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Communications Technology

Expert Says Cisco's iPhone violates GPL 193

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-that dept.
Stony Stevenson writes "Even while Cisco Systems is suing Apple for violating its iPhone trademark, an open-source enthusiast is accusing Cisco itself of infringing copyright in the same product. From the article: "Cisco has not published the source code for some components of the WIP300 iPhone in accordance with its open-source licensing agreement, said Armijn Hemel, a consultant with Loohuis Consulting and half of the team running the GPL Violations Project, an organization that identifies and publicizes misuse of GPL licenses and takes some violators to court."
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Expert Says Cisco's iPhone violates GPL

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Richard Stallman seen stroking his beard amusedly.
    • by PunkOfLinux (870955) <mewshi@mewshi.com> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @08:59PM (#17656766) Homepage
      Ok, to clarify things - the only thing they HAVE to give people is any modifications to programs licensed under the GPL. If they modified the Linux kernel running on this (which they most likely did) then, yes, they need to release that. If they wrote a custom app for this purpose, that does not need to be released.
      • by QuantumG (50515) *
        and when you say "give people" you mean "give the people they have sold the device to" right? Cause that's the only people to which they have given the binaries and, one hopes, an offer to provide source code upon request. Of course, they probably haven't even given them an offer.. that would expose them to breach of contract lawsuits. In which case, they are in breach of copyright instead, and the copyright holders of this software need to sue them ASAP. If they have any sense, they'll seek damages.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by whoever57 (658626)
          and when you say "give people" you mean "give the people they have sold the device to" right? Cause that's the only people to which they have given the binaries
          What is it about the "any third party" in "Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party" from 3.b of GPL Version 2 that you don't understand?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            In my interpretation, that doesn't mean any third party in general, it means any third party that the party with the written offer chooses. An arbitrary third party wouldn't have the written offer, and so wouldn't be eligible.

            The idea behind that section is that someone who has a binary under the GPL but hasn't requested the source shouldn't be required to acquire the source before distributing the binary. With that section, they can distribute the binary and rely on the original provider to provide the sou
            • by Arker (91948)
              Sorry, you're wrong.

              They only have an obligation to give source to those whom they already gave the binaries *IF they ship binaries and source together.* If they ship binaries without source, then they do indeed have to give source to anyone that requests it.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by morie (227571)
              I agree, your third party should not be just any party.

              I mean, after the first two parties, you are probably a little drunk anyway. If the third party sucks, you might just get totally pissed or fall asleep, leaving you open to any of many problems
      • Sorry, wrong: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @11:18PM (#17658252) Journal
        ... the only thing they HAVE to give people is any modifications to programs licensed under the GPL. If they modified the Linux kernel running on this (which they most likely did) then, yes, they need to release that. If they wrote a custom app for this purpose, that does not need to be released.

        Sorry, not true.

        If they have a stand-alone part that is unchanged they still have to distribute the source of it.

        If they have stand-alone part they modified they have to license their modifications under the GPL and distribute the whole part's source (not just the deltas).

        The only thing they can avoid *GPLing and distributing source for is a stand-alone part that they wrote from scratch - and then (since it's a single software load rather than a distribution containing clearly separable components) only if the underlying code was licensed under the LGPL rather than the full-blown GPL.
  • by Kris_J (10111) * on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @08:49PM (#17656642) Journal
    Business and innovation are getting completely strangled by all this IP rights cr^H^H stuff. Is it actually possible to produce anything without setting yourself up to be sued by someone who better understands how the law "works" than you? It's gotten to the point where any business needs a lawyer first, and accountant second and a functional business model an optional third. Can anyone identify the date that making products ceased to be about how good your product was and became more like a poker game where you win if you can raise the stakes higher than the other players can afford?
    • by wall0159 (881759) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @09:13PM (#17656944)
      While I basically agree with your comment, I don't really think this is the time to make it.

      I haven't RTFA but, in general, if someone gives you something with conditions then it's reasonable to expect you to understand and honour those conditions - otherwise, don't take it in the first place!*

      In this case, Cicso has (according to the summary) used GPL code, and hasn't fulfilled it's share of the bargain. It doesn't sound like a business "getting completely strangled by ... IP rights" to me!

      *I think the GPL is different to an EULA... (my personal bias shining through)
      • by glwtta (532858)
        I think the GPL is different to an EULA... (my personal bias shining through)

        It is. It's just a plain old L, it's the EU and "A" that make EULAs bullshit.
      • by rnapier (607622) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @12:40AM (#17658888)
        Note all the parts of the article, however:

        * The article misrepresents the GPL by stating: "The GPL license requires the company to publish the code that it develops for the phone." This is not true; GPL requires that modifications to GPL code be released, not that code developed for a GPL platform be released. Such confusions are exactly why it is a minefield out there. Even if you're in compliance, you get accused of not being so.

        * Hemel has not actually identified any code that is in violation (according to the article, though it also says he's identified the MTD as being in violation). As he says, "I'm not going to do their work for them." But without some clear identification, this becomes a fishing expedition. He says "you're not in compliance" and /. expects the company to prove the negative. Minefield #2.

        * Cisco, as noted by the article, was "very open to his report, [Hemel] said. The company subsequently fixed omissions on a few products that Hemel identified." Every indication is given in the article that Cisco has worked with Hemel in good faith to ensure GPL compliance. This is very different from Apple's announcement of an apparently violating trademark while literally in the middle of negotiations over whether they could use it. Regardless of the merits of either, comparing the two is absurd. They have nothing in common except a vague "IP violation" umbrella.

        * As Hemel notes in the way of a hunch, large companies often acquire code from partners, acquisitions, and contractors. Ensuring that none of these sub-parties has violated GPL is a significant burden, and in most cases impossible to do 100%. Minefield #3. Companies should be judged for their good faith in these situations and particularly how they react when problems are discovered. Nothing in this article indicates that Cisco has behaved except in good faith.

        The original poster was quite correct that the GPL is a minefield. The fact that you often know when you're entering it (unlike software patents) does not remove the minefield. The only way to avoid the minefield is to completely avoid GPL platforms and code, or to GPL absolutely everything you produce. If you wish to work somewhere between those two poles (which Linux seems to encourage), then there are going to be some legal issues to watch out for, and legal issues that don't have really clear answers because the GPL is unlike any other "license agreement" that came before.

        The good news is that the GPL creates exactly the kinds of problems for propriety-software companies that RMS wanted it to cause. The bad news is the the GPL can be a bit of a minefield for proprietary-software companies.
        • by simm1701 (835424) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @03:33AM (#17659934)
          Just an adendum to your points... its not just modified GPL code that you need to release. Its also the code of derivative works.

          Its defining derivative (which differs between the LGPL and the GPL and also how you link to libraries) which is the other mine field.

          In general if you dynamically link LGPL libraries or system call to binaries of either type you are safe from having to release your own code as GPL/LGPL

          One of the other compliance issues that is uner the GPL that is trrival to meet but many companies fail to do so is that when you do use GPL code in such a way that you dont have to release your own code, you still have to aknowlege the use of such GPL code and either provide a copy of the source code in machine readable form or provide instructions to where it can be found (a few links to sourceforge is usually sufficient) since this is trivial to do it understanably annoys FOSS advocates when companies fail to do so.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Cyclops (1852)
          This is not true; GPL requires that modifications to GPL code be released
          *cof* I appreciate the intention but you're spreading a most terrible lie: the GPL does NOT "require that modifications to GPL code be released". It requires that published copies, original or modified, be released under the same terms of the GPL.
        • by richlv (778496)
          "The original poster was quite correct that the GPL is a minefield."

          just like any other licence. except maybe public domain, which isn't exactly a license as such.

          "...then there are going to be some legal issues to watch out for, and legal issues that don't have really clear answers because the GPL is unlike any other "license agreement" that came before."

          it is unlike in some aspects, but in general, almost all licence agreements that exceed two sentences have weird clauses, clauses that are open to misinte
        • by mpe (36238)
          The original poster was quite correct that the GPL is a minefield. The fact that you often know when you're entering it (unlike software patents) does not remove the minefield. The only way to avoid the minefield is to completely avoid GPL platforms and code, or to GPL absolutely everything you produce.

          You can just as easily wind up with problems between different pieces of proprietary code. Even if they use the "same" licence...
      • by syousef (465911)
        I haven't RTFA but....

        Quick mod him up insightful! He hasn't read the article up for discussion but has an opinion that meshes well with /. group think! Man I wish I had mod point but I used them all yesterday. /. has reached rock bottom and is starting to dig. (no pun intended).

      • GPL vs. EULA (Score:3, Informative)

        by Per Abrahamsen (1397)
        The GPL extends the rights you have by copyright law.

        An EULA restricts the rights you have by copyright law.

        You have no obligation whatsoever to accept the GPL, and if you don't you are still free to use the software as you seem fit. An EULA will try to tell you that you can't use the software unless you agree with it.

        What the GPL does is to allow you to redistribute the software under certain conditions, something you have otherwise no right to do under copyright law.

        What an EULA is to disallow some uses
        • by mpe (36238)
          The GPL extends the rights you have by copyright law.
          An EULA restricts the rights you have by copyright law.


          You might as well compare apples with lumber. All they have in common is that they come from a kind of plant known as a "tree". A more meaningful comparison for the GPL would be a publishing contract.
          (As for something to compared with an EULA you'd have a hard time finding something which wasn't practiced by a con artist.)
        • by iangoldby (552781)
          What an EULA is to disallow some uses of the software, something you are otherwise free to do under copyright law.
          That's not actually true in some countries. I believe (but IANAL) that here in the UK, loading a program into memory is treated as 'copying' that program and is therefore subject to copyright law. So copyright law effectively prevents you even from using software, since for all practical purposes it is impossible to run a program without loading it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by robotninja (866362)
      The answer to this question depends on whether you choose the date the law was passed (October 19, 1976 ) or the date that it went into effect (January 1, 1978): US Copyright Act of 1976 [wikipedia.org].

      Yes, I realize Cisco's suit is about trademark, and not copyright; however, Larry Lessig goes into great detail in most of his writings to explain why the complete redirection in copyright law in 1976 laid the groundwork for such backwards and insane laws as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act [wikipedia.org] and of course, the not
    • Can anyone identify the date that making products ceased to be about how good your product was and became more like a poker game where you win if you can raise the stakes higher than the other players can afford?
      January 27th, 1880. [wikipedia.org]
    • by MobyDisk (75490)
      Patents are a minefield. Copyrights are not. You can accidentally implement something that someone has patented without realizing it. But copyrights are clearly displayed at the top of every source file you use. They are usually on the download page, and generally, developers and managers know the licenses of what they are using. It is a part of the daily life of a developer, and part of the decision to use a particular tool or not. This isn't a minefield. Nobody violates the GPL without knowing it.

      F
    • by finkployd (12902)
      Actually it is real simple with source code.

      If you are going to take someone else's source code you must abide by their license. Nothing more, nothing less. Heck, not much to even get a lawyer over.

      If you are not prepared to do that, write your own damn code.

      Now if you are referring to software patents, I'm with you.

      Finkployd
    • by oohshiny (998054)
      Business and innovation are getting completely strangled by all this IP rights cr^H^H stuff.

      Patents are a minefield, copyrights aren't. Code under the GPL is crystal clear about what you may and may not do with it. If Cisco doesn't comply with the GPL, it's a deliberate, premeditated rip-off of open source developers.

      Cisco doesn't even have any moral high ground to stand on, given how possessive they are of their own copyrights, how little they have contributed to the community, and the rate at which they
  • no suprise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @08:50PM (#17656656) Homepage
    It was like pulling teeth to get the wifi accesspoint/routers GPL code released a few years ago, this is standard operating proceedure by Cisco. I remember the foaming at the mouth all over slashdot about that.

    Anyways the WIP300 sucks bad.
    • by rindeee (530084)
      "Anyways the WIP300 sucks bad." Hah! Not half as bad as the $300+ WIP-330. What an absolute piece of garbage. Both of them (the 300 and 330) are absolute crap! We bought a dozen of each for T&E for a large project. Of the twelve, not a single one is even remotely stable (all patches applied) and none will stay connected to any of the 4 commercial SIP providers we tested with for more than about half a day. Phones costing far less from other vendors worked swimmingly. To heck with the source code
      • We bought a dozen of each for T&E for a large project.

        Apparently you have a different definition of the word "large" when it involves two dozen handsets.

        • T&E means "testing and evaluation"... the thing you do with ten or twenty of them BEFORE you buy 15,000 of them.
          • I stand corrected, then. :) Trying to recall what I'm used to calling it... not prototype, not beta, but the 'initial group' of first adopters, though I realize you mean even before that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And the WIP300 is not an iPhone. Cisco's WIP300 is a product they have been shipping that on December 18, 2006 they decided to re-badge online (including uploading doctored pictures to Amzon.com) as being their "iPhone". The reason Cisco did this was to be able to point to this product as proof of using the iPhone trademark. Unfortunately for Cisco, they did not use the registered trademark for 5 years after having bought the trademark registration by buying NetGear. Cisco then missed the deadline for e
    • by canuck57 (662392)

      It was like pulling teeth to get the wifi accesspoint/routers GPL code released a few years ago, this is standard operating proceedure by Cisco. I remember the foaming at the mouth all over slashdot about that.

      That was Linksys at the time when the code was released. The only reason Cisco does this today is that it was out of the bag before they bought Linksys. Cisco release source code...ha.. steal or lift it now that I can believe. Software shops do this all the time and it is routine, even between c

  • At the end of the day, the only way in which different cases of infringement are fungible is if opposed parties agree to trade suit cancellations. They could hammer Cisco as hard as they want and Cisco's position vis-a-vis Apple would (probably) not be affected at all.

    On the other hand, it's a nice bit of karma. Er, but not in the /. sense of the word.
    • Re:Of course (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gnasher719 (869701) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @09:45PM (#17657270)
      '' At the end of the day, the only way in which different cases of infringement are fungible is if opposed parties agree to trade suit cancellations. They could hammer Cisco as hard as they want and Cisco's position vis-a-vis Apple would (probably) not be affected at all. ''

      The copyright holders could sell lets say 50 percent of their copyrights to Apple, which might be happy to pay a generous amount of money for them to have some ammunition against Cisco. The original copyright holders get a nice amount of money, they can still sue Cisco for copyright infringement, and Apple can do the same. The GPL status of the software wouldn't be affected. (If they sold _all_ copyrights to Apple, the software would be just as free, but only Apple could sue any GPL abusers, and of course Apple could build a non-free version itself).
    • by StikyPad (445176)
      I understand that the alleged GPL infringement has nothing to do with the iPhone trademark, but what does any of it have to do with the ability to grow fungus?
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        One is an implied license to use the item in quesrtion in the first place. The other is an asertion of not being able to use an item after the fact. Somewhat different in several ways. With one, You have to know about the license and/or resrictions before even using it. The other, you intend to use it and someone lays a claim to it. You investigate the claim then proceede if it is a valid claim or not. Unlike the other, the validiy is in question with the other.

        Now you see if you could see why someone might
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @08:52PM (#17656688)
    Can be found here [computerworld.com.au]. No ads, pleasant to read, all on one page! (Posting AC to avoid karma whore accusations).
  • by tkrotchko (124118) * on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @10:25PM (#17657710) Homepage
    The article implies a linkage that isn't there.

    iPhone is a trademark dispute between Apple and Cisco.

    The other appears to be a vague accusation the Cisco didn't abide by a usage restriction (not related to apple in the least) on source code....

    I mean, perhaps this could be considered ironic, but irony is not a legal challenge and in any case, even if the GPL has been violated, it has no bearing at all on the case between Apple and Cisco.

    I'm not a big fan of the way either of these companies use their legal teams, but you don't have to be a lawyer to realize that Apple is wrong here. They gave away their entire negotiating position when they announced iPhone before securing the rights to the name. They either pony up what Cisco wants, or choose a new name. It's not that difficult.
    • by repvik (96666)
      Except that Cisco just might not have the right to the iPhone trademark after all... So, you suck at being a lawyer.
      • by tkrotchko (124118) *
        iPhone is a registered tracemark of Cisco. Check the TESS system at the USPTO, the registration is 2293011.

        Could Cisco lose that trademark because of some legal reason? Let's assume the answer is yes (I have no idea). I don't understand how that helps Apple any time soon. It will take years before they lose the trademark because of legal action.

        Just because Cisco loses the trademark doesn't mean that Apple gets to have it. The best that Apple could hope for is the term becomes generic. Well... does a
        • by repvik (96666)

          iPhone is a registered tracemark of Cisco. Check the TESS system at the USPTO, the registration is 2293011.

          I am aware of that. Cisco might have lost the right to use it because they trademarked it way back and haven't used it. It appears there are some (sane) laws in place that makes it harder to just trademark a lot of names for the purpose of suing whoever tries to use them. This is what I've heard, do not in any way take it as gospel ;-)

          Just because Cisco loses the trademark doesn't mean that Apple gets

          • As a sidenote, what will Apple do in Norway, where a company called iPhone has the right to the name? ;-)

            Same thing as Cisco decided to do in Norway... I guess.

            The funny thing about trademarks is nobody has a right to any name. They are granted a right to a name for a specific application. Apple is trying to say that Cisco has the name for a VoIP phone and they want it for a cell phone.

            But we all know that the Apple Phone has to be a VoIP phone eventually, so bs on that.

            It's all nebulous - if I decided to
  • by SLi (132609) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @10:51PM (#17657982)
    Argh. When will people learn this? The GNU GPL is not a "licensing agreement", it's a license. It's a one-sided declaration that gives to the licensee rights they would not otherwise under the copyright law have (ie. the right to redistribute the software under some conditions, spelled out by the GPL). It doesn't demand anything at all in exchange, and the licensee does not need to "agree" to it or "accept" it for it to have effect (and not accepting it wouldn't make much sense, since it only gives additional rights).
    • by bahwi (43111)
      You give your acceptance. And not accepting it means you have no legal right to use the code or have a copy of it on your machine at all barring some other agreement. Yes, the GPL is a license, but accepting it turns that into an agreement.
      • by bhsx (458600)

        And not accepting it means you have no legal right to use the code or have a copy of it on your machine at all

        Hate to be nit-picky; but you have every right to have a copy of it on your machine without accepting into agreement with the GPL. The GPL only applies if you distribute derivative works. On a side note, that's a weird issue when it comes to GUI installers. Especially win32 installers that make you click "Accept" on the GPL posting. Seems strange that the people using the GPL, who generally hate EULAs, basically implement the same sort of thing in their own installers.
        Maybe I'm way off, but I think

        • by SLi (132609)
          Yes, that's horrible.

          By the way, I believe at least Debian has removed some of those (which they, arguably, have the right to do under the terms of the GPL). I don't remember from which specific pieces of software, though.
        • by ross.w (87751)
          You need to understand the difference between the GPL and most licences. Most licences impose additional restrictions on top of what is already provided for by copyright law. Eg some Database management software prohibits you from running benchmarks on their software. This is an additional restriction imposed by the licence on top of copyright law.

          GPL doesn't add any restrictions that copyright law doesn't already have. It grants additional privileges to the licensee that otherwise would not be legal - like
          • by bhsx (458600)

            your usage is not restricted and you are now allowed to give away copies and modify yours in whatever way you want - provided that if you give away a modified copy you need to give away the source code.

            Again, it's nit-picky; but we are talking about licenses and copyrights, which are nit-picky by nature. Anyway, your usage IS restricted. You don't have to "agree" to the GPL in order to install and use the software; but try clicking "Decline" or "Cancel" and see how your install goes.

            • Again, it's nit-picky; but we are talking about licenses and copyrights, which are nit-picky by nature. Anyway, your usage IS restricted. You don't have to "agree" to the GPL in order to install and use the software; but try clicking "Decline" or "Cancel" and see how your install goes.

              Ok, you have a point - the click-through licence/agreement shouldn't bind people to the GPL. Maybe it should start with "if you wish to distribute this software or a modified version of it then...". However, it's perfectly

        • by oohshiny (998054)
          Hate to be nit-picky; but you have every right to have a copy of it on your machine without accepting into agreement with the GPL.

          Quite wrong. Without the GPL, you have no right to copy the code at all. The GPL gives you that right; if you didn't accept it, you'd be violating the author's copyright.
          • by Aim Here (765712)
            You're both right; it's only your first sentence 'Quite wrong.' that's incorrect.

            The GPL is the document that grants the right to have your own personal copy of the code, but it's unconditional; you don't have to accept the GPL, or do anything else that would constitute 'agreeing' to it. Everyone has the right to have GPLed software on their machines, granted by the GPL, whether they accept the GPL or not.

            However if they don't accept the GPL, they don't have the rights to modify or distribute or distribute
            • by oohshiny (998054)
              The GPL is the document that grants the right to have your own personal copy of the code, but it's unconditional; you don't have to accept the GPL, or do anything else that would constitute 'agreeing' to it. Everyone has the right to have GPLed software on their machines, granted by the GPL, whether they accept the GPL or not.

              Legally, if you copy the software onto your machine, you have "accepted the GPL" in its entirety. It's just that almost all of the terms of the GPL pertain to distribution, so when th
    • How can requiring that additional source code added by the licensee must be distributed along with the original source not be considered a demand? A GPL licensee is giving up their rights to keep their source code secret in exchange for being able to incorporate GPL'd code in their application.

      You can argue about legal definitions all you want, but as a practical matter the GPL is indistinguishable in effect from a "licensing agreement" to those that intending to distribute derivative code.
      • by SLi (132609)
        Well, there are some very important differences. http://lwn.net/Articles/61292/ [lwn.net] explains them well:

        Similarly, when you hear that the GPL is viral and can force proprietary code to become GPL, which a couple of lawyers have been saying, you'll know that isn't true. If you steal GPL code, you can expect an enforcement action. But this action can only be enforcement of a license, not a contract, and a forced release under the GPL can't be imposed on you under copyright law. It's not one of the choices, as Prof

        • I guess I'm a bit old fashioned. If I take advantage of a license my first thought isn't "what happens if I cheat?". For non-cheaters, the GPL does force proprietary code to become GPL in exchange for the right to create a derivative work. There would be no point in creating the GPL if one assumed most people weren't going to accept this bargin.
  • not only iPhone (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ivlad (646764)

    Cisco has a line of Fibre Channel switches called Cisco MDS [cisco.com]. They are used for Storage Area Networks and provide FC, iSCSI and FCIP capabilities. The high-end series, 95xx, look pretty much like Catalysts 65xx (with FC interfaces, of course), and 92xx use 7200 chasis.

    Those systems are povered by Linux, given, you have a SmartNet contract, you can download updates for them containing kernel with initd and rootfs. Moreover, by simply observing boot process, one can conclude, they are Linux-powered. However,

In every non-trivial program there is at least one bug.

Working...