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Australia Open Source Linux

Telstra Violating the GPL? 197

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-playing-by-the-rules dept.
daria42 writes "It looks like Australia's largest telco, Telstra, hasn't exactly been paying attention to its responsibilities under the GNU GPL. Australian coder Angus Gratton has been investigating the company's branded T-Hub, T-Box and T-Touch products — all based on Linux, and all without any source code or GPL license attached. Naughty. However, it's not as though Telstra is the only one to blame — the goods are manufactured by Sagem, Netgem and Huawei respectively." Telstra responded quickly to Gratton's claims, saying they would work with the vendors to straighten out the licensing situation and fix any compliance issues.
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Telstra Violating the GPL?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @06:22AM (#34171600)

    In Australia Telstra is the villain that everyone loves to hate. But in this case, it is not really their problem. They paid some OEM for a branded product that I very much doubt they had that much invested in. This is really a minor oversight that has been turned into a story.

  • Re:Hanlons Razor (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @07:03AM (#34171770)

    Worker: There might be a licensing issue that we need to look at.
    Manager: OK, send a message to legal and ask them to look in to it when they have some time over.

    The reason they haven't done anything about it is probably because they were to busy doing things that actually results in profit.
    So, what is evil? Do you think Mr. Überevil from the movies really exists, the persons who tortures people, not because it gives them a hardon but because it is just evil. The kind of evil that will destroy the world, not out of profit but because it is the evil thing to do?

    No, this is a company that just like every other company prioritized profit before what is right. It is the most common form of evil and the kind that harms us the most.

  • by abhi_beckert (785219) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @07:04AM (#34171772)

    Telstra should get a serious ass kicking over this. The amount of money they've spent on advertising alone for this product line wipes out any possible "we didn't know" excuse.

    They had to have been told, by multiple lawyers, that this is happening.

    If an ordinary person can get fined millions of dollars for minor IP violations, then a corporation the size of Telstra should be fined tens of billions for knowingly violating the GPL in a flagship product. But of course, the law is never fair.

  • by jgreco (1542031) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @07:06AM (#34171778)

    If Toyota were to slyly use GPL'd code in some part of one of their vehicles, it probably would be ridiculous to try to make the case that the local privately-owned Toyota dealership had failed to live up to its responsibilities under the GNU GPL, even though they were the one that sold you the car. In all likelihood, the dealership has no clue about where the code in the car's processors ultimately comes from, because only Toyota would have source code for the stuff.

    It would be helpful to remember that Telstra might similarly have contracted out to have some Internet appliances made; if the manufacturers didn't tell Telstra that the code was legally encumbered, then you wind up in this sort of situation, with no intentional malfeasance on the part of Telstra, and lots of confusion when you start making accusations.

    The idea of holding the seller responsible for a manufacturer's use of GPL code is interesting. I'm pretty sure our local retail stores sell things like generic DSL modems and wireless access points without providing access to the source code. I'm positive that the local T-Mobile reseller who rents a kiosk at the mall had no idea he was required to provide access to source code for the T-Mobile WRT54G-TM's that were being sold a year or two ago. He was selling products in a box, there are no markings on the box that would indicate encumbered GPL code was in use, etc. It would be interesting to see if a case had ever been brought against such a retailer.

    The Telstra case may well lie somewhere in the middle; their engineering department was probably aware of the design of the devices at some level.

    I'm sure this will be read as an anti-GPL message by some zealot with an angry mod finger, but come on people, let's at least try to be fair and openminded. Telstra can be damned if and when the facts are established that they willfully and knowingly violated the GPL.

  • by dattaway (3088) * on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @07:15AM (#34171814) Homepage Journal

    In your analogy of Toyota distributing cars without following terms of the license, the dealer is NOT authorized to distribute under terms of the license. It becomes a copyright violation. The GPL is very clear about this.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @07:28AM (#34171862)
    ignorance is no excuse. I've been told this by a judge while in court. Time for a Judge to tell Telstra.
  • by kevingolding2001 (590321) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @07:33AM (#34171880)
    Until my contract ended, I was recently working for a large IT company (50K people worldwide).

    The company did a sales demo recently, and one of the main concerns of the client was that 'we don't use open source in any way'. The client was shit scared of anything to do with 'open source' because they believed that if any were used for anything, suddenly they had to give away all their proprietary secrets to the world.

    I tried to explain the differences between the licenses to my boss (BSD vs. GPL vs. Apache etc) and what the GPL really meant (If you don't distribute you have no problem) but since it was my leaving do and people just wanted to drink beer, I don't think anyone was listening.

    Stories like this about Telstra just pander to the FUDists.

  • by Xugumad (39311) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @07:36AM (#34171890)

    I despair gently over the fact that copyright is /.'s worst enemy 90% of the time, and then someone mentions GPL...

  • by Ginger Unicorn (952287) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @08:11AM (#34172082)
    The GPL is designed to short-circuit copyright and subvert it against itself, so there really is no hypocrisy. In both cases, the "slashdotter" you're complaining about is railing against copyright.
  • by shentino (1139071) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @08:49AM (#34172312)

    Unfortunately, the economics of pre-trial negotiations often boil down to who can survive the gravy drain the longest.

    Until you get to court, it's survival of the fittest, where backstabbing cheating, financial muscles, and outright bribery rule.

    Faceless companies can outspend individuals any day, which is why they often win before the game even starts.

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @09:19AM (#34172498)

    I wonder how many lawyers get paranoid about open source licensing and yet don't bat an eyelid when presented with a business software license that gives the vendor the right to audit the client at any time at any business location to check for license violations, or other such wackiness that you can find on the contracts for super-expensive business software.

    Probably because they are dealing with one specific vendor whom they can reach an agreement with, or go to court against, if they have a contractual dispute; unlike GPL code where many different people who are involved. The first gives them certantity and a familiar set of circumstances while the second looks like anarchy and confusion. Not hard to see which they'd prefer.

  • copyright length (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @09:32AM (#34172636)

    I despair gently over the fact that stupid copyright length is /.'s worst enemy 90% of the time, and then someone mentions GPL...

    FTFY.

    Let's not mention software patents either....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @09:52AM (#34172856)

    They are not responsible for the manufacturer's compliance, they are responsible for theirs. By distributing/redistributing the devices, they are in violation themselves. The GPL permits redistribution, but only on it's terms, so just saying the manufacturer screwed up doesn't let Telstra off the hook.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @12:19PM (#34174820)
    Exactly, I see this same question asked every time there's a debate about copyright or GPL. To me, it's obvious that, in a world without copyright (or at least with sensible copyright) we wouldn't need GPL, it was a response to a broken system, not a bunch of FOSS developers trying to get in on the action. I wish we had a FAQ page for this kind of repeated question.

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