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Linus Says Android License Claim Is 'Bogus' 116

Posted by timothy
from the who-is-this-linus-guy-and-what-does-he-know dept.
jbrodkin writes "Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds has scoffed at a new claim that Android violates the Linux license. Google's use of the Bionic Library does not result in a derivative work that has to be licensed under GPL, as some lawyers are claiming, Torvalds says. 'It seems totally bogus,' Torvalds said. 'We've always made it very clear that the kernel system call interfaces do not in any way result in a derived work as per the GPL.' While some claims against Android can be dismissed outright, Google and its partners still must fend off patent lawsuits filed by rivals Microsoft and Oracle."
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Linus Says Android License Claim Is 'Bogus'

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  • What? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The character from Peanuts says this?
  • So I forget (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Master Moose (1243274) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:12PM (#35581620) Homepage

    Am I praising Google, or hating them today? It seems so hard to keep up with the trends. . .

    • Re:So I forget (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CrazyDuke (529195) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:17PM (#35581654)

      Stop trying to make the world fit your ego and learn to accept facts as facts.

      • Stop trying to make the world fit your ego and learn to accept facts as facts.

        Facts don't get the word 'insightful' next to your name.

      • by umghhh (965931)
        what are those facts you are talking about? I mean this subject is a lawyers' playground thus talking about facts is really not in place.
        • by CrazyDuke (529195)

          Just because the article is about opinion and legal maneuvering does not mean it is devoid of factual information. And frankly, I'm not going to breakdown the construct and spoon feed the individual pieces of factual information particularly to people that do not want to pay attention to it to begin with. But, for instance, it is a fact that those opinions and legal maneuvers exist, regardless of whether or not they end up being rational, true, or just.

          Or, is this going to break down into some kind of nih

      • Stop trying to make the world fit your ego and learn to accept facts as facts.

        Fact is, Android is the best mobile OS at the moment, at least according to people who've had a chance to use the three current contenders. YMMV.

    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      Tuesday, it's praise today.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      We come, not to praise Google, but to bury him.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How about you just stop fucking caring what they do, like I did long ago. I promise it's healthier.

    • Re:So I forget (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:31PM (#35581722)

      it's about openness not a company.

      Allowing interfaces to be copyrighted would threaten many efforts to create competing implemetatins, would threaten projects like wine, other similar project, opem or closed

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        After the PC dies and all we have left are closed DRM platforms, interoperability and ABIs will be dead and irrelevant anyway.

        • ehrm, isn't the biggest producer of PC software (microshaft) also a producer of closed platforms with DRM (Windows)?

          That word, I don't think it means what you think it means.
      • by tao (10867)
        Just posting to revert mistaken moderation :/
      • Actually, if you want the *real* rationale, allowing interfaces to be copyrighted would be a violation of the purpose and intents of copyright. Interfaces are *functional*, not expressive. If anything should cover them it's patents, not copyrights.
    • Re:So I forget (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:52PM (#35581864) Journal

      They did nothing wrong here, so there's no reason to hate.

      They do a lot of things right, and definitely deserve praise for those things.

      They do have their downsides, and you should criticize them for those.

      "Love" and "hate" is for fanbois.

      • Hey, bud. You were the one polluting the other thread that this one debunks with your Linus quotes. How about an "oops, my bad"? Only a couple of days ago you were banging this FUD drum pretty hard.
        • Re:Lest we forget (Score:4, Informative)

          by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @11:24PM (#35582730) Journal

          I did say "oops my bad" in that discussion - more than once, even. I got my facts wrong initially, and was corrected by other posters who pointed out the copyright exception in COPYING file for kernel headers, and noted that in my own replies. You probably didn't read the threads as follow-up comments got posted. Specifically, here [slashdot.org] I corrected myself, noting that app developers definitely wouldn't be affected (and so that part of the story is FUD), but that Google still might be infringing. Then when there was a new story on the subject which dug out that Stallman's old comment where he explained that header file consisting of "structure definitions, typedefs, enumeration constants, macros with simple bodies" is not by itself copyrightable, I posted this comment [slashdot.org] where I plainly admitted that I was wrong before.

          In any case, I don't see anything wrong with setting things right one more time, so here goes: I was wrong when I previously wrote in several Slashdot comments that Android Bionic headers could possibly constitute a derived work from GPL'd Linux kernel headers, and as such would have be licensed under GPL themselves. Consequently, I was also wrong when I wrote that Google was possibly infringing on kernel developers' copyright on those headers by stripping away the GPL copyright comment.

          Well, at least Stallman (and FSF's lawyer) claims otherwise, and now also Linus claims otherwise, and I'm not a lawyer to judge their claims - especially as Linus has a direct stake in all this as a copyright holder of the code in question - so I'll trust their opinions, and assume that I was wrong until there's evidence to the contrary. I apologize if my comments mislead anyone.

          Sounds good?

          • Oops. My bad. (Score:3, Insightful)

            by symbolset (646467) *
            You're right. I missed that. Sorry.
          • Even more to the point, even if Google *is* violating the GPL in some esoteric way on this point, it's pretty immaterial if neither the FSF nor Linus think they are. As those are (as far as I know) the only two people/organizations with the standing to sue over it. This Florian Mueller guy seems like the Fox News of Linux blogs.

            • Even more to the point, even if Google *is* violating the GPL in some esoteric way on this point, it's pretty immaterial if neither the FSF nor Linus think they are. As those are (as far as I know) the only two people/organizations with the standing to sue over it.

              FSF has no standing to sue over it with respect to Linux kernel, because they're not the copyright holders. But they can give legal advice.

              On the other hand, Linus is not the only copyright holder for kernel code - all kernel contributors together are. That's why Linus doesn't voice merely his own personal opinion, but rather the collective one (which is otherwise captured in COPYING).

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          I mistakenly accused him of being a troll - like many people, he knew that the kernel was GPL v2, but not that it was a modified GPL with, among other things, exceptions for userland programs. We both apologized, and it's all good :-)

          I still think slashdot should have diverted some of the effort they put into messing up the user interface into giving us a way to edit comments so as to avoid the avoidable flame wars.

          More interesting, if you go to the original source [itworld.com], you get this quote from Linus:

          I don't see what the whole brouhaha would be all about. Except if it's somebody politically motivated (or motivated by some need of attention).

          If it's some desperate cry for attention by somebody, I just wish those people would release their own sex tapes or something, rather than drag the Linux kernel into their sordid world.

          Maybe

    • Just re-adjust their position on the scale - still above M$ & Apple & below OSF, Mozilla

    • by 517714 (762276)
      I was wondering the same about Mi©®$oft. The is their FUD against Google, Android and Linux. So hate MS, praise Google, and make up something Off Topic about iPhone.
      • by umghhh (965931)
        speaking of which - I just saw on BBC that Apple sued Amazon [bbc.co.uk] I wonder - do they actually produce anything these days or just outsource stuff (should be staff I guess) and hire lawyers? In any case I think more and more that the products of fruit company are for people with small penises - I mean one cannot explain all this hoo ha about their products in any other way or?
  • Fud... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:13PM (#35581630)

    So, one more FUD refuted. Now Microsoft and Apple shills will have to look for something else.

    Seriously. A lot of media pundits are nothing but paid writers employed by major companies - this is especially true for Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft seems to have been getting better slowly, but Apple is a whole different story.

    *awaits troll moderation*

    • Would Microsoft lie to make more money?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        "Would Microsoft lie to make more money?"

        No never and nothing in their history would demonstrate that...?? link [groklaw.net]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Schuthrax (682718)

      While I wouldn't mod you down, I wouldn't mod you insightful. Maybe a bit trollish. I see that MS has a lawsuit going and they are being cagey about it, but has Apple attacked Google about Android? Hm...

      Keep in mind, LINAL (Linus is not a lawyer...)

      • by peragrin (659227)

        Yes Apple is suing HTC and motorola, over android.

        that way Apple can sue over both hardware and software patents.

        I like many things apple," but I really hate the I patented a blue widget lets sue them since they are using a green widget that works the same way mentality"

    • >. A lot of media pundits are nothing but paid writers employed by major companies -

      You should check out The Province http://www.theprovince.com/ [theprovince.com] when a new Apple toy is introduced or updated. Last iPad2 intro was on the front page as a main story for about 3-4 days. Yup more important when local and national news. Which plays into The Province pushing for viewers to read their site through an app. Yes you too can get your The Province website through an app.

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        "The Province"? I would have never guessed that was BC. Kind of like Ohio calling its major newspaper "The State".

        I guess they are going pro-Apple to try to prove Vancouver isn't just a suburb of Seattle? ;-P

    • by sco08y (615665) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @12:44AM (#35583020)

      Seriously. A lot of media pundits are nothing but paid writers employed by major companies

      Wait.

      Stop.

      You mean journalists work for companies?! And get paid?

      Holy mother of all fucking conspiracies, Batman.

    • by janoc (699997)

      I wonder why anyone still takes this Florian Mueller guy seriously.

      His fantasy claims were debunked several times already, his blog posts (yes, it is a blog!) are poorly researched sensationalist junk and he still gets the attention of the press? Reminds of the SCO saga reporting :(

  • Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by datatrond (1335087) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:18PM (#35581662) Homepage
    This might be the most interesting post this week. Will be exciting to see how this ends. Anyway, can anyone tell me ONE (1) person, company, product, service, license or ANYTHING else which someone is able to make money on that are NOT having a long tail of lawsuits..? ;-) Kind regards, Trond
    • I thought that this was the modern way of doing business. . Rather than competing by supplying a better product/service/price it is better to prevent competition by tying those that would be competing with you up in the courts.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        To be fair, you can only depress the price of a good or service so much by offshoring work, at some point you need to find something else to do, and lowering executive pay packages doesn't count.

      • by jimicus (737525)

        While that's the sort of thing that people love to trot out on /., it's mostly misinformed.

        For the most part, the people who make money out of lawsuits are the lawyers. As far as many other businesses are concerned, taking someone to court is a damage-limitation exercise. You don't do it to make money, you do it to recoup some of your losses and/or to make a public example of the fact that you are prepared to do so.

        There's a bunch of reasons for this, but the biggest one is simple: While you've got peopl

  • It seems like that would be the last word on any possible Linux claims, if Linus is still the copyright owner for Linux (assuming that is true?).

    The GPL does not mean there is not copyright owner, just that you can continue to adapt the work as required subject to conditions of the license.

    • Actually everybody who has contributed to the file are copyright holders (Linus being just one of them).
      • To be pedantic, not necessarily. IANAL but there's a good chance that the contributor of a kernel patch submitted it as part of his/her job. So there's a slim chance that the (GPL'ed) copyright belongs to the Company not the contributor as a person. There's also the matter of copyright assignment, but I've read that Linus (or the Linux Foundation) isn't as strict about that, as, say the GNU Project.
        • I'll keep up the pedantry long enough to say that if someone is contributing something "as part of their job", it is the company doing the submitting via their employee as agent, so it's still the case the contributor owns the copyright. Now, if someone independently contributes something that they created for their employer, that's a different story with all sorts of variables.

    • by F.Ultra (1673484)
      It doesn't matter who has the copyright because Linus changed the license text to allow linking with the syscall interface back in the beginning, so everything is covered by that license until it is changed, and everyone submitting code does so knowingly that it will be released under that very license.
    • by dzfoo (772245)

      In the original article (which took three links to get to), Linus says that there are parts of the kernel that are protected, only those areas intended for user-space are free to use without limitations. He further admits that he has not seen exactly what Google has done, but he seems confident that they would not be using those protected parts because they are only for the kernel and make no sense for user-space.

      The implications is that if Google did in fact used those protected kernel-specific definition

      • by greed (112493)

        It still doesn't matter if Google is including kernel-specific definitions. As long as they are interface definitions, they cannot be protected by copyright, as they are not creative works. They are simply statements of facts, like:

        void snd_emu8000_ops_setup(emu8000_t *emu);

        That's not copyrightable, and it's not useful in user-space. (It's from code not even compiled on my version of RHEL.) Putting a copyright notice on the file doesn't make factual information copyright; it indicates who holds the c

  • And Microslop and all the others are afraid. Very afraid. Go Google, run them all out of town.
  • His opinion on this matter is the opinion of one man. And his opinion's in no way privileged. He's definitely not the sole copyright owner of Linux rights, so Linus is unable to make a statement about the disposition of Google's activities that would be binding on all the copyright owners.

    Last I checked Torvalds was a Software engineer/Hacker not a legal scholar or lawyer with tons of experience with the GPL and Intellectual property law.

    Not to discount Linus, but I think RMS or FSF lawyers would be m

    • by Anonymous Coward

      And his opinion's in no way privileged.

      I think RMS or FSF lawyers would be more qualified than Linus to speak on this particular area.

      I laughed. Thanks for the humor.

    • by Rennt (582550)
      You are of course technically correct (the best kind of correct) - from a legal perspective. But you can't so easily hand-wave away Torvalds' influence - especially over the kernel hackers who share copyright. What the man says on the subject carries a lot of weight.
    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @11:29PM (#35582752)

      His opinion on this matter is the opinion of one man. And his opinion's in no way privileged. He's definitely not the sole copyright owner of Linux rights, so Linus is unable to make a statement about the disposition of Google's activities that would be binding on all the copyright owners.

      Linus did not say "Anything Google does is fine with all the copyright owners." He did very specifically address the issues with the Bionic library and the API calls. As a software engineer and the founder of Linux, he would know exactly what the entailed. Specifically in the summary above he clearly denotes that.

      Because whether Google could be held in violation of the GPL or not is ultimately going to be up to the lawyers, and the question will only really even be raised if a copyright owner is raising a stink and intends to seek legal remedy.

      Only no one who ever wrote any of the Linux code is claiming that Google did anything wrong. It's hard to have lawyers when there are no clients. Right now the case against Google is with Oracle. All these Linux matters are being brought up as FUD.

      • by mysidia (191772) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @11:49PM (#35582828)

        Right now the case against Google is with Oracle. All these Linux matters are being brought up as FUD.

        Oracle? Oracle has about as much right to slam Google of violationg the GPL as Satan would have slamming St. Peter for allegedly having coveted his neighbor's Xbox 360.

        When it comes to Open source development, Oracle is akin to the planet killer from the StarTrek season 2, episode #35 The Doomsday Machine.

        As in... Oracle is a giant open source project eater. They buy out valuable open source sponsors, and spit out s****. Look at their track record: Sleepycat Software (BerkelyDB), Innobase (InnoDB), Sun (Java, OpenSolaris, MySQL, Glassfish)

        What do we have to show for it? Open source projects vanishing or perverted. In all likelihood these will all soon show to be abandonware or obsoleted.

        Hell... OpenSolaris is already dead not just in theory.

        And Java is on its way out, due to the way Oracle's f"""cking up suing folks over adapting Java to their needs.... (what happened to 'open source'... 'community'?)

        Sun forums going away..... Oracle not talking to the community, except in marketing faux blogs.

        Translation; Oracle.......... "Open source community"; except the community's being taken out, oh, and by the way, the source / development isn't open anymore.

        • Errr? In my world I remember something about Oracle suing Google over Java copyrights and patents [cnet.com]. Java is licensed under the GPL. Everything in the rest of your post is somewhat hazy.
    • by symbolset (646467) *
      Thanks for the laugh. That was really cute.
    • Not to discount Linus, but I think RMS or FSF lawyers would be more qualified than Linus to speak on this particular area.

      While I agree with you completely, as cited in TFA, RMS states the following:

      I've talked with our lawyer about one specific issue that you raised: that of using simple material from header files. Someone recently made the claim that including a header file always makes a derivative work. That's not the FSF's view. Our view is that just using structure definitions, typedefs, enumeration constants, macros with simple bodies, etc., is NOT enough to make a derivative work. It would take a substantial amount of code (coming from inline functions or macros with substantial bodies) to do that.

      Header files don't have much information. Without context as to how the program operates, it's just a compilation of meaningless values.

      Besides, even if this were to be qualified as a derivative work, who in the kernel community would consider it significant enough for a lawsuit? In reality, this is just a non-issue brought up by a Microsoftie to spread FUD by attempting to convince consumers that Google is stealing code. If the co

    • by exomondo (1725132)

      His opinion on this matter is the opinion of one man. And his opinion's in no way privileged. He's definitely not the sole copyright owner of Linux rights, so Linus is unable to make a statement about the disposition of Google's activities that would be binding on all the copyright owners.

      Like he said, he specifically chose those license terms for this purpose when he picked the license to begin with.

      Not to discount Linus, but I think RMS or FSF lawyers would be more qualified than Linus to speak on this particular area.

      RMS already did speak on this issue - after consulting an FSF lawyer - and said essentially the same thing as Linus has.

    • by umghhh (965931)
      I do not mind lawyers but more and more I think if we do something painful to them them then not only we will have some fun but we do something for the society at large. Now I am ashamed of my view of course but who is guilty of that? I mean it is OK to fight for own rights but this "it is my word - you have to pay royalties" goes in the direction - "your honor the accused used the conditional branching statement with 'if' too and that is our invention' sort of attitude. The same category as having rights t
    • by F.Ultra (1673484)
      But it doesn't boil down to Linus or any one others opinion. The license text of the Linux Kernel has since v0.12 included this text:

      NOTE! This copyright does *not* cover user programs that use kernel services by normal system calls - this is merely considered normal use of the kernel, and does *not* fall under the heading of "derived work".

  • by Demonantis (1340557) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @11:32PM (#35582762)
    Shouldn't Google take a whack at them with their own patents? I mean I thought that is how everyone preaches the system work. Everyone won't touch each other for fear of reprisal. I would say Microsoft has more to lose in the end too if Google attacks Windows. If it starts to look sketchy for them a lot of companies might jump ship to another platform in case Microsoft is force to rework their OS. Google doesn't rely nearly as much on Android for income. Same thing could be said with Oracle.
    • by boxwood (1742976)

      Well the thing is MS has been in the game a lot longer than Google, so they have a much larger patent portfolio. Also, I'd say that most of Google's patents have to do with search and web technologies, so Windows and Office would be safe, and thats MS's core business. Yeah Google could fuck the shit out of Bing, but does Bing make money anyway? They could cause some problems with MS's Cloud services, but probably not too much.

      So its just a battle on the periphery. MS has its base (Windows and Office) and Go

  • Am I the only one who thinks Microsoft has turned incredibly aggressive (yes, even compared to the past) and has been playing a bit dirty with respect to phone stuff? First, an ex-Microsoft guy takes over at Nokia where he, surprise surprise, decides to implement a massive seachange in mobile strategy that includes dumping an existing effort in which millions had been invested and instead jumping into bed with Microsoft. Then some lawyer with close ties to Microsoft comes out with some preposterous claim
  • Microsoft has been at this game for years, to try and spread FUD about all open source software, including Linux. Unfortunately, they have gotten away with collecting lots of royalties from big companies because of it. I hope others won't let them continue to get away with this. Microsoft: You need to simply come out with a better product to compete, you don't need to resort to using the legal system to try and win back market share.

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