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Stalwarts Claim Asus eeePC Violates GPL 247

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the seems-like-everything-neat-does dept.
WirePosted writes "Members of the Linux community have complained that the hot new sub-notebook from Asus, the eeePC, may have violated the spirit of the Linux General Public License (GPL). Some Linux advocates claim the eeePC has not included required source code with the installed Xandros Linux distribution and does not easily enable users to install another distro. However, there are indications that eeePC fans probably don't care."
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Stalwarts Claim Asus eeePC Violates GPL

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  • more than the spirit (Score:4, Informative)

    by crunzh (1082841) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:03AM (#21470759) Homepage
    If the following from the article is correct they violate more than just the spirit. However, the latest complaint has more to do with the modication of a particular module of the underlying Linux kernel concerned with managing the hardware interfaces of the eeePC. The module asus_acpi (ACPI - Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) was found by Java developer Cliff Biffle to have been modified so that it works with the eeePC. As Mr Biffle says in his blog, this would be fine except that Asus appears not to have followed the rules required by the GPL when making such modifications. Namely, they haven't distributed the source code for the modified module, nor have they attributed the changes to an author or given the new module a version number or name. Mr Biffle alleges that Asus also appears to have attempted to hide what it was doing by removing all references to asus-apc.
  • by maxwell demon (590494) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:14AM (#21470807) Journal
    No, it's not just the GPL. It's the GNU GPL.

    Note that this is totally unrelated to the Linux vs. GNU/Linux debate. The name of the license is "GNU General Public License", or "GNU GPL" for short. It's not the only GPL in existence (there's also the Affero GPL), so it's important to correctly qualify it.
  • by gilesjuk (604902) <giles,jones&zen,co,uk> on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:16AM (#21470813)
    If there's source code that needs to be released then great, let them do it.

    However I don't understand this business about not being easily able to install another OS?

    I've wiped it a few times and installed Ubuntu.

    It has no CD/DVD drive, obviously that means you need a USB CD/DVD drive.
  • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:18AM (#21470827) Homepage
    True, but add one little sign and it's correct: Linux' GPL, that's as valid as "mysql's license". Least I think that's the rule applies to x, sicne it's got the same sound as s.

  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:19AM (#21470831) Homepage Journal
    RIght. They've taken a community-developed kernel module and have modified it, and then released the result as a binary-only kernel module without including the soure orat least posting an offer to obtain the source to the kernel module. That's a direct letter violation of of the GPL.Sounds like the author of asus_acpi has a lawsuit on his/her hands.
  • by AvitarX (172628) <me@brandTWAINywi ... org minus author> on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:31AM (#21470905) Journal
    No, they distributed a lot more software under the GPL than just that module.

    The GPL puts the requirement on the distributer to provide the source for all binaries they distribute, not just modified ones.
  • by Karzz1 (306015) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @11:24AM (#21471171) Homepage
    Can second, third, and fourth-hand distribution of unattributed but non-compliant formerly GPL'd work be prohibited?

    Regarding the first part of your statement, it doesn't matter how many iterations of distribution there are. The *only* license that Asus has for distribution is the GPL. If Asus violates the GPL, they lose their right to distribute.

    As for the second part of your statement, what makes you think this code is not attributed? In the kernel tree on my current machine (using kernel 2.6.23) the file drivers/acpi/asus_acpi.c has the following as the first 10 lines of code:

    /*
    * asus_acpi.c - Asus Laptop ACPI Extras
    *
    *
    * Copyright (C) 2002-2005 Julien Lerouge, 2003-2006 Karol Kozimor
    *
    * This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify
    * it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
    * the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or
    * (at your option) any later version.

    As far as compliance goes... compliance to what?

    And lastly, and probably most importantly, how did you come to the conclusion that the code was "formerly" licensed under the GPL? That is the *only* license Asus has granting them the permission to redistribute.

    I don't know if you honestly did not know this or if you are trolling. This really smells of troll to me though.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2007 @12:32PM (#21471679)
    The one other thing that everyone seems to be looking over... The GPL says that the source code must be made available. That does not mean that it has to be posted on a website (ie send them $25 for shipping and handling and they will send you a disk with the code on it).

    "But if you release the modified version to the public in some way, the GPL requires you to make the modified source code available to the program's users, under the GPL."
  • by Talavis (906015) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @01:04PM (#21471875)
    From TFA:

    As Mr Biffle says: "ASUS has posted a 1.8GB ZIP file on their website that they claim is the sources, but it's not -- it contains a few .debs (not even the versions that ship on the machine) and some kernel headers."
  • by ctzan (908029) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @01:12PM (#21471925)
    It's still compressed with gzip, not with bzip2.
    It was never compressed with bzip2.
    It's not called vmlinux.gz because it's not a
    proper gzip file - it's more complicated than
    that (vmlinuz include a boot sector, a gzip
    decompresser and then the compressed image of the
    kernel itself, everything packed like hell)
  • by cbiffle (211614) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @01:31PM (#21472053)
    Hi. I wrote the blog post that iTwire cited out of context, and the submitter further mangled. I feel like I should clarify some things.

    I'm not accusing ASUS of malice, specifically, just incompetence. They included the GPL in their manual and posted a source tarball, it's just the wrong one. The outside of the retail box even cites the GPL. They've tried to cover their ass and simply screwed it up.

    As for the "OMG eee fans don't care!!11", that probably comes from the note I posted which states that I'm not planning to sue ASUS. In fact, what that means is that I've done the lawsuit thing before and simply don't have the time or energy. If I didn't care, I wouldn't have posted my evidence.

    I also don't know where that nonsense about making it hard to install another distro comes from, since I posted the info amidst a discussion of installing Ubuntu 7.10 (which I'm using to write this comment).

    And finally, I'm not a "Linux stalwart," I'm a "Mac bigot." It says that on my blog.
  • by Kristoph (242780) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @01:56PM (#21472245)
    If you read the original blog you will learn they do distribute source, it just does not include the acpi module. The author of the blog suggests this is nothing more then an oversight.

    Nothing to see here. Move along.

    ]{
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Sunday November 25, 2007 @04:41PM (#21473383) Homepage Journal

    This caused me to have to go and look it up in the license (which is not trivial because as an original author, not all conditions apply) just to be able to respond.

    As the original author, no conditions of the GPL apply to you (except that you can't keep people from distributing a GPL version of your software even if you decide not to anymore) because you already have the rights to copy it. In general, the correct response to any such trolls is "kiss my butt".

  • by Ewan (5533) <{gro.sdrowgnol} {ta} {nawe}> on Sunday November 25, 2007 @05:26PM (#21473631) Homepage Journal
    The location of any lawsuit like this is the easiest part, you could file in the USA, Europe, or pretty much anywhere, since there's a distributor in each one of those regions, and it's the distributor who is in breach of the license, not the manufacturer.
  • by babbling (952366) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @09:53PM (#21474829)
    "The whole concept of the GPL" is that it is a LICENSE to use work already done. When it comes to what people refer to as "violations" they are not being entirely accurate. What they mean is that the party "violating the GPL" is not abiding by that license. So which license are they abiding by? Unless the party has permission to distribute the software under another license, they are distributing the software WITHOUT any license. It is plain and simple copyright infringement.

    So when you refer to "the whole concept of the GPL" becoming a "jumbled mess," I think you actually mean that enforcing copyright internationally is actually the "jumbled mess." This problem is not GPL-specific, and many companies and organisations deal with it all the time.

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