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GNU is Not Unix Software Hardware Technology

How Hardware Makers Come To Violate Free Software Licenses 186

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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  • like those DVDs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Janek Kozicki ( 722688 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @05:05AM (#29537467) Journal

    like those DVD players that used mplayer but didn't release mplayer's sourcecode?

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

    by ObsessiveMathsFreak ( 773371 ) <obsessivemathsfr ... .net minus physi> on Friday September 25, 2009 @07:32AM (#29537943) Homepage Journal

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

    By the way, the players probably use the FFmpeg codecs and not mplayer itself, which lacks any real kind of gui. Speaking of which the FFmpeg codecs are themselves currently sitting under the Damocles sword of intellectual property in the for of the multitude of video codec patents. I doubt there's a single 30 line block of code in there that isn't violating someones patent.

    In conclusion, our current IP regime sucks. I for one applaud these hardware makers, particularly in Asia, for cutting this twisted Gordian knot and just loading up their devices will all the features they can download. In my opinion as producers of real tangible goods, they are morally, socially and economically justified in what they have done. If anyone wants to complain, they can just go ahead and make their own, real physical devices and bring them to market.

  • by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @07:35AM (#29537957) Homepage Journal

    the last 2 places I've worked at we've used it all the time - we're careful about how we partition code and we publish source when required and we blow patches back to the various projects if it makes sense for them (after all we win in the end).

    It's not hard to comply if you build it in to your planning from the start

  • by Aim Here ( 765712 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @07:43AM (#29537979)

    They're not.

    What the GP probably refers to is that the Linux copyright file does state that normal use of Linux system calls does not create a derivative work per copyright law. That's more in line with a clarification than an exemption - in that Richard Stallman would agree with it.

    (If there are exemptions from 'Normal GPL rules' in Linux, it's in the nature of the allowances the kernel devs have for nonGPled kernel modules, such as the ATI/Nvidia blobs, where it's all a big legal can of worms as to what is, and isn't, a derivative work.)

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

    by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @08:05AM (#29538089)

    Yes. Socially laudable. However, they're big business that will use exactly the laws they're ignoring to ride someone else into the ground when it suits them.
    Should Copyright and Patent law become sane (i.e. all this becomes legal), then they lose a lot of the 'rights' under law that they currently want to keep.
    Interestingly, what DVD players don't honour the intellectual property of content holders? Again, the content providers are playing dirty; they use labour from a worldwide market, yet arbitrarily turn round and say "Ah, but you're not allowed to play content from one area of the world in another". That's not dishonouring their IP at all, it's not accepting that the DVD consortium don't honour their customers' rights to what they've purchased. There is no honour in blindly accepting the dishonourable.

    100% with you, our current IP regime sucks, and needs to be replaced. Over time, I'm sure it will be, but for now these little (and not so little) battles need to be fought until someone, somewhere gets the ounce of sense necessary to make the right decisions, balanced correctly against all opposing fronts.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Friday September 25, 2009 @08:21AM (#29538193) Journal

    Not all open source fans are pro piracy.

    Just the ones who think using the term "piracy" for sharing something you already paid for is bullshit.

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

    by Enter the Shoggoth ( 1362079 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @09:03AM (#29538547)

    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.

    The whole thing with region-coding is laughable anyway. Region coding was found to be illegal under Australian anti-competition laws yet every major electronics chain still stocks dozens of infringing units from Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, etc. al. And just about every DVD sold here is region encoded.

    The authorities have not brought a single case against any of the multinationals.

    Yet another data-point that shows so called "Intellectual Property" laws are about one thing and one thing alone: protecting the interests of large corporations over those of both the producers and the consumers of content.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 25, 2009 @02:53PM (#29542453)

    There is one issue with most OSS projects, and that is patents. Most commercial products not just chuck you a license, but also indemnify the customer from any patent or copyright issues.

    Company "A" uses an OSS version of a utility in their appliance. Some "IP" company has a dubious patent that covers something the OSS utility does. Company "A" gets sued for megabucks + injunctions not to sell their core item that makes them money. Same with any company who uses that OSS product.

    Company "B" pays the licensing fee for some closed source code for an embedded utility. The patent troll sues. The provider of the utility gets hit, but the customers are protected because of the contract and the fact they did not know about such a violation. Of course, the troll can sue the licensees, but the chances of having a judge deem the case as having merit, much less going to court is a *lot* less than without the indemnification agreement.

    Of course, the GPL v3 comes with its own bag of worms. Anyone who gets any part of the redistributed code gets to know every corporate trade secret that went into the device. For stuff like Tivos, who cares. However, for stuff that does some type of automated manufacturing process where the secret is the catalyst mixture, timing, and so on, this would expose a company to offshore copycats who can, in 3-6 months, offer a competing product for a lot less money due to not having labor or environmental laws in their nation.

    Moral: Keep the OSS for general use, but if shipping a product with embedded features, go BSD or closed source. You won't have people outside your office demanding your trade secrets due to GPL v.3, or C&D court orders because some OSS product violated a patent, and someone has a court summons from Texas alleging it.

  • by LinuxAndLube ( 1526389 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @04:14AM (#29563101)
    I can dynamically link my code to one of the Windows redistributables and distribute the complete software without GPL-like restrictions, because the license allows me to. The GPL license does not automatically give me this right.

    It's interesting that you think that Linus' preamble does exempt Linux from some of the GPL requirements. Personally, I thought so too, but quite a few people here (and online in general) have a different opinion.

    I fail to see how the fact that "I come to Slashdot as LinuxAndLube to have fun." and "I press some buttons and observe the completely predictable behavior of the slashrobots" sheds any light on the relationship between Linux and the GPL. Maybe the reasoning is that if I were a proper slashdotter then I'd know that Linux and the GPL are near-perfect and I wouldn't be asking these irrelevant, trolling, astroturfing questions?

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak