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Castle Technology UK Ripping off Kernel Code? 789

Posted by chrisd
from the bad-company-no-cookie-for-you dept.
Jonathan Riddell writes "`It would appear that Castle Technology Limited, UK, have taken some of the Linux 2.5 code, and incorporated it into their own product, "RISC OS", which is distributed in binary ROM form built into machines they sell. This code is linked with other proprietary code.' Full details from Russell King on lkml."
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Castle Technology UK Ripping off Kernel Code?

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  • by Picass0 (147474) on Friday February 07, 2003 @05:50PM (#5254101) Homepage Journal

    Let's see if the goat has teeth!
    • It's not though (Score:5, Insightful)

      by renard (94190) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:51PM (#5254543)
      Every time we see one of these GPL-violation cases, people start talking about "testing the GPL".

      But invariably the guilty corporations are violating copyright law first before they are violating the GPL. This makes sense, because the GPL is actually more permissive than copyright law. And copyright law has been tested, many times - and it does have teeth.

      If someone can present an argument why Castle in this case is violating the GPL, and not violating standard copyright law in the process, then I would like to hear it.

      -renard

      • Re:It's not though (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Minna Kirai (624281) on Friday February 07, 2003 @07:29PM (#5254814)
        Huh? That question doesn't make sense. Violating standard copyright law is the entire legal mechanism the GPL operates by. Duplicating the code is illegal, but the copyright holder has agreed to give copying permission to anyone who obeys the GPL.

        Like the GPL says:
        5. You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License.

        A theoretical "test" of the GPL might find that the license text is all correct and legal. Or, maybe a court would declare the license invalid. This could mean that every user of Linux and other GPL software is in violation of copyright (until the authors work up another way to give out permission). That would be a major news story, and is why people get excited when the possibility of a "test" arises.

  • Sue them (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HanzoSan (251665) on Friday February 07, 2003 @05:51PM (#5254106) Homepage Journal

    They should know better than to do this, they deserve to get sued and the money should go back to kernel development.
    • Re:Sue them (Score:2, Interesting)

      by fitten (521191)
      Who would be the initiator of such a lawsuit?
      • Re:Sue them (Score:3, Funny)

        by HanzoSan (251665)

        Lets see, uh Linus?

        I'll tell you what, if he doesnt sue, then I'll take the kernel and release a closed source version of Linux with it and call it LinaazaOS
      • Re:Sue them (Score:5, Informative)

        by Black Copter Control (464012) <{samuel-local} {at} {bcgreen.com}> on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:07PM (#5254219) Homepage Journal
        Who would be the initiator of such a lawsuit?

        It depends on who holds copyright to the associated pieces of code. Best bet is that it's been assigned to the EFF, but it could also be Linus and/or some of the people who wrote the bulk of the code.

        It'll actually be rather interesting (in ~200 years) when it comes time to determine when the code's copyright expires. Just who's lifetime does each piece of code expire in relation to?

        • Re:Sue them (Score:3, Insightful)

          by molo (94384)
          I don't think that there are any pieces of kernel code assigned to the EFF. People contributing to the certain GNU projects are required to assign copyright to GNU, but I've never heard of people assigning code to the EFF.

          Perhaps I'm misinformed though. Do you have an example?
        • Re:Sue them (Score:4, Informative)

          by prizog (42097) <novalis-slashdot ... .org minus berry> on Friday February 07, 2003 @07:45PM (#5254909) Homepage
          AFAIK, no kernel code has been assigned to the EFF. But you really meant the FSF, which has most of the S390 stuff, but nothing else.

          But if you're a kernel hacker, especially in the core, and want to see the GPL get enforced more effectively, just write to assign@gnu.org, and assign copyright to the FSF. Right now, almost everyone who uses the kernel also uses various GNU userspace applications. That's what lets me do my job of enforcing the GPL. But it would be much easier if the FSF simply had copyright in one or two core kernel files.

      • Re:Sue them (Score:5, Interesting)

        by wass (72082) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:08PM (#5254229)
        RMS and other folks at GNU typically respond to issues such as these. That is, when people/companies have not followed the licencsing of GPL'd software. I believe the offending party has usually changed their policies and was never actually taken to court.

        IIRC, RMS has actually been anticipating for a serious GPL breach to rear its head, so it can provide an actual legal acid test of the GPL. I don't believe any organization/company has ever gone to court over GPL violations. Winning any courtroom legal victory would be a huge boon to for the GPL, as it would demonstrate it's legal resiliance. IANAL, of course.

        • Re:Sue them (Score:5, Interesting)

          by glwtta (532858) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:35PM (#5254437) Homepage
          I believe the FSF's stance on this is, the later that the first GPL case goes to court, the better. The thinking is that there is the potential of the judges (and the media, and the public in general) becoming more tech savvy as time goes on; as well as the hope that traditional copyright laws will be adapted to software issues more fully by then.
    • Re:Sue them (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, thats the solution to everything. Sue.
      • Re:Sue them (Score:3, Funny)

        by Idou (572394)
        "Yeah, thats the solution to everything."

        It is if you are a lawyer ;)
      • Re:Sue them (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jedidiah (1196)
        Would you rather we just started shooting?

        Litigation is what civilized societies do.
        • Re:Sue them (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fucksl4shd0t (630000)

          Litigation is what civilized societies do.

          So, then, since the United States has so much good, strong, and healthy litigation, that makes us more civilized than the rest of the world? :)

          I thought negotiation and compromise were the cornerstones of civilization, rather than arguing about "my toy" or "my code" or "my way".

          Just for the record, I'm not supporting people stealing Linux code, I just question the use of the word "civilization" with regard to present times. (I also just spent half an hour reading Google News, and I'm thinking that was a mistake)

    • Re:Sue them (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JamPonyXpress (635146) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:06PM (#5254215)
      Actually, what's much more important than any money involved is that a case like this could provide a precedent that would prove that the GPL is legally enforceable - something that has not occurred to date, AFAIK. For this reason it might be a good thing if Castle is (a) guilty and (b) obstinate about it and Linus sues. (I just love the thought of Microsoft quivering.) It would have to be appealed a level or two for the precedent to be strong and widely binding.
      • Re:Sue them (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mindstrm (20013) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:44PM (#5254499)
        I'm not sure which part everyone thinks needs to be enforced. If it's "release your code", it's being looked at backwards.

        One thing copyright is clear on: You need permission to use other's copyrighted works.

        If you are taking someone's code, which is available under the GPL, and using it in your own product... the only way you have legal grounds to use it is if you either a) abide by the GPL, or b) get permission from the author.

        If the author goes and says "They are using my code illegally", the company would have to prove they have a license to do so. It's not about the enforceability of the gpl.

        • Re:Sue them (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MeanMF (631837)
          If they used the code exactly as it appears in the Linux source, then it's a pretty clear-cut case. If they made any substantial modifications, there's a big grey area between "derivitive work" and "fair use" that could be clarified by a test case.
      • a case like this could provide a precedent that would prove that the GPL is legally enforceable - something that has not occurred to date,

        That's right, it hasn't. And violations are regular and frequent (dozens of times a year, according to Eben Moglen, the FSF General Counsel). But so far, no one has been stupid enough to take it to court. But Eben keeps hoping someone will. From an essay [columbia.edu] on his website: "'Look,' I say, 'at how many people all over the world are pressuring me to enforce the GPL in court, just to prove I can. I really need to make an example of someone. Would you like to volunteer?'"

        Maybe this will finally be the time. But I'm not going to hold my breath. No one has had the proper combination of balls and stupidity yet. Frankly, I find that as persuasive, if not more so, than an actual court ruling on the matter.
    • Re:Sue them (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zmooc (33175)
      It is this childish way of thinking that has brought the USA into the state it is now. Completely ridiculous amounts of money are spent on completely ridiculous cases. It was one of the things I heard Bush say in the state of the union - that he wants to stop this behaviour in the medical world because large amounts of money go there instead of in your bodies. Just talk to these guys first. Justice is still a lot better than revenge. And what you want sounds like revenge.
    • They should have known better and instead stole code from *BSD, with no implications whatsoever.
  • by stonebeat.org (562495) on Friday February 07, 2003 @05:53PM (#5254113) Homepage
    if you make any code opensource, you should be prepared for other's to copy it.

    Now let us see what GPL does.....
    • Surely they can copy and/or modify it, but if they want to distribute (for free or for a fee, it does not matter) the derived code in binary form, they must release the source as well, otherwise they violate the license.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 07, 2003 @05:55PM (#5254133)
    And apparantly it just resulted in them trying to better hide the incriminating code in later versions of the product.

    Okay, then. Let's get everybody forming into single-file lines; you'll receive your pitchforks on the left, torches on the right. Please, no shoving, there will be plenty for everyone.
  • And post a link to it? That'd be interesting. (And that way the guy wouldn't end up with 10000000 of /.'ers all asking him for it).
  • by monadicIO (602882) on Friday February 07, 2003 @05:56PM (#5254145)
    Is this for real?
  • Does that mean that we can take their binaries and distribute them for free? After all, if they used GPL code, then their code is also under the GPL.
    • Re:Does that mean... (Score:5, Informative)

      by bwt (68845) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:10PM (#5254249) Homepage

      No, it means that they are commiting willful copyright infringement for commercial gain. The penalties for that are severe and include the larger of statutory and actual damages. The statutory damages can be up to $100K, iirc. Actuals include any revenue which results from the infringement.

      I hope somebody tears them a new sphincter, if this is true.
      • Re:Does that mean... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by io333 (574963) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:28PM (#5254388)
        Actually, I'd prefer that they be forced to open source their code instead. Have you looked into RiscOS? It fits into something like a 4meg (yes four megabyte) rom, boots in two seconds, and screams on any old piece of junk processor. I can only imagine how it would run on my AthlonXP. A tad faster than Mandrake no doubt.
  • lynch mob
  • by dk.r*nger (460754) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:00PM (#5254171)
    Being a relatively non-hardcore geek, I wonder how it is possible to actually prove that GPL'd code was used?

    Once compiled and linked and what-know-I, the source would be rather obscure, and after all, other products seem to do the same tasks, yet not using GPL code..

    Please enlighten me!

    - rnger
    • by Ark42 (522144) <slashdot@@@morpheussoftware...net> on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:07PM (#5254218) Homepage
      As I understand it, there were function signatures (linking information) indendical to all the functions from certain pieces of Linux kernel code. After their first request for source under GPL, they removed that information but the rest of the binary code remained unchanged. I would consider that pretty strong proof that they are knowingly stealing from the Linux kernel.
    • by bwt (68845) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:20PM (#5254332) Homepage
      During the discovery phase of the trial, the defendent would have to produce the complete source code and build instructions for their product. The plaintiff would have an expert follow the build instructions and verify that they result in the exact exectuable that the defendent ships. Then the expert would examine the source code for "substantial similarity" to the copyrightable elements of the linux kernel code. A judge would hear this testimony and rebuttals and examine the evidence it was based on.

      Legal arguments on affirmative defences of fair use and licence compliance could be made. The judge would rule on infringement, then if the plaintiff prevails, he would rule on damages. Factors influencing damages would be willfulness of the infringement and the presense or absense of commercial gain as a result of the infringement.
      • During the discovery phase of the trial, the defendent would have to produce the complete source code and build instructions for their product.

        They might not have to. At the very least, the defendant could probably delay execution by arguing over whether they really had to produce their entire source code (on the basis of trade secret). This would, however, probably preclude them from producing code in their defence later on.

        In any case, I don't think that there would be need. The GPL owners would simply have to produce the original (copyright) source code and show that it compiled down to something that looked like the impugned binaries. If this was convincing, then the defendant would have to prove that there was some other source for those binaries (at which point, producing their own (non-GPL) source code would be the one of the few choices).

        On the other hand, given that they've already distributed these binaries with strings identifying them as the GPLed Linux code, we've already got a smoking gun. That they then pulled the signatures but continued to distribute (substantially) the same code, is pretty damning as proof of malicious intent.
        (Remember: burden of proof in civil suits is only balance of probabilities, not beyond a reasonable doubt)

        Legally speaking (IANAL), I'd say that these bastards are pretty much cooked.

        Legal arguments on affirmative defences of fair use and licence compliance could be made.

        Yep. Wholesale copy of the code probably fails the 'fair use' defence, and lack of source distribution pokes a big hole in the 'license compliance' defence.

        The judge would rule on infringement, then if [when!] the plaintiff prevails, he would rule on damages. Factors influencing damages would be willfulness of the infringement and the presense or absense of commercial gain as a result of the infringement.

        Deletion of the signatures after the first letter is pretty good proof (IMHO) of willful infringement, and they're selling the code (with the systems).

    • by boots@work (17305) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:58PM (#5254599)
      Here's a step-by-step walkthrough [sf.net] proving that a scumbag called Stephen Kapp wripped off some GPL'd code that I wrote.

      You can see that the functionality is very similar, and that by using some simple tools to compare the binaries [sourceforge.net] we can see they're the same on the inside. What we see here is mostly the names of functions which carry through from the source to the binary, to support debugging, run-time-linking, and similar things. The LKML post said that these strings were also found to be the same, and then Castle removed them, which is clearly evidence that they knew they'd been caught stealing.

      Basically we're looking for patterns and similarities. Although somebody could (legally) write a program that had the same user interface, it's astronomically unlikely that they'd call their functions the same thing and have the exact same design.

      Stephen Kapp [advogato.org] crawled back under his rock once this was published. I expect Castle will do something similar: just continue to deny that it ever happened, but remove the code.

      Similar things have happened to other major open-source projects. It hasn't been to court yet because, as far I know, every case has either been an honest misunderstanding, or an intentional violation but the perpetrator skulked away when challenged. I suppose in both cases it's not worth the FSF's time&money to take it further, but the drawback is that there's no clear example to others.

      I really hope the FSF does help the copyright owners bring a lawsuit, it's time for a demonstration and I'd certainly throw in a hundred bucks to help fund it.

      This isn't just a free software problem though: people who publish proprietary reusable code (development libraries, ...) have lots of trouble preventing copyright infringement. I don't think I've ever seen a Windows developer's machine that didn't have pirated, or at least unregistered-shareware, software.
  • This is the kind of stuff that really gets under my skin. One of the most important aspects of the kernel code is that it is Free. If it wasn't free, it wouldn't be what it is and no one would want to use it at all. Greedy bastards. Forget suing them, I'll fight them myself.

    --Mark.

  • Who files a lawsuit? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tinrobot (314936) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:03PM (#5254187)
    Here is a question... Most OSS, and this kernel, specifically, is created by the contibutions of many individuals. So, who in the world can file a lawsuit over matters like this?

    Would it be the many individuals? (They're probably not that rich) Would it be some benefactor, like Mitch Kapor/FSF? (He's rich, but has to pick his battles) Or perhaps a money hungry lawyer working for a fat contingency... Who files the lawsuit and pays the fees?

    Have cases like this gone to court in the past?

    • Ummm from my basic understanding, Linus has retained copyright on the kernel, therefore he is the one to take any legal action.

      Under GPL you retain copyright.
      • by bwt (68845)
        Absent an explicit, signed contract transferring copyright ownership, the author retains copyright for those elements of the work which are his original expression. *Use* requires a licence, ownership transfer requires a signature.

        Some people do sign over their copyright ownership when they participate in GPL projects, but more often people don't. The crux of the issue is whether you can *change* the licence. For example, the FSF can update the GPL and the changes take effect immediately on any works they own the rights to.

        Assuming that no explicit transfer of copyright ownership has happened, the authors of the particular code that was copied probably each have an independent cause of action against the plaintiffs. That could hurt the plaintiffs, because the statutory damages can be calculated for each act of infringement.
      • No, Linus has the Linux trademark. He only has the copyright for his own code.
    • Any one of them or a number of them collectively may file suit. All cases have been settled out of court, we've always won - meaning the other party has always removed the infringement, or applied correct terms to their own code.

      Bruce

    • Any one of the copyright holders can sue, or a number of them can band together and sue. We've always won, but the cases have never gotten to court. Their side's attorney concludes that they'd lose the case, and they settle before going to court. They either remove the infringement and apologize, or they place the linked code under a GPL-compatible license. Note that this need not be the GPL, the X license and the LGPL are GPL-compatible, so are a number of other licenses.

      Bruce

  • Hold on. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quasar1999 (520073) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:05PM (#5254199) Journal
    I have a question, perhaps it does not pertain to this situation... but where do you draw the line about code being stolen?

    For example, if lets say I stole a simple 3 line chunk of code that converts a date from one format to another, and threw it in my multi-thousand line project (which is all original except for those 3 lines), would it really be breaking the GPL? I understand that it of course technically is.. but at what point would the 'borrowing' of code be of such basic elements that really, there is no other way to solve a particular problem?

    Sure my above example sucks (it's friday afternoon, brains already gone)... but what amount of code warrants a "you're stealing you son of a b*tch" title, and what warrants a "meh... it's not rocket science, hell, there's no other way to do it, even if he hadn't looked at the code, this is the logical solution anyone with half a brain would come to..."...???
    • Re:Hold on. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JoeBuck (7947) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:17PM (#5254313) Homepage

      A three-line chunk would probably come under fair use. Also, there are some code sequences that pretty much can only be written one way; again it's fair use. The fact that it's the GPL makes no difference here.

      The line between fair use and copyright infringement is fuzzy.

  • by DrSkwid (118965) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:11PM (#5254266) Homepage Journal
    Acorn Computers is the daddy of all UK computing. While the rest of the geeky kids were using Ti's the UK kids were hacking away on BBC Micros.

    I still have mine here.

    The ARM processor is one of the best CPUs in existence.

    how ironic that on on this page :
    http://www.castle.uk.co/castle/rpcalt.htm

    the fish in the picture is clearly too big for the inadequate bowl.

    They might find that their GPL rip-off is equally dead in the water.

    It's a sad day all round. Time to flush them down the toilet.

    whoring :

    if anyone lives nearby maybe they could pop in on Monday and get the sourcecode

    Castle Technology Ltd
    Ore Trading Estate
    Woodbridge Road
    Framlingham
    Suffolk
    IP13 9LL UK

    Sales Telephone Line: 01728 723 200
    Lines Open: Monday-Friday 9:00-5:00

    Sales Fax Line: 01728 727 427
    Lines Open: 24hrs every day

    Support Line: 01728 727 424
    Lines Open: Monday-Friday 9:00-12:00

    Email: sales@castle.uk.co

  • by Wntrmute (18056) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:16PM (#5254302)
    ...Is that they could have borrowed code from a BSD instead, and no one would care, as the license specifically permits it.

    If these allegations are true, not only are they violating the GPL, they're morons to boot. :-)
  • by Kiwi (5214) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:21PM (#5254333) Homepage Journal
    Information wants to be free! Let Castle Technology do what they want to with the kernel code. The GPL, after all, is juat another form of copyright. Copyrights only exist to create artifical monopolys that do not exist!

    Obviously, the above argument is absurd, but points out that Slashdot has a double standard. On one hand, it is ok when a 14-year-old violates the copyright of a RIAA or MPAA-owned company. On the other hand, it is not OK when a company releases GPL under terms not compatible with the GPL.

    So, what is it going to be? Do we respect both the RIAA's copyright and the copyright which GPL programs have, or do we respect neither?

    If you want the GPL to be respected, respect other people's copyrights.

    - Sam

    • by RoyBoy (20792) <roy@sanwalka.oUUUrg minus threevowels> on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:31PM (#5254416) Homepage
      Ok, to begin with you've managed somehow to completely misunderstand that the spirit of the GPL is to produce a COPYLEFT - in other words, it exists as a product of ridiculous copyright laws in a attempt to circumvent them through their own application (that's why MS likes to call it viral).

      In any event, the comparison is obviously flawed because in the case of GPL code theft, you're talking about someone knowingly violating the license under which they acquired a product in order to PROFIT from a derivative product.

      Most 14-year olds who pirate MP3s and DVDs are interested in FAIR USE of the products in question, or at worse in depriving the copyright owners of proceeds that they could have directly collected. I have not hear of any real cases where gangs of 14-years old pirates have set-up conterfeit CD and DVD rings to sell the products on FOR PROFIT. If you really doubt this, just ask the P2P companies when their huge profits fro residuals are gonna start rolling in.

      Amazing how hard it is to see right from left, huh?
    • by oasisbob (460665) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:59PM (#5254617)
      The secret to enjoying Slashdot is to realize that it should not be taken too seriously.

      No, the secret to enjoying Slashdot is to realize that it isn't a single consciousness with only one viewpoint. It has 450,000+ users, many of whom think differently than one another. If you get caught up in believing that everyone here thinks the same thoughts and believes the same things, you're missing the point.

      Sure, there are tons of copycat thinkers here; however, even they are feeding from different schools of thought.

      For example: I have no problem with the concept of copyright. It has a valid purpose. I have problems with infinite congressional extensions of copyright: they destroy this purpose. I have problems with technology being used in combination with law to restrict my rights on my own hardware to inforce copyright and restrict fair use.

      The GPL gives *more* rights than you would normally have as far as software goes. I'm not an expert on the GPL, you won't see me arguing the finer points of OS licenses, however I do understand the basics and have come to my own opinion based on my understanding.

      When you actually look at one person's beliefs, it's quite easy to see how someone can believe that abusing the GPL license like Castle has done is naughty, and at the same time believe that the RIAA, MPAA, and CSS are evil also.

  • audacity (Score:5, Funny)

    by (startx) (37027) <slashdot@NospAm.unspunproductions.com> on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:23PM (#5254352) Journal
    From this [iyonix.com] page on their website,

    Note that the source code for many of the Linux PCI device drivers is publicly available on the Internet and may be useful in developing the corresponding RISC OS device driver.

    While not coming right out and saying it, they are suggesting that if you are writing a driver for hardware for their machine, to go grab the linux kernel source code and copy as much as you can. Also, the rest of the PCI documentation on that page looks familiar, but I can't place it.
    • Re:audacity (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bwt (68845)

      And there is nothing wrong with that, so long as the conditions of the licence (typically the LGPL for kernel modules) are met. When you modify the module to make it work with RISC OS, then distribute the source code and don't statically link it with proprietary code.
  • by I Am The Owl (531076) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:29PM (#5254396) Homepage Journal
    Before everyone starts clamoring for all out war against these horrible, horrible GPL violators, I would advise you at least give it a few days for the dust to settle. Slashdot, after all, is hardly known for responsible reporting, and has quite often reported such violations erroneously and caused quite a bit of damage to the reputations of various corporations.
  • by newsdee (629448) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:30PM (#5254407) Homepage Journal
    I don't remember who it was (probably somebody here does), but there was once this company suing another for stealing their source.

    Of course the defendants blatantly denied everything and asked for proof. So in front of the judge and the rest of the audience, one of the programmers nonchalantly typed a sequence of keys on the defendant's software and... a huge easter egg showing the name of the original programmers appeared on the screen. :-)

    Too bad they changed the function signatures, such a definite victory may not be obtainable in court this time. But I sure hope a good precedent comes out of this.

  • Castle Technologies? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wilburdg (178573) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:30PM (#5254412)
    It looks to me like Castle Technologies just happens to sell machines which have RISC OS on them. One of many companies [dmoz.org] in the UK.
    Wouldn't the company in violation be RISCOS Ltd? [riscos.com]
    • Wouldn't the company in violation be RISCOS Ltd? [riscos.com]
      Actually, no. RISCOS Ltd are responsible for RISC OS 4. The Iyonix PC uses RISC OS 5 that was developed by Castle Technology (well, developed for them but not by RISCOS Ltd).
    • by Gerph (648627)
      The sources used by RISCOS Ltd are not those used by Castle; the sources that RISCOS Ltd use were licensed a number of years ago from Acorn and do not include any components which are GPL, and acknowledge the components which they do use. Castle have, alledgedly, licensed their sources from Pace Microtechnology plc (the company who bought Acorn) and presumably added the PCI code from the Linux kernel themselves. I say presumably because I can't say one way or another whether the work was done by Pace or by Castle. Castle, as publishers of the product, are those who must be looked to for answers.
  • by Splork (13498) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:35PM (#5254439) Homepage
    there are three perfectly good sets of BSD code to copy from with zero repercussions that do the exact same thing.
  • Bah, hypocrites (Score:3, Interesting)

    by forkboy (8644) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:42PM (#5254488) Homepage
    If that were Microsoft that released an operating system that used significant chunks of the Linux kernel, there would already be a paypal donation site already set up to fund the legal battle to get them to comply with the GPL.

    Copyright violations by individuals at home for private use are quite debatable...a company violating a copyright in order to make a profit is not debatable in the least...it is PRECISELY in the spirit of copyright and why it was invented in the first place.

  • by deanj (519759) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:52PM (#5254546)
    ....maybe they thought it was just an new MP3 file, and shared it with everyone...nothing wrong with that is there?

    Double standards...gotta love it.

  • EULA vs GPL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Moridineas (213502) on Friday February 07, 2003 @07:02PM (#5254636) Journal
    I just thought of something reading this article. Most people (including myself) seem to have a lot of problems with EULAs. Primarily because they limit what you can do with your software/hardware whatever.

    But isn't the GPL more or less the same thing? It's trying to control what you do with something after it is in your possession?

    Not trying to troll, trying to come up with the distinction.
    • Re:EULA vs GPL (Score:5, Insightful)

      by orthogonal (588627) on Friday February 07, 2003 @07:10PM (#5254694) Journal
      But isn't the GPL more or less the same thing [as an End User License Agreement]? It's trying to control what you do with something after it is in your possession?

      I don't think so. After all, companies with EULAs impose whatever conditions they impose, and the conditiuon that you can't modify (or generally even see) their code.

      All the GPL says you can't do is to use the code in your own work without also making your own work available under the GPL. Sure, it's a restriction, but it's a restriction on coders who would use GPL'd code.

      A EULA is a restriction on all users, not just coders who want to create derivative works.

      The GPL does not restrict my use of the software it licenses -- I can use it as I see fit--, nor does it restrict me to a relationship with the author for the term of use (e.g., giving the author the right, as in the latest Microsoft EULAs, to modify software on my system without even so much as prior notification).
      • Re:EULA vs GPL (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xtifr (1323)
        All the GPL says you can't do is to use the code in your own work without also making your own work available under the GPL.

        Not exactly. It's more correct to say that the GPL fails to grant that privilege. Which is not a privilege you would have by default under normal copyright law.

        The GPL doesn't forbid anything. All of the forbidding comes from copyright law. The GPL simply grants you permission to do some things you couldn't do otherwise. Using the code in your own GPL'd app is one; using the code in your own proprietary app is not.
    • Re:EULA vs GPL (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ctid (449118) on Friday February 07, 2003 @07:16PM (#5254726) Homepage
      The SW isn't "in your possession" in a typical commercial EULA. What you get is a "licence" to use the software, under certain conditions. You don't own the SW after you buy it.

      In a sense, the GPL is the same, as you don't "own" the SW either (the copyright remains with the author(s)); the difference is what you're allowed to do with it. A commercial EULA usually adds a lot of restrictions to standard copyright arrangements. The GPL takes away restrictions; the simplest thing it does is to allow you to copy the SW without restriction. It also guarantees you access to the sourcecode if you've only got the binary. In exchange for these extra rights, you agree to some duties, namely to distribute the source code to whoever you distribute the binary to.
    • Re:EULA vs GPL (Score:3, Interesting)

      by debest (471937)
      Yes, they are roughly the same thing. They are licences that modify the standard "All rights reserved" clause that defaults to a copyrighted work. This means that without a licence, you really can't do much more than look at the CD that your software came on.

      The difference lies in what the two types of licences say.

      The EULAs that we know and love (from MS, Adobe, etc.) grant us the right use the copy we have in very limited ways (one machine/one user, no redistribution permitted, no modification permitted, no source code provided, no liability, etc.)

      The GPL shares the "no liability" part, but it expressly *permits* using the software any way you want, copying it as often as you want, selling as many copies as you want. All it asks is (1)that copies (and derivatives) are themselves GPL'd, and (2)that if you distribute a copy (or a derivative) of GPL'd software, that you provide the source code (if asked) to the recipient. These were added specifically to ensure that GPL'd code cannot be co-opted by proprietary interests.

      By the way, the BSD licence is also worth mentioning. It's as close to "public domain" as you can get: BSD'd code can be used any way you want, as long as you don't hold the authors liable and you give them credit. It is "free-er" code than the FSF's "Free" (GPL'd) code in the sense that there are fewer restrictions on its use. In practice, however, without the GPL's protections, eventually BSD code gets "embraced and extended" by MS et al, rendering the orginal BSD version incompatible with its proprietary derivatives.
  • by Goth Biker Babe (311502) on Saturday February 08, 2003 @03:31AM (#5257300) Homepage Journal
    RISC OS is actually owned by Pace Microtechnologies Plc [pace.co.uk]. They acquired it from Acorn Computers Plc when Acorn was broken up. RISC OS is developed by RISC OS Ltd [riscos.co.uk] who licence it from Pace and develop it for the desktop machines. Castle Technologies obtained the rights to manufacture and distribute Acorn's Risc PC in the break up but have since started developing their own products.

    From the details it's not clear whether Castle are the culprits or RISC OS Ltd. It is unlikely to be Pace as they are not interested in the desktop products. Knowing some of the parties concern I know where my suspicions lie but I'm not saying.
  • by RobinWatts (648722) <slashdot@wss.co.uk> on Saturday February 08, 2003 @06:30AM (#5257671) Homepage
    A brief history lesson, that might help to make one or two things clearer. Its as accurate as I can manage, but don't sue me for slipups, right? Years ago there was Acorn Computers Ltd; they produced the BBC Micro, BBC Master etc. They then set about designing their own 32 bit cpu for their next generation of computers, and the ARM chip was born. ARM Limited was formed as a spin off and carries on administrating the architecture today. Acorn went on to use the ARM chip in various computers; its first OS was called Arthur, which later developed into RISC OS. Acorn used RISC OS both in desktop targetted machines and increasingly in a range of set top box like products and other embedded devices. The first bunch of ARM chips developed ran in what was called '26 bit mode' (don't worry about it), and the OS largely depended on some custom support chips. Eventually Acorn took the decision to drop out of the desktop market; when it did so, it granted a license to a new company (RISC OS Ltd) to the latest version (4) of its software. RISC OS Ltd carried on developing this OS and continue to do so today as part of their Select scheme. Shortly after granting the license, Acorn split into 2 sections; one became element 14, and the other was taken over by Pace. Pace carried on developing RISC OS in house, and produced a 32 bit hardware independent version of RISC OS. Later, AIUI, Pace stopped RISC OS development work, and shortly afterwards Castle announced that it was bringing desktop machines to market using the Pace version of RISC OS. Some sort of license deal had been made between Pace and Castle - my understanding is fuzzy here, I don't know if its a direct license or whether Castle have a license through another third party. It is this latest version of RISC OS that the accusation of use of GPL'd code has been made against. RISC OS Ltd, ARM Ltd, and Element-14 (AIUI now subsumed by Broadcom) are *not* implicated in any way - don't send them hate mail! riscos.org are *not* implicated in any way - thats a web site run by enthusiasts. Its not clear to me at which point the GPL'd code got introduced into the source tree; it could have been at any point after the RISC OS Ltd tree was forked from Acorns original source. Also, for those that don't know, Russell King was one of the prime instigators of ARM Linux, so together with Linus himself is probably one of the most significant opinions on this matter. FWIW: I'm an independent software contractor, who has worked under contract for Acorn, Pace, e-14, and RISC OS Ltd (though not on the portion of the code under discussion). I have no axe to grind here - this post is purely intended to sort out who the players in this particular drama are (and aren't!)

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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