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GNU is Not Unix Software Linux

Enforcing the GPL On Software Companies? 480

Posted by kdawson
from the four-words-software-freedom-law-center dept.
Piranhaa"I currently use an IPTV box that runs software by Minerva Networks. When you ssh into the box, you are greeted with a BusyBox v1.00 (ash) shell. It's clearly running a flavor of Linux (uname -apm outputs: Linux minerva_10_0_3_99 2.4.30-tango2-2.7.144.0 #29 Wed Mar 16 16:16:16 CET 2005 mips unknown). However, when you look at their Web site there is no publicly available source code. Since the GPL in both BusyBox and the Linux kernel require that anyone using and distributing the binaries of this software make source available to everyone, what would one do in order to enforce this? I've personally emailed Minerva and left voicemails with no reply."
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Enforcing the GPL On Software Companies?

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  • Really now... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by topace3 (962476) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @05:55AM (#23892805)
    I don't recall there being a part of the GPL that says you have to put your source on a web server. If they send it to you upon contacting them that would suffice, right?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2008 @06:31AM (#23892941)

    For a FOSS license GPL seems to be very unfree - imposing restrictions or rules... just a crock of sh!t really. GPL makes me angry. MIT or BSD for the win. GPL for the sux.

    WTF?

    The GPL applies only to GPL code ... in this case the Linux kernel and the Busybox code. It is a license that lets some people, who did not write that code, nevertheless use the code ... often without any fee. The only "restriction or rule" is that the code must not be hidden if you re-distribute it. Since you received the source code yourself, and you did not write it ... you are obliged to give it to other people under those same conditions.

    Why should there not be such a condition? It isn't your code, you didn't write it ... and the source is already public anyway so how on earth does it hurt you to give the source out when you distribute your product?

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @06:36AM (#23892967)

    Ikarys, you either have a lot of fun trolling this way, or you've not looked into the history of the GPL and the other licenses. Your posting history shows that you enjoy doing these drive-by instigations, but nevertheless, some newer folks on Slashdot may not know enough to realize why some folks say this.

    GPL was formed to protect developers and users against restrictive licenses that prevented them from seeing or modifying their programs. It's a bit paranoid, but with reason. The DRM being inflicted on software, the security by obscurity, the locking in of software by refusing to permit non-vendor software to be installed, the refusal to allow others to modify and publish the software, all have been a real problem with other licenses.

    GPL has effectively prevent hardware/software lockins, by Netgear and Linksys. The new GPLv3 will block patent lockins, such as those espoused by Microsoft, and DRM lockins, used by Tivo. None of the other licenses would have prevented this. We've also seen very specific abuses of the other licenses already, such as the Microsoft abuse of the MIT license on Kerberos to break non-Microsoft published Kerberos clients. And the GPL has already helped several companies that I'm aware of from simply adding on their own modifications, refusing to publish their modifications, deliberately making it inoperable with other's versions, and locking clients in this way.

    The GPL protects the freedom of users, and other developers. The sacrifice of what is not freedom over the software, but power over its modification, comes at the benefit of retaining such power over the rest of GPL freedom, and I find it very handy.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday June 22, 2008 @07:55AM (#23893281) Journal
    I thought you weren't allowed to simply point to the original source unless you had made an agreement with the repository,since the source code can change,be dropped from the repository,etc leaving your customers without access to the actual source you used. At least that was what I remember reading a few years back and come to think of it,it was a company using busybox. What is it about that software that attracts the GPL violators like an inbox attracts spam? Never used busybox(that I know of) so I am just curious. And as always my 02c,YMMV
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2008 @08:33AM (#23893427)

    Under copyright law, there is absolutely no requirement for them to provide the source code.

    This is correct, even though it sounds wrong. They have already violated the copyright, following the rules now does not cancel their previous actions. Otherwise, if there was any kind of license to copy an item (such as the ability to purchase redistribution rights), it would be trivial to violate copyright and ignore it until (and if) you are caught and then pay for the rights (or publish the GPL code). Thus violating copyright would have zero risk because the cost is either less (you are never caught) or equal (you are caught and pay off).

    I believe a lawsuit over copyright violations can only legally ask for monetary fines and cease & desist orders. However if threatened by a copyright owner, the two parties can make a deal to drop the lawsuit. This is what typically happens with the GPL, the copyright holder agrees to drop the lawsuit if the violater publishes the source code now, even though it is too late.

    Since you are not the copyright holder and thus cannot sue and/or agree to a deal, and since publishing the source code now makes no legal difference, it is possible they have decided to do nothing.

    Now in reality if they published the source code now, they would probably make everybody happy and they would avoid any problems for almost no cost. But it is not guaranteed.

  • by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @08:41AM (#23893487) Journal

    How can we decry copyrights as evil, when we keep trying to enforce the GPL? What if a company wants to use that piece of code, and not release the source for it? Information wants to be free, you know.

  • I would hope not, I don't want to give source code to my friends when they use my computer to check their myspace.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @10:06AM (#23894043)

    How can we decry copyrights as evil, when we keep trying to enforce the GPL?
    "We" decry copyrights as evil because they reduce the freedom of the end-user.
    The GPL uses copyright law to turn that situation around, effectively guaranteeing the freedoms of the end-user.
    There is no contradiction.

    What if a company wants to use that piece of code, and not release the source for it?
    They are free to do so, the GPL does not restrict how a person or a company uses a piece of code.
    However, if they wish to distribute it to end-users beyond themselves, then they must ensure that those end users are given the same amount of Freedom that the company received.

    Information wants to be free, you know.
    Precisely. Free as in Liberty, not as in price.
  • by Ma8thew (861741) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @10:39AM (#23894261)
    The GPL exploits the copyright system to essentially do the opposite of what was intended, force people to release changes to intellectual property. One is allowed to modify the code without releasing source as long as they don't distribute the binaries. And lastly, copyrights are not necessarily evil but they are currently too powerful, and ownership is retained for far too long.
  • by maz2331 (1104901) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @01:20PM (#23895457)

    The Busybox devs are a hyper-active active enforcer of the GPL, and it's amazing that anyone still tries to get around it with that project. These guys sue everybody who misues their work, and has been very successful in that effort.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2008 @01:29AM (#23900175)

    You're a retard. So you're saying that because the code is open and other people can benefit from it they should violate the GPL? The GPL basically lets you use the code in exchange for distributed modifications being available for others. If the company in question has a problem with this there are a few things they could have legally done:

    1) Contact the Copyright owner (BusyBox devs) and negotiate a license. Possibly purchase the rights to use the code under their own terms
    2) Look for non-GPL alternatives to BusyBox
    3) Write their own

    Just because something may not be in a business's best interest doesn't mean that company should breach the terms of the license. Too many times there days, companies bitch and moan about their own Intellectual Property but think that Open Source Software is somehow exempt and is a free for all.

    And don't give me that bit about BusyBox being given away at no charge as a justification. It's being given away with certain terms on derivative works and the time and effort being put in to write the original code gets a possible pay off with modifications being made available.Also look at #1. A Developer who owns the copyright on their own software can sell an interested party the software under another license or grant that party their own copyright for that software.

    If corporate America will have us believe that IP theft is despicable then they need to follow their own dogma.

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