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The Real Reason For Microsoft's TomTom Lawsuit 408

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the get-your-conspiracy-on dept.
Glyn Moody writes "We now know that Microsoft's lawsuit isn't just against TomTom, but against Linux too: but what exactly is Microsoft hoping to achieve? Samba's Jeremy Allison has a fascinating theory: 'What people are missing about this is the either/or choice that Microsoft is giving Tom Tom. It isn't a case of cross-license and everything is ok. If Tom Tom or any other company cross licenses patents then by section 7 of GPLv2 (for the Linux kernel) they lose the rights to redistribute the kernel *at all*. Make no mistake, this is intended to force Tom Tom to violate the GPL, or change to Microsoft embedded software.' Maybe embedded Linux is starting to get too popular."
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The Real Reason For Microsoft's TomTom Lawsuit

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  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:10PM (#27079961) Homepage Journal

    So really you lose all rights to using that code?

    Only in so much as using means the same as distributing, or more specifically distributing to those countries.

    So in other words, no.

  • Misleading title. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:14PM (#27080013) Journal

    Samba's Jeremy Allison has a fascinating theory

    So, in other words, it is not "The Real Reason For Microsoft's TomTom Lawsuit", but rather the theory of someone who is not connected to Microsoft, has no actual knowledge of Microsoft's reasons and strategies, and who could be considered hostile to Microsoft.

  • Patents, not code (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:23PM (#27080153)

    Last time I checked, MS sued TomTom over patents. If TomTom would use its patent pool to cross license patents with MS to resolve the situation, where does this violate GPL2 (which is a copyright license)?

    Mod article down as "FUD".

  • by Jamie's Nightmare (1410247) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:24PM (#27080167)

    I love how the title uses the words "Real Reason", then goes on to cite a blog author who says "I have heard rumors...", then points to another blog that promotes a "fascinating theory".

    And yet we wonder why Kdawson hasn't been reprimanded.

  • Re:Or Maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:25PM (#27080191)

    maybe they are just trying to protect their intellectual property

    I'm not saying that "intellectual property" is a pointless concept, but what is currently implemented is frighteningly Philip K. Dick.

    Software is particularly problematic. An invention does not always come from the intellect and work of the inventor. More often than not it is merely an observation and augmentation of the work and intellect of others.

    Software is nothing more than building on that which was built by others, which was built on the work of people before that, and before that, ad infinitem. Even the implementor of a statistical analysis system owes credit to the creators of the programming language used to write it, the creators of the math system, etc.

    Intellectual property my ass, it is a land-grab of an environment created by two generations of engineers that worked and published without patent protection. Now college drop-out Bill Gates, sues for trivial implementations of theoretical models created by men far better than him.

  • by ichthus (72442) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:27PM (#27080219) Homepage
    As a Samba developer, I would think he's especially familiar with Microsoft's strategies.
  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:40PM (#27080413) Journal

    And would make updating the thing nearly impossible. They do firmware updates by mounting it as a USB mass storage device. Without a hardware redesign to emulate FAT (which would probably also violate M$'s patents), they're pretty much stuck here.

    This is why I've been arguing for nearly a decade that file and volume formats should not be patentable, nor the means used to read and write those formats. Free and open access to data formats is fundamentally crucial to the interoperability of all hardware and software, and as such, statutes should very clearly define those as part of a class explicitly excluded from patent protection. As soon as the courts allow even one patent like this to stand, they are pretty much saying "f**k you" to the entire computing industry and depriving consumers of their fundamental right to have access to data of their own creation. That data isn't Microsoft's. It belongs to the users, and it is a violation of the most fundamental rights of the users to deny them access to content that they create merely because they choose to not use a particular software product, regardless of whether that product is made by Microsoft, AutoCAD [slashdot.org], or anybody else.

    Locking down user content is fundamentally wrong and unjust, and any laws that allow a company to do so are also fundamentally wrong and unjust. Therefore, it is our right, nay, our duty to users everywhere to violate those bits of intellectual property at every possible opportunity until it becomes such a legal nightmare for these companies that they are forced to back down. Anything less would be uncivilized. I know this is no Rosa Parks moment, but it still very much necessary for the long-term viability of computing as we know it. Just say no to data format patents.

  • by macraig (621737) <`mark.a.craig' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:40PM (#27080419)

    Legal documents aren't inherently perfect just because it's intended that they be perfect. Legalese is "code" intended to solve a problem just as surely as anything written in COBOL; legalese can have bugs in it, too.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob Riggs (6418) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:41PM (#27080443) Homepage Journal

    I don't know why companies just don't get *BSD working for them instead Linux. It would save them a lot of headaches.

    Because the primary reason for the success of Linux is that it forces everyone to share their improvements. You get an exponential return on investment. The best you can ever hope for with BSD is an incremental return.

  • by pembo13 (770295) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:42PM (#27080453) Homepage

    The guys over at the Linux Action show (in their last episode) seem to adamantly think that this lawsuit has nothing to do with Linux. Jeremy Allison is probably a pretty jaded individual at this point (and rightly so), so having the view of someone else more familiar with these legal quagmires may be helpful.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rbanffy (584143) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:43PM (#27080469) Homepage Journal

    You don't need to emulate the FAT long file names in order to do that. Only the long file name hack is covered by their patents. I see no good reason to even use long file names in applications like GPS or cameras, since you don't see the files most of the time.

  • by viralMeme (1461143) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:48PM (#27080539)
    'then points to another blog that promotes a "fascinating theory"'

    Actually that's .. points to a fascinating explanation by Jeremy Allison of the Samba project...
  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:50PM (#27080577)

    Does UDF work well on storage like flash?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:51PM (#27080589)

    What TomTom (and others) need to do is start using EXT2/3 on their external cards and then distribute Fuse with their software.

    No, the easy way out here is to not use long filenames. The patents is not about FAT, but about long filenames on FAT. If they need long filenames, distribute it as an tar file or loop back-file system file with a short name.

  • by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:53PM (#27080631) Homepage Journal

    All banks are using Linux, so I really look forward to know about the only one that is not doing so.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jimmy_B (129296) <slashdotNO@SPAMjimrandomh.org> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:02PM (#27080765) Homepage

    Here's an example. The US government probably prevents you from selling your open source software to Cuba or Iran. If I read section 7 correctly, that counts as a "condition imposed on you". So really you lose all rights to using that code?

    You have misread this section. Having a condition imposed on you which prevents you from to distributing to a specific party does not prevent you from fulfilling the conditions of the license, because the license does not obligate you to distribute the program to anyone; rather, the GPL gives the conditions you must follow when you do distribute the program. Since US export restrictions do not prevent you from fulfilling the terms of the GPL when you export to a non-restricted country, the fact that there are parties which you can't distribute the program to is irrelevant.

    Note, however, that only a government can enforce export restrictions; the GPL forbids you from taking on that responsibility yourself. So if you send a GPL'ed program to someone in Europe, they could legally send that program to someone in Cuba, and the GPL would forbid you from interfering. If the US were to pass a law which said that you couldn't export something that could possibly be re-exported to a sanctioned country, then that would be a problem for the GPL, but to my knowledge no such law exists.

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JerkBoB (7130) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:32PM (#27081211)

    Right, but then everybody gets your improvements. Where's the competition in that?

    With BSD you get a solid base for your product and it's not infected with the GPL.

    This old clinker again... Closed-source competition is so 1980s.

    Software is a commodity. Any intelligent company now is not trying to make money on their proprietary code. They're making money on hardware to run their code, or services to support their code, or data to feed their code.

    Sure, for certain niche markets, closed source can give a company a competitive advantage for a while... But if the market is "hot" enough, Open Source will eventually be there to eat its lunch. This has been happening over and over again for the past two decades. Were you asleep?

    Let me ask you this: Have you ever written code and released it to the public? Was it used? I have. As a developer making contributions to public projects, I am much more inclined to contribute under the GPL than other licenses. Most of the world feels the same, hence the popularity of the GPL (and similar "viral" licenses) over the BSD-style licenses.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:2, Insightful)

    by theillien (984847) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:38PM (#27081291)
    I'm wondering if a patent can become so diluted that it is unenforceable. FAT is ubiquitous. It is used just about everywhere in every industry in innumerable devices. If Microsoft were to fight to enforce their patent they'd essentially be taking on the entire IT space. I doubt the courts would allow that to happen.
  • Re:Classic GPL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeremy Allison - Sam (8157) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:48PM (#27081423) Homepage

    This :

    "The problem here is that the GPL sets up restrictions which no intermediate vendor can realistically comply with" should get you marked down immediately as -1 Troll".

    Or at least as -1 clueless. Do you know how many intermediate vendors ship GPL code, both v2 and v3 ? It's a *lot*. You can even get patent cross licenses for all your other code so long as the patents you are licensing don't cover the GPLed code. Please post your ignorant long diatribes elsewhere.

    Jeremy.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:03PM (#27081591)

    Good rant, but I think the above post was trying to say EXT2IFS are windows drivers that allow you to access ext formatted drives. All TomTom has to do is supply those drivers on their install CD and presto problem solved. I've got a lot of usb devices formated ext2, because NTFS support wasn't too cool in linux for a while and I needed large file support.

  • by fava (513118) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:15PM (#27081739)

    From a half remembered source:

    It takes a brave man to edit sendmail.cf by hand, it takes a stupid man to do it twice.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nimey (114278) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:15PM (#27081743) Homepage Journal

    Wrong. FAT does not support permissions of any kind. VFAT adds long file names, which is done by using half of a given directory's entries for long filenames and the remainder as the standard 8.3 short names.

    If you were talking about FAT attributes (archive, read-only, hidden, system, volume label), those are done with flag bits.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arkhan_jg (618674) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:42PM (#27082073)

    Why not got one further, and simply ban software patents of all kinds, like most other countries in the world?

    Software is covered by copyright; there's no need to grant patents on it too. Filesystems, like many other software concepts are relatively easy to come up with, on a broad basis - and the same general patent covers many, many approaches and denies them to competitive forces for way too long. The clever, hard work is in actually implementing the idea and making it work.

    Patents were originally intended so that someone could come along, read the patent, and easily replicate the entire product, once the monopoly period was over, and the inventor compensated for putting his work into the public domain. The equivalent for software, direct instructions on how it works - is the code and documentation itself, not some vague patent intentionally designed to cover as many possible variations upon the idea as possible.

    Software patents are solely about preventing competition and raising the bar to entry for smaller, innovative firms. When engineers are specifically instructed to never, ever read patents in case they get sued for subsequently implementing anything that vaguely touches on a similar area; when this happens, patents are actively harmful to innovation and endeavour. Get rid of them, as pretty much every other country in the world has done.

  • by ion.simon.c (1183967) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:45PM (#27082117)

    The only solution is ... to install [software] ... which is asking a lot for most people (really, I am not kidding, it is asking a lot).

    My father has a Zune (one of the flash-memory models). To use the device on a particular machine, one must insert the Zune software disc and install the Zune software on an internet-connected machine. The software *must* call home before use; this installation *can not* happen on an offline machine. Also, one cannot drag and drop media to the Zune, one *must* install the Zune software.

    The iPod similarly requires one to install iTunes before using it with a PC. (Granted, this can be an offline install, so yey! for that.)

    I would think that most consumers are very familiar with the "Insert the CD and run setup before using this device." step. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:53PM (#27082265)

    It's not exactly all-or-nothing; if you know what keys you need you can back up and restore just those ones. However, knowing which keys you need is not a trivial task (depending on the application, of course). On the other hand, most of the valuable stuff is stored in (HKLM | HKCU)\Software\[Vendor]\[Application] (or similar). For instance, if all you need is a registration key or something you'll likely find it there; of course, it's not always that simple. Another problem is that registry values often point to files or folders; obviously these paths can be different on different machines.

    The registry is not *officially* documented, but there is plenty of documentation out there.

    That being said, I tend to agree with you. Simpler is better and you probably want to maintain compatibility with previous versions.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bradley (2330) <bbaetz+slashdot@gmail . c om> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:57PM (#27082325)

    What if I'm in the Canada, and buy (from a US company) a GPL program which comes with a written offer to provide the source. Then a month I move to Cuba, and send a letter to the US company asking them to please send me the source (including proof of purchase, and cash to cover costs of copying and sending the source code back to me)

    What does the US company do now?

    I'm not a lawyer, and for all I know US law deals with this sort of situation. But assume that it doesn't (and assume that I can't, for some other reason, distribute the source and binary together)

    Since any of my customers could move to Cuba/etc, I cannot make the promise for written source, so I cannot be sure that I can "satisfy simultaneously [my] obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations". which means I can't distribute the software at all.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:25PM (#27082701)

    I'm not saying UDF is encumbered; I have no idea if it is. I'm saying the fact that it's got an ISO/IEC number does not mean it's not encumbered. Just didn't want anyone to get the wrong impression from your earlier comment.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Patch86 (1465427) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:35PM (#27082829)

    The GPL and BSD licenses fulfil completely different purposes, and attract different contributors because of it.

    You can't declare either license the "winner" without first deciding what it is they're competing in. If you want the biggest, most widely used cross-platform free software, GPL wins- Linux's desktop share beats any of the *BSDs, and it has massive penetration in embedded devices, webservers and cross-platform applications. If you want the biggest, most widely used platform full stop, BSD wins- MacOSX has a colossally larger desktop share than Linux (but is of course mostly non-free), and BSD code can be found in almost any project you care to mention.

    For people and big companies who want their free contributions to remain free, the GPL is far more attractive (just ask all those Linux vendors). For people who just want to see technology get out there and be used, BSD is the drawer.

    The 2 camps can't both be pleased at the same time, and that's why the 2 licenses can exist side-by-side. Acting like the GPL is detrimental to Linux (or the same with BSD) is just plain ignoring the reality of the situation.

  • by kyliaar (192847) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @05:06PM (#27083373)

    Make no mistake, this is intended to force Tom Tom to violate the GPL, or change to Microsoft embedded software

    There are other embedded kernel choices besides Linux or Microsoft. The FreeBSD license is much less restrictive than the GPL and wouldn't be broken by most, if not all, cross licensing.

    Why must slashdot polarize things so incorrectly and ignorantly?

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @05:43PM (#27083969)

    So if Microsoft stole the code for Kerberos, why can download it here [mit.edu]?

    The double standard here is really funny. When it comes to RIAA and Pirate Bay then using the term "stealing" is bad. But when it comes to using code in a way that it was allowed to be used, then you get modded informative for using that term.

    So one question to you: Is Google stealing GPL code? They surely have lots of modifications to GPL code they will never publish, but as with Microsoft noone requires them to.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:3, Insightful)

    by clampolo (1159617) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @07:36PM (#27085485)

    There is a theorem in computability theory that anything that can be computed in software can be implemented as a digital circuit. Also anything that can be computed in a digital circuit can be computed in software.

    So by arguing against software patents, you are also stating that there should be no hardware patents.

    I just wanted to make this point since I don't understand why people are against software patents but not hardware patents. Mathematically speaking the two are identical.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:4, Insightful)

    by idlemachine (732136) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @08:24PM (#27085985)

    These people are no longer playing fair, WHY SHOULD WE?

    "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster."

    Or how about: "Two wrongs don't make a right."

    Because how you win is as important, if not more so, than winning itself. I agree that there are times that we need to fight but we also need to be sure we don't lose ourselves in the battle.

  • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:3, Insightful)

    by williamhb (758070) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @11:02PM (#27087175) Journal

    "Therefore, it is our right, nay, our duty to users everywhere to violate those bits of intellectual property at every possible opportunity until it becomes such a legal nightmare for these companies that they are forced to back down. Anything less would be uncivilized. I know this is no Rosa Parks moment, but it still very much necessary for the long-term viability of computing as we know it. Just say no to data format patents."

    This is precisely the tactic I encourage everyone I know to use.

    These people are no longer playing fair, WHY SHOULD WE?

    In this day and age, corporations are, quite simply put, walking right over common sense. There is no more "customer service", but rather corporations simply see us all as resources to be mined.

    When these people no longer see reason, no longer work to provide a product without stifling the competition, then "Intellectual Disobedience" is the ONLY route left to address the situation.

    If by "Intellectual Disobediance", you mean "allegedly violating their patent by distributing Linux access to FAT in major products", then your theory doesn't appear to work. Far from disrupting Microsoft, in the manner of civil disobedience, it just lets their lawyers think "woot, more revenue streams after we've won the first patent lawsuit!" If your complaint is that they see us as resources to be mined, then the solution is unlikely to be just to give them more resources to mine... you actually need to work out how to prevent the mining.

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