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GNU is Not Unix Software Hardware Technology

How Hardware Makers Come To Violate Free Software Licenses 186

Posted by timothy
from the they-were-hoping-to-ask-permission dept.
H4x0r Jim Duggan writes "Veteran violation chasers Shane Coughlan and Armijn Hemel have summarized how license violations are caused in the consumer electronics market under time-to-market pressure and thin profit margins: 'This problem is compounded when one board with a problem appears in devices supplied to a number of western companies. A host of violation reports spanning a dozen European and American businesses may eventually point towards a single mistake during development at an Asian supplier.' They also discuss the helpful organizations which have sprung up and the documents and procedures now available."
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How Hardware Makers Come to Violate Free Software Licenses

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  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Friday September 25, 2009 @05:37AM (#29537555) Homepage Journal

    Woohoo.. I love doing stuff that is bad for me, it's the best kind of stuff.

    Why is copyright bad in pro-piracy articles and good in free software articles?

    Uhhh.. because its being used for different purposes? Why are automatic weapons a good thing in armed resistance to tyranny but a bad thing in shopping mall shootings? Are you so seriously retarded that you can't tell the difference between a goal and the tools used to achieve that goal?

  • by digitig (1056110) on Friday September 25, 2009 @06:10AM (#29537643)
    Slashdot isn't in favour of or against anything. It's a whole bunch of different people with different opinions. Although I suspect quite a lot of us agree that it's clueless to mistake the opinions of individual posters for the opinion of /. as a whole.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 25, 2009 @06:23AM (#29537681)

    In other words, you are saying "The Ends Justify The Means".

    Killing people is good if they are bad people, and bad if they are good people.

    Lying is good if it's for a good cause, and bad if it's for a bad cause.

    The problem with "The Ends Justify The Means" are twofold. Firstly, other people might start using the methods that you employ against your cause. That's less of an issue here, although I would be surprised if the proprietary software industry didn't unite after a while as it becomes clearer that the objective of the RMS movement is to destroy and make proprietary software unviable, because it's unable to link into an existing ecosystem that cannot be replicated without extreme hurdle costs.

    Secondly, it can be perceived as hypocritical - for example, if someone who has argued strongly for raising taxes also dodges them with the justification "If I dodge taxes I am more able to work for the raising of taxes". I don't see how anyone within the OSS movement can accuse anyone else of hypocrisy for any reason, so long as they use the justification "I am against the use of this tool but I find it useful and so can use it in my fight".

    Because I want there to be viable proprietary software, I don't like OSS people - but you can't have anyone like you. In my view the software industry should start lobbying individual countries to declare OSS invalid and fair game for incorporation into any product.

  • by houghi (78078) on Friday September 25, 2009 @06:38AM (#29537739)

    I am assuming that you use "software industry" where you mean "Closed Source Software" as the software industry includes a lot of OSS software and even companies.

    In my view the software industry should start lobbying individual countries to declare OSS invalid and fair game for incorporation into any product.

    If that works two ways, then I am with you. If OSS can use the software protected under licences of Closed SOurce, it would be great. It would mean that there is NO copyright on software. Not from the industry and not from the OSS front.

    Otherwise you are a hypocrite for doing the "I am against the use of this tool but I find it useful and so can use it in my fight" reasoning.

    I could easily say:
    In my view the OSS community should start lobbying individual countries to declare Closed Source invalid and fair game for incorporation into any product. See, it works both ways.

    The only difference is however that OSS asks to have the source open and CSS asks to have the source, well, closed. I rather have the second then the first.

    With Closed Source, everybody stands on the bottom of the pool and everybody drowns. With Open Source, you can stand on the shoulder of giants.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 25, 2009 @06:47AM (#29537767)

    Not all open source fans are pro piracy.

    I'm in fact against piracy, if someone asks me a free copy of office he will get Openoffice.

    If he insists on getting Microsoft office I'll tell him to go buy it.

  • by AbbeyRoad (198852) <p@2038bug.com> on Friday September 25, 2009 @07:00AM (#29537807) Homepage

    The reason why they "violate" is because they just do not care.

    It has nothing to do with deadlines or politics or competition or margins.

    The code they are using is seen as "some free stuff I downloaded which happens to work - cool for me".

    The point of a company is to make money, not to further ethical causes. If it doesn't SEEM like a massive no-no I don't think it would enter the head of even one person in this supply chain to question it. And by the time anyone does, its already 3 generations of products later and they are wondering why someone is bothered with a product that is nearly ending its life cycle.

    I mean, if asked, they would probably ask if there is any tangible heavy institution that is likely to find out, or even to care if they did.

    Ultimately, you need to also ask if it really matters at all. How often do you think this provided source code is really going to be useful to a mass audience? As you say: the products in question have a very short life span, and the changes must be small to be able to be completed in time.

    FreeBSD benefits enormously from user contributions (both commercial and hobbiest), yet has no requirement to make changes public.

    Oh it MUST matter you say - it's the PRINCIPLE.

    Well it's YOUR principle.

    The title should be rephrase:
    "How Hardware Makers Come to Comply With Free Software Licenses" These are the extremely rare cases, and in truth any company that is spending time worrying about little things like this has probably so lost focus it won't be around for long.

  • Re:Surprise! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bug1 (96678) on Friday September 25, 2009 @07:07AM (#29537843)

    This is precisely what can happen when a western company outsources "engineering" work to countries with little or no respect of copyright or intellectual property.

    You imply that western countries respect copyright or intellectual property.

    Perhaps instead of blaming countries or cultures it could be simply be that companies dont have a reason to obey open source copyright until they are forced too.

    If a company gets caught violating open source licenses the community is very willing to accept it was an accident, even blind ignorance is easily forgiven.

    When a company is caught violating open source licenses it just means they have to pay for a lawyer to explain their rights and obligations to them, something they would have had to do anyway... so there is a chance that violating open source licenses will save the company money.

    Until violators (and people like Darl McBride) are treated as severely as RIAA defendants then nothing will change, these people need to face bankruptcy or jail, there should not be a profit motive to destroy a public asset (which is what open source is).

  • by Nursie (632944) on Friday September 25, 2009 @07:10AM (#29537853)

    Ah, the BSD troll.

    There have been a lot of cases (the linksys modding scene for instance) in which the lack of GPL would have meant no release of source or tools. There are a variety of other examples.

    I also don't believe for a second that linux would have got where it is today, with multiple big-name companies supporting it and contributing to it if they had not been forced to reopen their changes.

    Thirdly, lots of people don't like the idea of contributing to a project which can then be swept up and used by commercial entities without them being made to have the courtesy to contribute back.

    At this point BSD is basically an also-ran. Great project, great OS I'm sure, but not on the same level as linux or supported in anything like the same way in terms of FOSS and commercial software. At least a some of this is down to the environment created by the differing licenses.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 25, 2009 @07:31AM (#29537941)

    If manufacturers think they are going to be bitten by OSS licenses, what will happen is that they will do one of two things:

    1: A wholesale move to BSD licensed software with no restrictions on redistribution. This isn't good, but not bad.

    2: Punt the whole idea of OSS to the curb and go with closed sources solutions. Closed source is attractive to a lot of companies in the respect that they pay the licensing fee, ship the products, and not worry that some program was mis-licensed somewhere in the chain. The license fee also idemnifies them from any patent issues that might come up from upstream in the chain. Windows CE at the low end is only $3.00 a device. There are companies that were so concerned about the GPL v3 that they ditched Linux wholesale and went with closed source solutions for fear that they would have to give all corporate trade secrets to anyone that asked.

  • by Nursie (632944) on Friday September 25, 2009 @07:50AM (#29538013)

    We have different words for these things because they are not the same. This does not make either of them right or wrong, or justify doing one but not the other.

    If you can't hold more than one idea in your head at a time then you're the moron.

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted @ s l a s h d ot.org> on Friday September 25, 2009 @07:55AM (#29538033)

    ...that those companies usually did not intend to break the license in a bad way. After all there's next to no cost in doing it the right way.

    So please contact them in a friendly way, and remind them that the rules to get this software for free, is that you have to continue letting others getting it for free. In case of the GPL, even if you modified it. If they don't want that, which is also OK, they have to use another, possibly commercial, product. Or perhaps BSD (which, when you look at Windows, works also well).
    But remind them, that the reason they can actually get it free, is that others gave their code away for free. If everybody would do it like them, and not give away the code, then nobody, including themselves, could get any free software anymore.

    Only if they then ignore you, and deliberately continue to do it, sue the hell outta them with no mercy whatsoever.

    Sun Tzu already recommended this strategy in the 6th century BC, in his book "The Art Of War [wikipedia.org]".

  • Re:like those DVDs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jonbryce (703250) on Friday September 25, 2009 @07:59AM (#29538049) Homepage

    That's only a problem if you live in one of the tiny minority of countries that recognise software patents. Most countries however recognise copyrights in one form or another, though they differ in when the copyrights expire.

  • Re:like those DVDs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by langelgjm (860756) on Friday September 25, 2009 @08:00AM (#29538053) Journal

    Hey. You weren't complaining when region free DVD players stopped honoring the "intellectual property" of the DVD content "owners".

    Region codes don't have anything to do with honoring or not honoring intellectual property of DVD content producers. They are technological measures designed to segment the market so that producers can price discriminate more easily. The only reason they would be related to copyright law is because they can also be construed as a copy protection measure, and circumventing that is a violation of the DMCA. As everyone around here should know, it's entirely possible to violate the DMCA without actually infringing copyrights.

    If region-free DVD players are illegal, it would only be because the manufacturers of such players signed on to the DVD spec and didn't abide by it, or because they never signed on to the spec in the first place and are perhaps infringing on patents that the DVD Forum allows its members to use. That's a problem for the DVD Forum and its rivals to sort out, and doesn't really have to do with the content on the DVD so much as the licensing agreement surrounding the DVD spec.

  • by AbbeyRoad (198852) <p@2038bug.com> on Friday September 25, 2009 @08:01AM (#29538057) Homepage

    Linux is not a religion you moron.

    I have ALL OSs installed because I need to port software to ALL OSs.
    This means Linux, Mac, WindowsXP/64/03/08, Solaris, FreeBSD, etc. etc.

    There is nothing huge to distinguish any of these systems from each other.

    They are ALL crap in their own way.

    The only difference is in their Pundits: Linux people think that are
    knights of some kind of OS crusade. They don't know it, but they
    are marketing people employed by RedHat and IBM - employed
    WITHOUT PAY that is.

    Come to think - there is one good thing I can say about about
    astroturfing scum from Microsoft - at least they ARE paid.

    Linux pundits represent meaninglessness in its worst form -
    they don't contribute source code, they don't earn money off it,
    they don't do Linux support, they only spend money on games.

    They only ever rave about how good it would be for OTHER
    PEOPLE to use Linux, and how terrible it is that OTHER PEOPLE
    aren't suing violators of the GPL.

    -paul

  • BSD's popularity (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 25, 2009 @08:35AM (#29538299)

    I also don't believe for a second that linux would have got where it is today, with multiple big-name companies supporting it and contributing to it if they had not been forced to reopen their changes.

    Sure.

    Thirdly, lots of people don't like the idea of contributing to a project which can then be swept up and used by commercial entities without them being made to have the courtesy to contribute back.

    And some people don't care where their code is being used. PHK, who developed the MD5 password hash, now has his code running on every single Cisco box, is one of them. Same for the OpenBSD guys, who developed the Blowfish-based password hashes, as well as OpenSSH (which is in just about everything).

    Do you think the TCP/IP stack would have spread as quickly as it did if it wasn't licensed under BSD? Do you think Sun, AIX, HP-UX, etc., would have pulled in the code if it was GPL?

    At this point BSD is basically an also-ran. Great project, great OS I'm sure, but not on the same level as linux or supported in anything like the same way in terms of FOSS and commercial software. At least a some of this is down to the environment created by the differing licenses.

    Apple ships more Unix desktops than any other vendor out there.

    NetApp: FreeBSD
    Juniper: FreeBSD
    Isilon: FreeBSD
    Force10 Networks: NetBSD
    Cisco: rumoured to be FreeBSD: http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/bsd-guru/freebsd-at-cisco-21312

    Just because you're not running it on your desktop (or server), doesn't mean you don't use BSD everyday behind the scenes. The projects are doing just fine.

  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Friday September 25, 2009 @09:07AM (#29538583) Journal

    Punt the whole idea of OSS to the curb and go with closed sources solutions.

    But hang on, if they don't care about violating licences, then what happens when they do this with a closed source solution? I think a commercial company is far more likely to be aggressive at pursuing a lawsuit, than open source authors.

    and not worry that some program was mis-licensed somewhere in the chain.

    How does this follow? Are open source authors more likely to mis-licence? This is especially a surprising claim, when we're talking about a story where it's the open source software that's being infringed, not the other way round.

  • by malevolentjelly (1057140) on Friday September 25, 2009 @10:16AM (#29539235) Journal

    Every western company has to step carefully around the Chinese market. If you're working on a proprietary product, you NEVER license source over there. If a Chinese company decides to rip you off, you've got no recourse.

    When you sell software in China, no matter what type, you can only sell a single seat license-- they will break your protection and run it on a hundred.

    China's government protects its companies from fair business practices, anyway. Many of the malicious hacks that come from the Chinese government are purely economical- just stealing plans, prototypes, and source code from prominent western businesses.

    So, good luck, guys. If these big powerful multinational companies can't get China to pay for what they do to our IP market, I'm not sure what you GPL folks can do. They will say anything they need to say to avoid respecting your license.

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Friday September 25, 2009 @10:22AM (#29539309)

    Avast ye matey! I am pro piracy you insensitive clod.

    Now for something serious.
    Piracy is the crime of hijacking ships at sea. This happens frequently off the coast of Somalia, and infrequently in the Caribbean and south-east Asia.
    Theft is the crime of removing something from another without permission/compensation. They key is that the property is removed from its owner or the service of the provider is consumed without agreed recompense.

    Copyright infringement is neither. Words have meaning.

    Besides that, why would anyone think that open source advocates are pro copyright infringment? Copyright is the foundation of all open source licenses, its what gives them power.

  • by Nursie (632944) on Friday September 25, 2009 @11:10AM (#29539849)

    "In other words, thank God we've got Richard Stallman to use the legal system to beat people into submission, and force them to do exactly what WE want them to do. It might be unfortunate, but given that said people work for corporations, they're not as equal as we are, and hence, their wellbeing doesn't count.

    I love the smell of freedom, don't you?"

    Where do you get this steaming bullshit?

    Everyone is equal under the GPL, equally bound to give out the source for any binaries they distribute. If you want to say that's less "free" then go ahead, but it's hardly inequal. You want to play with GPL code, you have to reciprocate.

  • Re:like those DVDs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mister Whirly (964219) on Friday September 25, 2009 @12:52PM (#29541025) Homepage
    I think region codes are just a way of having a sliding price scale. They sell them for more where the market can bear it, and less where it can't.

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