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Is this a way around the GPL?

Malvineous (1459757) writes | more than 4 years ago

Open Source 4

Malvineous (1459757) writes "I have two devices, from two different companies (who shall remain nameless, but both are very large and well known) which run Linux-based firmware. The companies release all their source code to comply with the GPL, however neither of them include a build environment or firmware utilities with the code. This means that if you want to alter the free software on the device, you can't — there is no way to build a firmware image or install it on the devices in question, effectively rendering the source code useless.

I have approached the companies directly and while one of them acknowledges that they are not fully GPL compliant, due to other license restrictions they cannot make their build environment public, and they do not have the resources to rewrite it. I have approached the FSF but their limited resources are tied up pursuing more blatant violations (where no code at all is being released.)

Meanwhile I am stuck with two devices that only work with Internet Explorer, and although I have the skills to rewrite each web interface, I have no way of getting my code running on the devices themselves.

Have these companies found a convenient way to use GPL code, whilst preventing their customers from doing the same?"

cancel ×

4 comments

Ask them... (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302474)

Wow, sounds like an IP camera or DVR unit or some other specialized device like that.

Actually, I suspect it is probably not one of those, as those are pretty easy to use with Linux and a little ingenuity.

So... how about simply asking them what dev tools they use and ask if they can provide instructions on how to set it up, which then leaves you seeking the holder of whatever licenses they are beholden to, to see if they will license it to you...

You don't understand the GPL (1)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302704)

The point is not that the GPL should enable end users to make easy modifications to things like firmware - the GPL doesn't say so anywhere, and it may not even be possible. For example when firmware would come in a ROM (not flash-), as in: read only. In that case you'd have to modify the hardware to change that ROM (this may even be impossible if such a ROM is embedded into an IC).

The point is to enable end users to figure out what the code does, perhaps modify it, re-use it, and (posibly) re-distribute original and/or modified code.

Have these companies found a convenient way to use GPL code, whilst preventing their customers from doing the same?

NO - If the company distributes the code they're using, you have every opportunity to use that code yourself. What you're complaining about it use of modified code on the original hardware, which is an entirely different matter. If using the original hardware is impractical, there's nothing stopping you from building replacement hardware that either runs the same code (and is easy to update), or does the same thing. The issue is very similar to "free speech for everyone doesn't mean a free printing press for everyone".

To /. editors: this is a non-story. The GPL and its implications are well understood, and this is a typical example. If original submitter doesn't understand what the GPL means, he/she shouldn't report it to the FSF as a violation, but read some more or ask others who do, until he/she does understand the issue.

Re:You don't understand the GPL (1)

jks (269) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302902)

The point is not that the GPL should enable end users to make easy modifications to things like firmware - the GPL doesn't say so anywhere, and it may not even be possible.

The GPL, version 3, does require this. See section 6: "If you convey an object code work under this section in, or with, or specifically for use in, a User Product, [...] the Corresponding Source conveyed under this section must be accompanied by the Installation Information. But this requirement does not apply if neither you nor any third party retains the ability to install modified object code on the User Product (for example, the work has been installed in ROM)."

"Installation Information" is defined to include "any methods, procedures, authorization keys, or other information required to install and execute modified versions of a covered work in that User Product from a modified version of its Corresponding Source".

How about an internal language? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32306298)

Ok, so i release the code, but its in a language only we have in-house, or runs only on an internal OS?

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