Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Linux Software

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Stalwarts Claim Asus eeePC Violates GPL

Comments Filter:
  • by MountainMan101 (714389) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:03AM (#21470761)
    It's just the GPL. Yes Linux is licensed under it, so is a lot of GNU software and millions of other programs.

    I'm not after karma, or being a pedant. Just pointing out this piece of information.
  • Shock (Score:1, Insightful)

    by nagora (177841) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:10AM (#21470789)
    In other news, buyers of stolen goods at knock-down prices claim that they're "not too worried" about where their cheap Blu-Ray player came from.

    TWW

  • by Henry V .009 (518000) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:11AM (#21470793) Journal
    I was wondering when Slashdot would pick this story up. But what's this? Violation of the GPL "in spirit?" It's a lot more than that: they've modified the source code, but haven't distributed their modifications. A friend at work couldn't get Ubuntu working with his eee's wireless card for this reason.

    And why should the customers be the ones to care about the GPL? It's the people who wrote the GPL'd code that has been stolen by ASUS that care.
  • by Fizzol (598030) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:23AM (#21470859)
    Slashdot lives on hyperbole, misstatements, wild speculation and wrong information. What it comes down to is Asus needs to release the source code from the module they modified. On Slashdot that translate to a Microsoft conspiracy using Asus as its willing pawn. Sheesh.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by that this is not und (1026860) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:33AM (#21470915)
    It's just you.

    You're right that we're a lot more complicated than 'they' think (even though there isn't a single 'they' to reference)

    Further, nobody understands the dynamics involved. Notably, the 'leaders' on 'both sides' (the idea of there being 'two sides' is a gross misunderstanding in and of itself) do not understand.

    There's no coordinated effort. It's time to get over the idea that there's a villain in a volcano somewhere. Even if it does help some people to validate their 'righteous battle for good.'

  • by DieByWire (744043) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:34AM (#21470919)

    ...there are indications that eeePC fans probably don't care.

    Which doesn't matter one bit.

    What matters is if the person(s) who's software they used cares.

  • Violation? Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:48AM (#21470999)
    I mean... When looking at the GPL it clearly says that you need to meet all 3 specific conditions:
    1. You must cause the modified files to carry prominent notices stating that you changed the files and the date of any change.
    2. You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License.
    3. If the modified program normally reads commands interactively when run, you must cause it, when started running for such interactive use in the most ordinary way, to print or display an announcement including an appropriate copyright notice and a notice that there is no warranty (or else, saying that you provide a warranty) and that users may redistribute the program under these conditions, and telling the user how to view a copy of this License. (Exception: if the Program itself is interactive but does not normally print such an announcement, your work based on the Program is not required to print an announcement.)

    So, I certainly do not see anything mentioned that demands a version number or that the program be named. What is required are notices that the programs have been changed ("to protect the innocent" </joke>). And did the author of this article (or the people who are complaining) also read all the documentation to see if such notes are indeed present ?

    Then there's another thing.. The source code isn't installed or distributed. That too is a very one sided point of view. The GPL clearly learns us that you need to do one of these 3 points (thats one, not all):

    • Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange;
    • Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange;
    • Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)

    Naturally section 3 doesn't apply here so its either 1 or 2. 1 states that they need to make it available, 2 says that they need to offer it. Which brings me to the following point; can anyone of these users grab the source code from the Xandros website itself? Because if they can then I don't really see anything wrong here. Note; we were talking about the spirit of the GPL right? If users can get the sourcecode somewhere else I don't see any violations being made. As long as Asus makes sure that this situation remains and that if those other mirrors someday stop distributing this software takes over.

    Personally, but thats probably just me, I don't understand the need for all this squabbling. Sometimes I also think this to be pretty hypocrite behaviour. When it comes to a widely appreciated website like youtube [youtube.com] almost every user agrees that while copyright and license violations are made they should only be enforced if the copyright holder demands it. Being a youtube fan myself I like the approach but at the same time agree that its totally wrong. How can one expect from such a copyright holder to find his/her work on the thousands if not millions of movies out there?

    But if those same guys are Linux OSF zealots then beware if you're closely touching or perhaps violating the GPL or any other open source license they favor. Because then everything is different and you should be made to comply

  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Taagehornet (984739) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:59AM (#21471063)

    Someone wiser than I once said: Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence. I find it hard to believe that there's any evil scheme behind this alleged violation.

    The Linux community - or should I say the GNU/Linux community to emphasize my point - has always been fragmented. You might consider this a weakness, I however would say that the very lack of a single 'head' is one of the major strengths of the community.

    Furthermore, you are aware that Asus and Microsoft are two different companies?

  • by Ajehals (947354) <a.halsall@pirateparty.org.uk> on Sunday November 25, 2007 @11:13AM (#21471121) Homepage Journal
    Copyright violation really really isn't stealing.

    I agree that if there is a problem it needs sorting out, preferably without anyone having to sue anyone, or any other court intervention, but its not the same a stealing something (arguably its worse) and should not be characterised as such, in this instance it is probably an accident, and may well be an accident on the part of whoever supplied the OS rather than ASUS. We, the F/LOSS community need to try at least to be a little less offensive when it comes to stuff like this. If there is a problem, talk about it, don't shoot first talk later, and the permanent cries of ha! GPL violation, we're going to sue!!! are also counter productive, I'm sure the FSF would agree that legal action is something of a last resort rather than an initial response.
  • by eggnoglatte (1047660) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @11:15AM (#21471125)

    And why should the customers be the ones to care about the GPL? It's the people who wrote the GPL'd code that has been stolen by ASUS that care.
    Because the GPL is designed to protect the customers' (i.e. users') rights, not the rights of the original authors. Specifically, under the GPL, Asus has no obligation to distribute the code to the original authors, UNLESS of course the authors are also customers having bought the eeePC.

    Nonetheless, the article is stupid anyhow; "However, there are indications that eeePC fans probably don't care" is such a lame statement one has to wonder why they included it at all ("indications" and "probably" aren't exactly words that would help in a legal case).

  • by deadline (14171) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @11:29AM (#21471201) Homepage

    I have a Eee PC. It is a nice little system. Once customized a bit is very usable for the hardcore Linux users. The 24 second boot time is nice.

    About the GPL. The manual has a printed version of the GPL, so I don't really think Asus is trying to hide anything. What is more likely, and more like most big companies, the Eee was under a deadline to launch before the Xmas season. The last thing to get done is probably posting source code. Has anyone asked the source code? (perhaps someone has)

    Their lawyers will make sure that it gets posted as they ship a license with every product that says it will be available. i.e. They could be in a boat load of legal trouble if they don't, not to mention class-action lawsuits, copyright violations etc.

    Any finally, here is company that has come out with a full Linux sub-notebook (just 25 days ago). Instead of floating the latest conspiracy theory, how about giving them the benefit of the doubt. But, then allowing/helping a company to do the right thing, does not make for interesting blog headlines. It is all about the page views.

  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JohnBailey (1092697) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @11:50AM (#21471345)
    It would be nice to think that Microsoft put Asus up to selling a small low powered laptop with one of their pet Linux distros on it.. And deliberately breaking the license in the hope that the next Steve the Monkey Boy show could point and laugh at the Linux people being anti business. But I doubt it.

    Thanks for the mental image though. I like the idea of the Microsoft upper management seeing the sales figures and the internet buzz over a trojan horse project that was never meant to succeed selling out and a new market that Microsoft can't really compete in being revealed.

    A far more likely scenario is that Xandros delivered the distro customized for the Asus machine, and somewhere in the various legal departments, someone didn't bother following the terms of the license fully. I'll wait until Xandros and Asus respond before I start seeing malice where bureaucratic oversight is a good enough explanation. The product hasn't been out that long, so give them time to get the source properly organized and published before calling foul.
  • by that this is not und (1026860) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @12:06PM (#21471465)
    And lastly, and probably most importantly, how did you come to the conclusion that the code was "formerly" licensed under the GPL?

    Uh, I think everybody here agrees that this software is distributed in violation of the GPL, in other words, it was formerly distributed under the GPL and is now just a warez thing.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jasin Natael (14968) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @12:08PM (#21471485)

    Someone wiser than I once said:

    Umm ... Wiser isn't a word I would use to extoll Napoleon Bonaparte above myself, but speech is free (and cheap).

    Furthermore, you are aware that Asus and Microsoft are two different companies?

    If he wants to wear the tinfoil hat, what could be more damaging than making a minor, innocent-looking mistake, and then being attacked legally for it? Make no mistake: to someone without an intimate familiarity with the issues, ASUS being sued -- after releasing a top-notch product that will put Linux and FOSS in the hands of millions, no less -- for not including the source to a driver they wrote for their own hardware, looks really bad. This is the MS PR Department's dream. Whether they had anything to do with it is anyone's guess (and I suspect you're right that it is unrelated), but I challenge you to come up with a more subtle, but equally damaging, feint. And ASUS does stand to benefit from super-low-priced copies of XP for its Eee laptops.

    "Oh, but you can! Though you may have to metaphorically make a deal with the devil. And by 'devil', I mean 'robot devil'. And by 'metaphorically', I mean 'Get your coat.'"

  • by manekineko2 (1052430) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @12:24PM (#21471597)
    The claim is that instead of jumping on them immediately like a pack of ravenous open-source wolves less than a month after they launch their Linux-running product, maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt that they intend to do the right thing but just haven't had time yet to post the code.
  • by evilviper (135110) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @12:30PM (#21471663) Journal

    Because the GPL is designed to protect the customers' (i.e. users') rights, not the rights of the original authors. Specifically, under the GPL, Asus has no obligation to distribute the code to the original authors, UNLESS of course the authors are also customers having bought the eeePC.

    That is what the GPL says... HOWEVER, the author's have every right to relicense the source code if they chose, and give Asus an exception. And more to the point, the software authors are the only ones who have the right to sue Asus for violating the copyright terms they chose for their work.
  • by cel4145 (468272) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @12:56PM (#21471835) Homepage

    Any finally, here is company that has come out with a full Linux sub-notebook (just 25 days ago). Instead of floating the latest conspiracy theory, how about giving them the benefit of the doubt. But, then allowing/helping a company to do the right thing, does not make for interesting blog headlines. It is all about the page views.

    Exactly! Rather than assuming that Asus is intentionally doing something wrong here, the open source community should mentor Asus and assist them by assuming it is an oversight. I've observed enough open source software communities to understand that newbies often make mistakes in their understanding and implementation of the GPL and other licenses. Shouldn't open source be more about community building and enhanced software production rather than adopting protectionist rhetoric common to proprietary IP development? This is not to say that GPL violations should not be noted or acted on, but don't adopt the strategies and criticisms of the likes of MS and other proprietary vendors. See this as an opportunity first to bring Asus into the community, not put them on the defensive and alienate them.

  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tapehands (943962) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @01:11PM (#21471913)
    The reason why they need to stay vigilant is two-fold...it allows the community to take down blatant violations of the GPL, and, in this case, that source code could benefit the community.

    I don't know specifically if the asus hardware this module interfaces with can be found on any other computer, but even if it isn't, having this module for use with distros other than the bundled one would obviously be beneficial to the EeePC owners out there that want to toy around with it. It just boils down to going after a company to build a better community - had they followed the rules of their license agreement, this wouldn't be an issue.
  • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @01:38PM (#21472111) Homepage

    I very much doubt doubt that Asus's modification was made with the intention of exploiting its customers: more likely they are attempting to protect themselves from industrial espionage.

    Tough cookies. If you can't handle the terms of the GPL, then write your own goddamn OS.

  • by Kristoph (242780) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @01:41PM (#21472125)
    From the blog that started all this ...

    I tend to assume incompetence before malice, and I really do believe they just messed up. (Even the asus_acpi stripping seems more like a botched search-replace job by some overworked driver author than a malicious act. Doesn't make it legit, of course.)

    Notice that neither the author of the blog, nor the author of asus_acpi has contacted ASUS and asked them to remedy the issue. It is therefore perhaps premature to talk about a lawsuit. In fact, you cannot even nullify a license without giving some reasonable (or contractually specified) time for remedy and you certainly won't win a lawsuit unless you actually let the offender know in advance what the violation is and what you want done to address it.

    ]{
    PS. Company X makes hot Linux platform. Company X neglects to release source for a module. Linux advocates call for lawsuit. It's not exactly a great way to promote Linux. I am not suggesting we should ignore GPL violations but we should at least be a touch more civilized about it. (Maybe, in this case, someone should contact ASUS and (gasp) offer to help them maintain the module in the proper way.)
  • by Kristoph (242780) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @01:51PM (#21472201)
    ... or you know, maybe a polite letter noting that the source is missing and asking them for it.

    Because, you know, WE WANT ASUS TO SHIP HARDWARE FOR LINUX IN THE FUTURE.

    ]{
  • Re:Shock (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TehZorroness (1104427) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @03:09PM (#21472791)
    There is an outstanding difference between stolen code and a stolen physical object. You cannot compare.
  • by xenocide2 (231786) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @03:11PM (#21472803) Homepage
    How about someone make a video describing how to use the GPL / kernel source correctly in your product, complete with overdubbable audio (no speaking people on screen). Then just translate and distribute as widely as possible. Maybe hit up English, German, Chinese and Japanese, and more as you find the resources. If you think it's merely a matter of misunderstanding, a public education plan is a good solution as I can think of.

    Personally, I think the status quo is a great testament to the legal system and the FSF's work. The threat of a lawsuit makes it possible for a single person to force a large company to obey the license he set out to begin with. Despite having far fewer resources, if the truth is on their side they can win. Now, I can see your point about idiots on the internet calling for lawsuits. Copyright is a tricky thing -- as the blog author suggested, what if ASUS already negotiated permission with the two people listed in asus_acpi? It's probably a bit harder in the kernel's case, because it links with other objects and there is no central copyright holder (the blog author is simply incorrect on copyright assignment).

    I think the bottom line is that if you discover a potential violation, share this with a few intelligent people, like the people listed in the source code, Eben Moglen's new group, and Greg K-H before writing something Slashdot can find and sentence in a court of public opinion. I hear Greg KH has lots of experience talking to vendors and finding ways to make them happy to comply. It might be a business ploy -- company infringes GPL, Greg knocks on your door demanding work in compensation for the violation, as he holds significant copyright. I imagine this would work much better now that his business card can say "Novell". But this is baseless speculation.

    I hope Asus realizes that there are many purchases waiting for this cloud to clear out -- I'm not going to buy a device that only claims to have source code available. I want to see the real deal. And thats probably the best alternative to lawsuits: making it known that doing open source correctly sells, and doing it wrong does not.
  • by mathfeel (937008) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @04:05PM (#21473179)
    Yes, ASUS violated it, but can we have less sensational headline until AFTER someone ask them to comply and they refused??

    Then again, this is /.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by (Score.5, Interestin (865513) on Monday November 26, 2007 @01:12AM (#21475525)

    Speaking as a free software developer, if I was MS I would put people on mailing lists and message boards for free software projects and then have them bitch and moan about every conceivable potential violation.
    If I was MS I would too, but as this whole thread shows, there's really no need to do it. The Linux fanboy community is so good at dividing and conquering itself that there's really no need for external action. All MS has to do is come along afterwards and pick up the pieces.
  • by tomandlu (977230) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:21PM (#21479997)

    You understand correctly. As for excuses (assuming they've actually done anything "wrong", which doesn't seem to be completely certain), in order of significance:

    1. It was a mistake or oversight, and will be rectified
    2. Killing the eee over this would do greater damage to the cause of free software (and linux) than ignoring a minor transgression

    Now, the last is a slight strawman arguement - well, I'd like to think so, but the reaction of some on these boards makes me wonder. I can't help thinking that what ought to be happening is that the FSF or similiar ought to be contacting ASUS, congratulating them on the eee, gently pointing out the issues, and offering to help resolve the problems. Instead, we seem to be acting out a scene from Life of Brian.

A holding company is a thing where you hand an accomplice the goods while the policeman searches you.

Working...