futile effort, though of course it will take some resources and I don't know if it will happen. As for me, when I use the GPL on something interesting, I generally assign it to the FSF, so the FSF can then take action if necessary against infringers.

I'm not surprised (5, Insightful)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121579)

If this is true, it doesn't surprise me at all. It was only ever going to be a matter of time before a corp violated the GPL. I mean, there's a huge amount of free code out there - if you're looking at what would be for your project 6 months work right in front of you, ready to use, the temptation just to "accidentally" include it must be tremendous.

It's easy to think, who would ever know? Comparing binary compiles is a good way of testing, but it's not 100% proof. It's damn close, but would a judge know that?

Most interesting of all, will the FSF actually do what it always said it'd do, and protect this GPLd software? And will the GPL stand up in court? IANAL, but I don't see any reason why it shouldn't. This sort of thing needs to be dealt with swiftly however, lest other companies get the idea that it's OK.

Re:I'm not surprised (4, Interesting)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121716)

Unfortunately, the FSF has no legal standing to bring suit because they are not the copyright holders. I hate to say it, but in this case the bully just chased XVID off the playground, and kept their ball. If the XVID guys won't stand up to the bullies, the bullies win.

Re:I'm not surprised (2, Informative)

karmawarrior (311177) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121873)

Legal standing be damned. The FSF can provide lawyers, money, and witnesses that will ensure XVID can fight back. And that's the kind of thing the FSF are good at and have done before, the VirtualDub case being the most famous.

So, yeah, the bully is in the playground, but the XVID has a big brother he can call on.

Re:I'm not surprised (3, Interesting)

LMCBoy (185365) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121733)

Has the FSF stated that it will defend any GPL'd code in court? IIRC, they said they would defend any software for which they hold the copyright, although they would probably provide legal assistance to others (and it is certainly in their interest to do so). Can anyone correct or confirm this?

Re:I'm not surprised (2)

Eric Seppanen (79060) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121734)

Most interesting of all, will the FSF actually do what it always said it'd do, and protect this GPLd software?
The FSF never said that. They said that they'll protect GPLed software on which they own the copyright. On any other code, they have no legal standing to do anything even if they wanted to. That's why the FSF asks for copyright assignment [] from contributors.

Where's the DMCA when you need it? (2)

dnoyeb (547705) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121874)

Comparing binaries is a good start. It should be reason enough for a grand Jury to decide its worth a trial. At which time the lawyers should be able to demand source code to see the truth.

Here's to hoping they smack these hoes with the DMCA.

Re:I'm not surprised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121892)

What he should do is assign his copyrights to FSF and then do the MySQL vs. Progress thing --- that is let FSF get an temporary injunction against Sigma Designs from distributing their product and then have a trial to shut Sigma Designs' particular product permanently by revoking their GPL license.

That what mysql vs. progress --- mysql wants to shut down progress' mysql product permanently even if progress coughs up their codes back to the community.

Re:I'm not surprised (1)

Florian Weimer (88405) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121913)

Most interesting of all, will the FSF actually do what it always said it'd do, and protect this GPLd software?

I don't think the FSF owns the copyright, so it cannot enforce it.

seee (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121582)

This is why GNU GPL is crap =)

Any Questions? (5, Informative)

SloWave (52801) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121604)


MILPITAS, CA, (August 12, 2002) - Sigma Designs (NASDAQ: SIGM), a leader in digital decoder solutions, announced today that the Company will be discussing second quarter results during a conference call on Tuesday, August 27, 2002, at 4:45 p.m. Eastern time. The dial-in number is (612) 332-0226. A question and answer period will take place at the end of the discussion. The earnings release will cross the wire at the close of market on the same day.

The call will be webcast live from An audio replay of the call will be available shortly thereafter the same day and will remain on-line for 30 days. For further information, please see the link to this site on our website at or email investor relations at

Re:Any Questions? (3, Insightful)

Otterley (29945) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121659)

No sense wasting your time; I can all but guarantee you the conversation will go something like this:

Q: "Does Sigma Designs have any comment on the recent accusation from the XVID team that their MPEG-4 codec infringes on XVID's copyright?"

A: "We're not aware of any court filings pertaining to the matter, so no, we have no comment."

Re:Any Questions? (1)

doconnor (134648) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121890)

Perhaps you will get that answer, but you may make other shareholders aware of it and start thinking about if they should still own stock.

That will get the company's attention better then anything.

Re:Any Questions? (2)

SeanTobin (138474) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121810)

I'd love for this confrence to get slashdotted, unfortunately I think most of the people would be of the attitude that was so prevalent when the last group of OS advocates walked in on a private meeting ;)

Even so, I think it would be good for /. to post this info again a few hours before the meeting.

Sue the bastards! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121609)

If you don't sue to uphold the GPL, then the GPL loses its force!

If you quit, then Sigma wins, and every other GPL piece of software loses.

Read the diassembler output (4, Insightful)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121610)

It's pretty damning.

Makes you wonder how often companies silently steal code .. any famous examples from the past that never received widespread attention? I'm asking about GPL'd source specifically. I'm aware there is tons of BSD licence'd code in commercial projects, but the licence, being Bill Gates' wet dream, allows for this, right?

Re:Read the diassembler output (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121685)

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

Not just "Bill Gates" but ANY developer's wet dream. The GPL is a development nightmare. I'll never fucking touch it for any free, shareware or commercial product. It's a death trap.

Re:Read the diassembler output (2)

randombit (87792) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121704)

but the licence, being Bill Gates' wet dream, allows for this, right?

IF you include the original license along with your software. I was looking at some page (IIRC linked off the zlib website) showing products using zlib. Often (mostly on commercial Windows apps) there is an additional note: (copyright notice removed). They don't explain exactly what this means, but I suspect removing such a notice violates the license.

ISTR back when W2K was released there were allegations that it used OpenBSD's TCP/IP stack without attribution. I can't remember how that ever turned out, though.

Re:Read the diassembler output (2)

electroniceric (468976) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121785)

but the licence, being Bill Gates' wet dream, allows for this, right?

Well, the BSD license says that the license/attribution notice must stay with the code and its derivatives, but since you don't necessarily have a right to look at BSD-derived code, and there's nothing about using preprocessor directives to eliminate the comments from the binary, there's no way to know.

ISTR back when W2K was released there were
allegations that it used OpenBSD's TCP/IP
stack without attribution. I can't remember
how that ever turned out, though.

A friend and I were discussing this a while back - he recalls seeing some files working at MS that were BSD-licensed code, and IIRC the license notice wasn't actually stripped out, but it had been taken out of context and slapped down at the bottom of the file, in a not-likely-to-be-read place. He was of the opinion that it was a sleazy but legal move. No idea whether it was the OpenBSD TCP/IP stack.

Re:Read the diassembler output (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121889)

Is it damning? The disassembler output is similar but not identical. And consider that multiple implementations of the same algorithm are likely to have similar code..

I think... (2, Insightful)

mhore (582354) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121616)

that any fair court would (provided XVID had the funds for a legal battle....doubtful...) see that there is obviously something bad going on here. I think (as others have mentioned) that this would be a good time to really test the GPL in court. Is the FSF interested?

Look at those comparisons between the two DLLs... the assembly is identical between the two. It'd be a damn coinkadink that two independent code bases would be compiled into an identical DLL.


Re:I think... (3, Informative)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121852)

It'd be a damn coinkadink that two independent code bases would be compiled into an identical DLL.

I'd say it's certainly possible but what XVID has demostrated has me in awe. That's damn near impossible.

As long as they can demostrate large and complex blocks of assembly which are identicle then you're right: there's almost no way that could happen with two independant code blocks.

However, it is possible, just not to this extent. An exmaple would be if two blocks of code independantly implemented quick sort or Euler's algorithm. In that case I would expect those two peices of assembly (provided that they were compiled with the same compiler) to most likely be identicle beacause those are algorithms that are so popular and refined that almost every developer implements them in the same way.

But in this case XVID has certainly demonstrated the large and complex blocks of identicle assembly to prove that they were ripped off. And not only that but that the pieces of identicle code occur at almost the same offsets in the dll!! That's a very good indication that Sigma has extended on, or simply modified, XVID's original code base.

I sure hope they can somehow find the resources to sue Sigma's pants off. I will certainly make a donation if they go that route.


wow (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121630)

What would happen if I had stolen Microsoft code and released it for a free software project. Would they have kindly asked me over and over and over again to stop? Would they say, "please?"

"napsterize" the shit out of it! (0)

fz00 (466988) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121631)

why not just promote pirating the shit out of their software?

Re:No, use corporation speak instead (5, Funny)

marcop (205587) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121749)

Why not just call them a bunch of pirates, as Disney, RIAA, MPAA, etc. call individuals who allegedly are involved in copyright infringement. Then the developers can claim "X" dollars lost and say how their children, pets, etc. are starving because of piracy.

Re:"napsterize" the shit out of it! (2)

GutBomb (541585) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121826)

it's available as a free (beer) download from thier website.

oxymoron: the homosexual Apple guy (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121634)

Dear Apple,

I am a homosexual. I bought an Apple computer because of its well earned reputation for being "the" gay computer. Since I have become an Apple owner, I have been exposed to a whole new world of gay friends. It is really a pleasure to meet and compute with other homos such as myself. I plan on using my new Apple computer as a way to entice and recruit young schoolboys into the homosexual lifestyle; it would be so helpful if you could produce more software which would appeal to young boys. Thanks in advance.

with much gayness,

Father Randy "Pudge" O'Day, S.J.

In other news.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121687)

Linux advocates and GNU supporters around the world lined up to cut off their noses to spite their face.

They also urge the open source community to throw the baby out with the bathwater..

Sigma sure looks like some nasty canastas, but it seems to me the solution would be to just PUBLICIZE the hell out of their actions, and code their codec out of existence. Sue shmoo.

I'll post AC since everything a mod didnt post gets modded down.

Story incomplete without answer to this question: (1, Insightful)

njdj (458173) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121698)

Are they going to sue the b*st*rds?

(If they need a donation to help them do that - they have only to ask, as far as I'm concerned.)


Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121867)

Are they going to sue the b*st*rds?

It's "BASTARDS". No need to be afraid. Swear away.





It's educational and FUN!

What is the remedy (0)

i_luv_linux (569860) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121731)

I am wondering, what is the phunishment for violating GPL. The problem in my mind is that, can the developers claim moneytary damages, because clearly Sigma Designs make money out of this. But on the other hand, how come a free product can claim a moneytary damage, if that's the case who gets the money?

Only 660 days till Mary Kate + ashley r legal!!!!! (-1, Troll)

olson_twin_troll (603166) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121739)

yeah so here's a little slashdot poll for all you trolls- what term would you most likely use to describe Mary Kate's anus? Would you call it: A) her heiney hole? B) her butthole? C) her DIRT STAR? D) her octopus mouth? E) her leather cheerio?

Lets not jump the gun here... (1)

CrackerJackz (152930) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121747)

I mean come-on! Its soooo likely that the, um, 12 pages of asm in this PDF are purely by coincidence, right? right?? I mean my god, how *stupid* do you have to be to not even change *one byte* of code in that many lines of code, at least make a few new variables....

Re:Lets not jump the gun here... (1)

dwdyer (5238) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121802)

The problem is that compilers like to optimize, and it is possible to end up with the same asm generated from different source.

They also need to show (ahem: I'm not a laywer)that what they're doing in the source is non-obvious. For example, if you have a routine that calculates the sum of values in an array and you just iterate through the array and keep a total going, well yeah, it's copyrightable, but it's nothing you could sue over.

Re:Lets not jump the gun here... (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121807)

You have to use those variables or else the compiler will optimise them out. You have to use them significantly, or else whole chunks of assembly will stay the same. That's gonna affect performance. You might as well write your own version if you're going to do that.

I guess both teams used the same compiler.

Anybody else notice... (2, Interesting)

Jeffv323 (317436) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121759)

... that XVID is DIVX backwards?

Re:Anybody else notice... (5, Funny)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121790)

"Anybody else notice...that XVID is DIVX backwards?"

Nice DMCA violation there. Heh.

Have any of you actually read the comparisons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121766)

Mod me down if you want, but I'm going to say this: They don't have a smoking gun.

Now, there's a LOT of stuff in there that seems to indicate, if nothing else, a large bit of 'inspiration' from XVID's code, but a large portion of what looks like line-by-line asm similarities are just stack pushes and cleanup related to C-style function calls. That means that the argument numbers to the functions are the same.

I'd need to do further analysis, but they should be SURE to prove that the algorithms/functions are exactly the same in a very obvious way before anyone decides to take it to court to get a subpoena.

Innocent until proven guilty... I'm not sure if their analysis constitutes 'proof'.

Re:Have any of you actually read the comparisons? (2)

GutBomb (541585) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121914)

sigma actually initially admitted to having thier code in there, and stated they would be removing it with the new 1.1 version. the 1.1 version is still based on the same codebase apparantly. now i do not know assembly, however it looks pretty similar to not only the xvid code, but the old 1.0 code that they supposedly were going to remove. optimizers can't be THAT accurate to create almost identical code.

YES! I read it carefully - it's a smoking gun!! (5, Informative)

Totally_Lost (177765) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121941)

I've been coding in asm since 1967 on two dozen different architectures. The asm routines that were disassembled are instruction sequence, register assignment and structure offset identical for dozens upon dozens of lines that are not simply C interface code. The probablility of two programmers choosing exactly the same data structures, exactly the same manual register assignments, and exactly the same instruction sequences is about the same as being struck by the planet venus in our lifetimes.

Tempting (3, Insightful)

be-fan (61476) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121777)

I was tempted to do a sarcastic post about Sigma being a genuine American company bringing real dollars into the US economy, but decided that it had been done already :) Still, I'd like to vent about what I perceive as a giant hipocracy on the part of corporate America. They define "stealing" to include making backup copies, but feel perfectly free to actually infringe on other people's copyrights.

Re:Tempting (3, Insightful)

Software (179033) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121869)

Call me guilty of feeding the trolls, but to make generalizations like "giant hipocracy [sic] on the part of corporate America" is completely asinine. Individuals can be guilty of hypocrisy, as can groups with a defined mission, but "Corporate America" is neither of these. You might as well say that homo sapiens are hypocritical because some are opposed to murder and some are murderers. Grow up, learn the meaning of hypocrisy, or both.

At least these ppl have courage of convictions. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121793)

Unlike Linus T. and the rest of the Linux kernel and some of the userspace world.

The Virgin WebPlayer used Linux and never released source. Linus and his ball-less ilk did nothing.

Re:At least these ppl have courage of convictions. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121841)

you're right.. They should have just cancelled the linux project altogether, that'd teach those bastards.

Seriously, what *can* you do? I've always seen the fundamental problem with the GPL as its inability to be enforced by anyone.

Its more a code of ethics than a legally binding contract.

modding this down is a violation the DMCA

Count me in. (2)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121806)

Unfortunately, since the string of dot-bombs I worked for are no more, I don't have any big chunks of change lying around, but I am willing to contribute $25 to a fund for the XVID team to sue the holy living crap out of Sigma. I suspect I'm not alone.

Of course this presumes some sort of reputable arrangement so I know I'm not sending $25 to some wise-ass AC with a Paypal account, but if it comes to pass, let me know at, and I'll pony up right away.

Incidentally (and IANAL), while it is hard to sue for damages when you're not actually selling something, I'd be surprised if the XVID team weren't entitled to a substantial chunk of any profits Sigma has been making with their work.

The Microsoft Way (1)

RavenZ (52909) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121819)

I was just wondering:

Sigma did acknowledge the inital (1.0) claim by xvid, so they had the code and they used it.

Then they removed the code and reimplemented it.
However, I assume they read the xvid code and when they try to replace it, they also thought about the way xvid did it.

At this point, I smell MS with their community license. They claimed, that after you reviewed the idea (hey!), your code would be based on theirs, so MS would get it

Now, simply transfer this to GPL ! In every case, they have to release the source code !

Any comments ?

ehmmm... why the shouting? (2, Insightful)

MarsDude (74832) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121836)

I see posts with a +5 insightful here that are just saying that they are evil and should be burned for violating the GPL. Ehmm... whatever happened to 'innocent until proven guilty' ? I thought we had courts for that. They say they have proof, and put in on their web. So it is true then because someone with software that has a GPL license says so ? c'mon people... I agree that it is news, but it is not a conviction.

Don't stand here idly... (1)

octalc0de (601035) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121839)

... DO SOMETHING. [mailto] is the email address for the Mpeg-4 codec. I suggest you write them.

and their site needs a /.ing.

Re:Don't stand here idly... (2)

danheskett (178529) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121903)

Right, because copyright infringers respond nicely to angry e-mails. That's the key the RIAA is looking for - all they need is to post an article asking p2p people to please "stop breaking our licensing agreements".

Riight. Don't hold your breath.

Re:Don't stand here idly... (1)

puff-d-dwaggie (599561) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121926)

No Worries Mate.

Just downloaded their codec and in their comments line asked where the source code and acknowledgements were for the gpl portion of the software.

"Get Moose and Squirrel!"

Sigma Design Resumes (5, Funny)

Clipper (547339) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121847)

Here's some snippets from resumes recently submitted to Sigma Design's HR department [mailto]

  • Advanced knowledge of the C-c and C-v hotkeys in Windows
Work Experience

Re:Sigma Design Resumes (0)

shaldannon (752) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121899)

You forgot the C-r I love that one ;)

Comment from the FSF (5, Informative)

prizog (42097) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121857)

We at the FSF are saddened by this GPL violation. Because we do not hold copyright on Xvid, we can't act directly. We support the Xvid developers' effort to get full GPL compliance from Sigma. If you're interested in how we enforce the GPL when we hold copyright, please see our attorney Eben Moglen's essay, Enforcing the GPL [] .

Investor Notice Anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4121863)

Just in case the XVID group can't sue (due to lack of funds), why not let their investors know what is going on? They are a publically traded stock and the SEC would just LOVE to eat them up, esp. with all the fraud going on.

Trading Symbol: SIGM (

Not a GPL Legal test? (2)

RevRigel (90335) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121866)

This doesn't even seem to me to necessitate a test in court of the GPL. Unauthorized redistribution is a violation of copyright, regardless of the license (if any). If you want to force them to open their whole application's source, then I suppose it could be interpreted that way. Any lawyer worth his salt would probably go after the much more clear cut copyright infringement case, along with all the damages implied therein.

Lots of similarities (2)

shaldannon (752) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121871)

I gave the v1_1_comparison.pdf a cursory look (that awful smuddgy grey font in xpdf was killing my eyes) and there are certainly large amounts of code that look similar, and the code tree listings look similar. There are places where names have been changed and byte offsets are a tad difference, but that's no big deal. It looks like the Sigma code has removed a few lines here and there (for performance?) from the XVID code and added some very lengthy routines.

My question is, why can't XVID enforce the GPL by taking the code they've decompiled, diff it, and keep what they want?

They need some big guns (1)

Admiral Llama (2826) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121875)

Let's face it, they're little pipsqueeks going up against a foreign corporation.... fat chance. They need to rile up someone who is big enough to give Sigma hell, and make mend their ways.

Just think of what happens to IBM if the GPL is crap. They've invested how many billions of dollars on stuff that's built on the GPL? Granted, their swing on things is from the services perspective, but still they have a large vested interest in seeing the GPL stand on its own, or else Sun or HP or Microsoft could steal JFS, incorporate it into their OS and they couldn't do jack.

Yes, IBM is someone the xvid folks might do well to poke with a stick.

What I like... (1)

crawdaddy (344241) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121880)

is how in the second pdf file there is a 16-iteration loop in the XVID code and the code for the loop is simply copied 16 times in the Sigma code. That doesn't sound like something a compiler would do on purpose.

This seems like such blatant plagiarism it's disgusting.

Re:What I like... (1)

Whispers_in_the_dark (560817) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121939)

Actually unwrapping small loops is a common compiler optimization when the bounds are known to be small. The branching operation takes a cycles and keeps the pipeline from being able to load the next instruction. Not to say that I think Sigma's in the clear - I can't really tell for sure but it looks bad for the Sig from where I sit.

Dirty programmers (3, Informative)

ToasterTester (95180) | more than 12 years ago | (#4121884)

I was involved in a product dispute like this and the way the lawyers explained it was the Clean Programmer vs. Dirty Programmer. If a programmer has seen the product in question and writes a similar program he is a Dirty Programmer. It can be in a different language if the programs are similar he copied the other program and violated copyright. Now if the programmer didn't ever see the program being copied and was working from descriptions being supplied he is a Clean programmer and no violation. Stupid, but there is no consistency in the laws.

In our case a competitor heard we were working on a program with some features similar to theirs. So to try and create the Dirty Programmer situation our competitor sent copies of their program to our developers trying to get them to look at it. Lucky for us the developers went to management and they went to legal department. Legal collected all the copies of the program and had a hell of a chat with our competitor.
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