Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Linux Business

GPL Case Against Danish Satellite Provider 297

Posted by timothy
from the hey-bub-that's-a-license-you're-sittin'-on dept.
Rohde writes "The number of satellite and cable boxes on the Danish market using Linux has significantly increased during the last couple of years. The providers Viasat, Yousee and Stofa all provide HD receivers based on Linux, and all of them fail to provide the source code or make customers aware of the fact that the units are based on GPL licensed software. I decided it was time to fix this situation and luckily the Danish legal company BvHD has decided to take the case. We are starting with Viasat, which distributes a Samsung box including middleware and security from NDS, and you can follow the case here."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

GPL Case Against Danish Satellite Provider

Comments Filter:
  • by Scotch42 (1120577) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @01:20AM (#29081307) Homepage

    at some stage, manufacturers will realize the hidden cost of using GNU/Linux in their embedded platforms... For commodity gadgets and tools, it will not be an issue to share the internals are the hardware will be the added value. But for unique items that should not be the case and therefore some other toolkit with no ogligation to share modifications should be preferred.

    And I'm making my living with GNU/Linux tools only ;-)

    More often, I see my customers using GNU/Linux because it's without licenses to pay for the final product. But they do not realize theyr obligation to share... And it'is very difficult to educate them.

    Does fellows /.ers have similar issue with customer?

    • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Sunday August 16, 2009 @02:53AM (#29081589) Journal

      some other toolkit with no ogligation to share modifications should be preferred.

      Perhaps. But I don't actually see this problem a lot...

      For example, if they're actually modifying the kernel, they could use whatever trick nVidia uses to get around the GPL and insert binary blobs. But most of the time, they shouldn't need to modify the kernel, or at least, any modifications they do make wouldn't be considered "secret sauce" anyway.

      But in most of these cases, it's reasonable to put most of it in userland, and to link only against LGPL stuff, if that -- plenty of BSD and MIT stuff that might be useful.

      And I'm making my living with GNU/Linux tools only ;-)

      That makes your post particularly disturbing.

      Perhaps it wasn't your intent, but you've given the impression that simply using Linux will force everything to be open source, and that's simply not the case.

      • by JohnFluxx (413620) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @04:28AM (#29081871)

        > For example, if they're actually modifying the kernel, they could use whatever trick nVidia uses to get around the GPL and insert binary blobs

        It's not clear that what nVidia do is actually legal, and nVidia have a fairly strong case that it's legal because they have cross-platform code which originated in Windows. This brings a strong case that they aren't derived from the linux kernel.

      • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

        Tivo.

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @07:59AM (#29082653) Journal

        For example, if they're actually modifying the kernel, they could use whatever trick nVidia uses to get around the GPL and insert binary blobs

        No they couldn't. The legality of nVidia's trick hinges on the fact that:

        1. Their code is not Linux-specific (except the shim, which they do open source) and so can not be argued as a derived work of Linux.
        2. They do not distribute the Linux kernel itself.

        Point number one means that they don't need to abide by the GPL to distribute just their code. The second point is also important because, even though they don't need to apply the GPL to their own code to distribute it, they do need to apply the GPL to the combined work of Linux and their driver (and, therefore, a GPL-compatible license to their own code) if they want to distribute them together. This company is distributing Linux and so has to apply a GPL-compatible license to any modifications that they do distribute.

      • kernel modules (Score:3, Interesting)

        by crow (16139)

        The whole argument that kernel modules must be GPL is seriously flawed. A kernel module is just another application that the OS can run, albeit by a different API at a different security level.

        There is some issue of compiling against the kernel header files (which I believe are GPL, not LGPL), but arguably, they're defining the API, not generating code, so the resulting code should still not infringe on the Linux copyright or be considered a derivative work.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        No. They can't. NVidia very carefully does not _publish_ kernels with the modifications. They publish a downloadable patch that you must manually apply on top of your existing kerneal, and the agreement on that patch says you _may not_ distribute it as part of a kernel.

        Sending boxes to people's homes pre-installed with non-GPL modifications would be a much more blatant GPL violation, because it would constitute distribution of the "tainted" kernel, rather than allowing people to taint their own kernels. The

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Nobody ever mentions Sky+ box (owned by rupert murdoch - probably at least a million of them in the UK) but I'm pretty sure that (1) it is built on linux (2) the community would benefit from some mods they do
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by blowdart (31458)
        "Pretty sure"? Google doesn't agree, in fact I can't find any proof or even discussion of what OS the Sky+ box uses. Under the hood it's an XTV device [nds.com], which runs, according to XTV "IXI-Connect OS(TM)".
    • by IBitOBear (410965) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @04:06AM (#29081819) Homepage Journal

      In point of fact there is _nothing_ "hidden" about the cost of using GPL software in a product.

      If you go the Microsoft Wince (I didn't name it 8-) route, you pay many dollars up-front, and some dollars per-unit.

      You go GPL you pay nothing up front and pay full disclosure on the back end per unit.

      The whole problem is the perception that this is "hidden" in the first place. When the tech people sell the GPL software to their managers they, in their naiveté, usually don't know to make a distinction between free(beer) and free(open).

      Once the programmers, and indeed people like you, understand enough to present the cost/benefit analysis as it truly is, then this may stop happening.

      Don't even think _hidden_, don't fool yourself or others. It's right there in the language of the GPL plain as day. Just like it's supposed to be. And thats the good thing that separates it from the BSD license which has no cost at all. That is the _whole_ reason to pick one over another as a licensor.

      Hence "copyleft" instead of "public domain" etc.

    • by jimicus (737525) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @05:14AM (#29082025)

      I don't think people are going to go back to rolling their own in the embedded market - anyone with any experience in embedded software development will tell you that Linux makes life a hell of a lot easier because all of a sudden a lot of things you would otherwise have to write from scratch are basically included. And it can be a lot of work to port a userland package developed for Linux to something like VxWorks.

      Coming at it from another angle, every couple of years there's an article about how even in the Western world, some absurdly large proportion of companies use pirated software. What makes you think that the GPL will make them suddenly compliant?

      What I think is more likely is that companies will start to take licensing seriously. For instance, my current employer is careful to architect our design so that anything we don't want to reveal to the world is a pure user-land tool without GPL dependencies. But in auditing our code, we've come across quite a few open-source projects which have borrowed from each other without first checking that their licenses are cross-compatible.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I don't think people are going to go back to rolling their own in the embedded market - anyone with any experience in embedded software development will tell you that Linux makes life a hell of a lot easier because all of a sudden a lot of things you would otherwise have to write from scratch are basically included. And it can be a lot of work to port a userland package developed for Linux to something like VxWorks.

        The key part of the embedded market is that it is teh device and support, not the software per se, that is valuable. TIVO offers a user experience that's worth $14 a month to many people; even if I rolled my own TIVO the cost to replicate that experience is so high that it makes no sense to try to compete with them. Similarly a controller is often a critical part of a process system, and companies want assurances it will work properly; and aren't interested in the cheap knockoff with the same software. S

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        But in auditing our code, we've come across quite a few open-source projects which have borrowed from each other without first checking that their licenses are cross-compatible

        That's not always obvious. For example, I've contributed the same code under an MIT license to one project and GPLv3+runtime exemption to another project. If you compared the project licenses, you might think that the MIT-licensed project copied the GPL'd code and relicensed it, but if you check the author of the code in both cases you will see that this was done legally (because I retain copyright and can relicense the code however I please).

    • by cas2000 (148703) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @06:19AM (#29082201)

      at some stage, manufacturers will realize the hidden cost of using GNU/Linux in their embedded platforms..

      what hidden cost?

      it couldn't be more fucking obvious what the "cost" of using GPL software is - release the source under the same conditions (GPL) that you got it under.

      these companies just want to reap the benefits of GPL software without living up their part part of the bargain.

      they are parasites.

      ps: you're right. linux is not "freeware". freeware is proprietary garbage that happens to cost nothing. linux is Free Software instead - high quality open source.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hurricane78 (562437)

      It's not a hidden cost. It's the (arguably hidden) protection from the company scamming you and locking you in, etc.
      You just can't do some things, when everybody can read the source. But that doesn't mean that it is acceptable to do those things in the first place. To me they are crimes. And in closed source products they are only more easily hidden.

      I'd go so far as to say, that if a company uses closed source, it is a big indicator, that they want to rip you off and somehow trick you in some crooked way. A

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @10:19AM (#29083551) Homepage

        Exactly. Panasonic uses linux in ALL of it's HDTV's the TV tells you it has linux, the manuals talk about linux and the GPL. and their website has links to what I need.

        If a company cant do that, then they are scumbags. Most HDTV's and DVD, BluRay players run linux. In fact more people run linux in their home than windows because of how pervasive it is in the Embedded market. 90% of the companies out there can easily comply with the GPL, This one can easily do the same.

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @01:28AM (#29081335) Homepage

    Nowhere does TFA provide information on exactly which part of the GPL code the guy is claiming copyright ownership.

    You can't sue for GPL violations if you have no claim of copyright over atleast some part of the GPL licensed product.

    • by Zerth (26112) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @01:38AM (#29081375)

      In some countries, law firms are allowed to sue on the behalf of copyright owners on their own initiative, much like how you can be brought up on assault charges by the state in some countries even if the person you hit wanted you to do so.

    • by PAjamian (679137)

      There is likely to be a few things in there that are copyright the FSF and they would be more than happy to pursue copyright violations.

    • by 49152 (690909)

      Maybe TFA has been changed?

      But if you read the link 'follow the case here' [duff.dk] it clearly states which part of the linux kernel he is claiming copyright on.

      He also ask for other copyright holders to join him.

  • by JimboFBX (1097277)
    So if sell someone a box with a linux distribution installed on it do I need to print out all of that distribution's source code and ship it with the computer as well? If I make software that runs on a linux distribution and set linux to run that software at boot-up does that mean I'm really altering linux itself?

    If I pay a lawyer enough money will they always take my case?
    • by dnaumov (453672)

      So if sell someone a box with a linux distribution installed on it do I need to print out all of that distribution's source code and ship it with the computer as well?

      No, you don't have to print it all out. Including a download link to the source code somewhere in the documentation is definately good enough.

      If I make software that runs on a linux distribution and set linux to run that software at boot-up does that mean I'm really altering linux itself?

      It doesn't matter. Does your software link against any GPL'ed software? If yes, you need to make the source to your changes available.

      • by PAjamian (679137)

        Including a download link to the source code somewhere in the documentation is definately good enough.

        If you're distributing a box with Linux on it you can't expect the person who recieves it to have access to the internet to be able to download the source. You have to provide a written offer, valid for three years, to provide the source code if requested for reasonable distribution costs.

    • by dissy (172727)

      So if sell someone a box with a linux distribution installed on it do I need to print out all of that distribution's source code and ship it with the computer as well?

      No.

      Any bits of it you modified, you have to provide those modifications as source, but only to the people you gave the binary to.
      There can even be a fee for delivering the source (But not one greater than the cost of the binary the source is for, or something similar but not exactly that. Consult the GPL if that is an actual concern.)
      Typically a link on a webpage, or an attachment by email reply, is fine. Generally the first option will be more convenient for you if you have anything but a very tiny custo

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        Any bits of it you modified, you have to provide those modifications as source

        You have to offer to supply the source for all GPL software, not just your changes.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by dissy (172727)

          You have to offer to supply the source for all GPL software, not just your changes.

          Just because such a comment will get you modded up on slashdot, does not make it true.

          http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html [gnu.org]

          If I write a driver for Linux, and it is GPLed, all that is required of me is to release the source code for that driver.
          I do NOT, i repeat NOT, have to provide an entire mirror of ftp.kernel.org, nor a mirror of the FSF code base, nor am I expected to provide the source code to your pet GPL project, if I do not distribute any of that stuff as a binary!

          It is not possible to expect th

    • Re:Huh (Score:4, Informative)

      by BlueParrot (965239) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @02:04AM (#29081437)

      So if sell someone a box with a linux distribution installed on it do I need to print out all of that distribution's source code and ship it with the computer as well? If I make software that runs on a linux distribution and set linux to run that software at boot-up does that mean I'm really altering linux itself?

      If you sell somebody a box with linux on it you need to at the minimum include a statement in the user manual which more or less says "This box has some GPL licensed software installed on it. You can obtain the source-code from the following website and you are free to modify it under certain conditions. Please see the complete license for more details."

      Alternatively you can include a CD with the source code, or load the source code into the box's harddrive ( provided it is readily retrievable ). Basically you just need to make the customer aware you use GPL software on the box and tell them how to obtain the source code from you. There's various ways to do that but the easiest is probably to either include the source on a CD or to upload it to your website and tell the customer they can retrieve it from there. The main problem with the latter approach is that the GPL requires you to keep the source available for some years (can't remember how many ) and thus you may find it easier to just give the user a CD with the source code since you are then not obliged to keep a server running.

      • Re:Huh (Score:4, Informative)

        by 49152 (690909) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @03:47AM (#29081769)

        Not exactly correct

        You only need to provide source code when ASKED for it. There is no requirement in the GPL to pro-actively distribute the source code along with the binaries nor that they must be available for download on the Internet. The good old CD in the mail system is fine. You might even charge for CD and postage.

        However, if you do not include source code in the distribution then you need to provide a written offer valid for at least three years to provide anyone who possesses the object code a copy of the corresponding source code.

        The reason most compliant companies chose to either include the source or just put it on their corporate web page is because this is easier in the first place than to handle potentially thousands of letters asking for the source later.

        • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

          by 49152 (690909)

          Must be something wrong with my reading comprehension today. I now see you start your post with suggesting a written offer in the user manual. Which would be more than good enough to stay GPL compliant.

          Sorry for the noise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by slash.duncan (1103465)

      So if sell someone a box with a linux distribution installed on it do I need to print out all of that distribution's source code and ship it with the computer as well?

      You don't need to print it out. In fact, that would be discouraged and may not meet the requirements of being in a customary format (too lazy to go look up the specific GPL wording ATM, but electronic format would be encouraged, dead tree format discouraged as it has to be converted back to electronic format for use), today. You do, however, need to make the sources available -- and no, pointing at upstream doesn't suffice, except "in the trivial case". (Again, I'm not going to go look up the details, but

  • You sure are generous. This smells more like troll than do gooder. I thought the States held the award for being sue happy. kudos to you for bringing it to the old country. IMHO you are poorly representing the GPL. We want friends and converts, not enemies. Email, call, send certified mail, not lawsuits. Sueing them makes you and us look like fuckwits.

    Sera
    • by rohde (1618993) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @02:15AM (#29081463)
      The company NDS that actually does most of the software on the box and tracked me down actually had 1 month to come up with an excuse for why the box violated GPL. I had direct contact with one of their representatives. They failed to give me any answer. I then contact the satellite provider using certified mail and wait 13 days for their answer. How long should I wait for this to be fair? The Danish providers have ignored GPL for years and I am pretty sure they know it. It would be nice of them to at least contact me and say we are working on it.
      • I put cash money down on a physical server with 1T of 15k rpm spinning disks 3 days ago. If said server gets here in 6 weeks I will be happy. The job that it is meant to fill might be ready in 3 months. To be frank, the world works slower than you do, get used to it.

        Sera
        • by Splab (574204) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @02:55AM (#29081597)

          Good for you, but here in Denmark things works differently. 2 weeks notice is plenty of time, often people just go straight to Fogedretten and gets injunctions against the offending parties.

        • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Sunday August 16, 2009 @03:00AM (#29081609) Journal

          I put cash money down on a physical server with 1T of 15k rpm spinning disks 3 days ago. If said server gets here in 6 weeks I will be happy.

          Erm... Why does your supplier suck so much?

          Seriously, Newegg carries this kind of stuff, and I've never seen them take more than a few days. Granted, Newegg also doesn't provide the kind of service I'm sure your supplier does, but really, six weeks? WTF are they doing for six weeks?

          To be frank, the world works slower than you do, get used to it.

          An appropriate response here is often: s/get used to it/do something about it/g.

          • Yeah. 24/7 with a 1 hour outage guarantee is worth 6 weeks wait. Having any hardware replaced within an hour 24/7/365.25 is totally worth the wait. NewEgg wont come close to that. We run a business here, not an anime fanboi site.
            • by 49152 (690909)

              If they really need 6 weeks to deliver the server how do you expect them to be able to replace any part of it within one hour at a later time?

              That does not make much sense.

      • On an unrelated note, thanks for publishing the details of the case in English, and I hope you'll keep giving updates in English.

        There have been several of these cases in Germany, and the details have only been published in German, which means 99% of the world won't get to hear about them.

        Rich.

        • by 49152 (690909)

          Just to nitpick a bit.

          The correct number should be 97% or 94% if you limit yourself to the "Internet population" and not the global population.

          You might find it interesting that about 70% of Internet users would not have understood the article in English either.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

      ``We want friends and converts, not enemies. Email, call, send certified mail, not lawsuits. Sueing them makes you and us look like fuckwits.''

      Yes. On the other hand, how many notices do companies still need to get? They get the license itself (which they should have read - without the license, they would be infringing on your copyright by distributing your software), the short summary of the license (not legally binding, but makes the conditions pretty clear to anyone who bothers to read it), and, by now,

      • How many do you want them to respond to?

        This guy sent a mail, wasn't satisfied - in 13 days, then sued.

        By all means nail the GPL violators, but yeesh give them a chance to come clean first.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

          ``This guy sent a mail, wasn't satisfied - in 13 days, then sued.

          By all means nail the GPL violators, but yeesh give them a chance to come clean first.''

          I don't disagree, I'm just saying that they've had that chance. It didn't start with that letter. The right of the company to distribute software it does not have the copyright to starts with a license from the copyright holder. So their first chance to do it right would have to either distribute the software under the terms of the GPL, or obtain a

  • They use customized Linux [wikipedia.org] ([archived page with details] [archive.org]) and don't even bother to provide the source with each copy.

    What's worse, they change copyright notices [livejournal.com] of existing programs to their employees and do not include GPL license text in their "distribution".

    Is it a GPL violation? They don't distribute MSVS outside of MoD and its numerous branches (state companies) - you can't neither buy nor download the system. Is it Ok to do the aforementioned things then?
  • How would one find out that a box someone distributes runs Linux?

  • Reasons why they may not be able to comply with the GPL:
    1.3rd party hardware info they cant share (sattelite receiver chips, hardware video decoders, smart cards/smart card slots etc)
    2.Sharing the GPL bits may help hackers figure out how to talk to the smart cards (either in the box or in a custom hardware rig) and from there hack the DRM and get free service.
    3.Protecting the channels (for example, kernel source may show how video gets passed to the hardware video decoder or the TV encoder, both of which ar

    • by Spad (470073)

      1. If any of the 3rd party materials violate the GPL then as distributers of the device it's their responsibility to ensure that the whole thing is legally compliant, just as they would with any proprietary code, before they start selling it.

      2. "It might affect our profits" is not a sound legal defence.

      3. See 2

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dog-Cow (21281)

      Those would be reasons they don't want to comply. Not reasons they are unable to.

      It seems to me that a simple solution is to make it legal to pirate (to use the vernacular) any content received with these boxes. Actually encode into law that any media transmitted to these boxes automatically enters the public domain for as long as the software's license is violated. They'd clean up really fast or lose their market.

    • by PAjamian (679137) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @05:54AM (#29082137)

      If they do not comply, regardless of the reason, then they do not have any license to redistribute the GPLed software at all.

      If they cannot comply then they will end up having to pay punitive damages to the copyright holders of the software that they illegally distributed and cease any further distribution of the software.

      You cannot simply ignore the GPL because it doesn't fit with your other contractual obligations. The copyright holders were not a party to those other contracts and so the existence of them does not free the distributors of their GPL obligations.

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @05:08AM (#29082007) Homepage
    I don't understand why the embedded systems world hasn't embraced one of the *BSDs, to avoid this kind of thing?
    • by DaleGlass (1068434) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @06:52AM (#29082309) Homepage

      Well, if I was doing a router I wouldn't go with BSD, because:

      1. If you contribute back, any contribution is going to be free for all. Which means that if Linksys contributes something, Netgear automatically gets to use it without any strings attached in their next product. If it happens that Linksys got something almost right, and Netgear managed to polish it to perfection in a few days, then Netgear just gained a really cool feature, courtesy of Linksys, and Linksys doesn't get to see how they did it.

      2. If you don't contribute back, you now have to maintain an internal fork. This is not very easy, since the people doing the public development don't know or care about what you're doing, and are perfectly free to introduce changes that completely break your modifications.

      3. If you release your changes under the GPL, the BSD supporters will whine about it for weeks.

      4. A lot of stuff out there is targeted to Linux. There's lots of software that doesn't build cleanly on Solaris due to applications using GNU extensions. I imagine the same goes for BSD as well.

  • I work for NDS... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 16, 2009 @06:48AM (#29082289)

    ... and I call bullshit on his story of "NDS investigators". What we do, we do well, and what we don't, we stay out of.

    As far as technical details: no kernel changes were made; the drivers are non-GPLed, using a small GPL'ed wrapper layer. The NDS software, which on these boxes runs entirely in user-space, is linked against the LGPL'ed uClibc. Busybox is used on the STB. All of the "glue" (such as busybox, boot scripts, etc) are provided by the broadcaster, STB manufacturer, and/or chipset vendor.

    The bootloader is not based on any Linux code.

    • Re:I work for NDS... (Score:5, Informative)

      by rohde (1618993) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @08:03AM (#29082681)
      Well if you call bullshit on my story with the "NDS investigators" then please back it up. You should probably be able to figure out who they are and get their side of the story. If not then I can supply you with their business cards.
      You say that no kernel changes were made. Could you then please explain why it is named 2.6.12-4.0-brcmstb?
      You also know that doing a static link against LGPL forces you to at least share object files?
      Who actually does the "glue" is really not interesting in the case as the provider (in this case Viasat) must comply with GPL. It is not my job to contact every company on earth to get hold of the parts.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Aggrajag (716041)

        Looks like it is using same kernel as Zinwell's STB's and they have been more
        than unhelpful with people asking them to comply with GPL.

    • Re:I work for NDS... (Score:5, Informative)

      by rohde (1618993) on Sunday August 16, 2009 @08:30AM (#29082787)
      Btw I forgot to thank you for pointing out the fact that NDS has thought about the GPL and for confirming the box indeed carries GPL'ed software.
      The module you are referring to is probably callisto_gpl.ko. I find it noble that you like to use GPL'ed software, but try to come up with clever ways to work around the intentions of GPL.
      But since everything apparently is thought through I do not see any real problems in complying with GPL. Then the community can perhaps start thinking of ways to get around all the obstacles put inside the box to disallow changes to the software.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica (681592) *

        Btw I forgot to thank you for pointing out the fact that NDS has thought about the GPL and for confirming the box indeed carries GPL'ed software.

        But it's not very useful coming from an Anonymous Coward, unless you intend to subpoena Slashdot...

        By the way, I'd like to humbly suggest as a general bit of informal advice: Please proceed as politely, obligingly, and scrupulously methodically as possible, so that your case is as strong as possible. For example, even though you may be quite justified in expecting

Old programmers never die, they just branch to a new address.

Working...