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Red Hat Developer Demands Competitor's Source Code 394

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-the-drama-begin dept.
sfcrazy writes "A very serious argument erupted on the Linux kernel mailing list when Andy Grover, a Red Hat SCSI target engineer, requested that Nicholas A. Bellinger, the Linux SCSI target maintainer, provide proof of non-infringement of the GPL. Nick is developer at Rising Tide Systems, a Red Hat competitor, and a maker of advanced SCSI storage systems. Nick's company recently produced a groundbreaking technology involving advanced SCSI commands which will give Rising Tide Systems a lead in producing SCSI storage systems. Now, RTS is blocking Red Hat from getting access to that code as it's proprietary. What's uncertain is whether RTS' code is covered by GPL or not — if it is then Red Hat has all the rights to get access to it and it's a serious GPL violation."
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Red Hat Developer Demands Competitor's Source Code

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  • by johnjones (14274) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:04PM (#41986497) Homepage Journal

    ok reading the list nick had this to say :

    "
    Accusing us of violating GPL is a serious legal claim.

    In fact, we are not violating GPL. In short, this is because we wrote
    the code you are referring to (the SCSI target core in our commercial
    RTS OS product), we have exclusive copyright ownership of it, and this
    code contains no GPL code from the community. GPL obligations only
    apply downstream to licensees, and not to the author of the code. Those
    who use the code under GPL are subject to its conditions; we are not.

    As you know, we contributed the Linux SCSI target core, including the
    relevant interfaces, to the Linux kernel. To be clear, we wrote that
    code entirely ourselves, so we have the right to use it as we please.
    The version we use in RTS OS is a different, proprietary version, which
    we also wrote ourselves. However, the fact that we contributed a
    version of the code to the Linux kernel does not require us to provide
    our proprietary version to anyone.

    If you want to understand better how dual licensing works, perhaps we
    can talk off list. But we don’t really have a responsibility to respond
    to untrue accusations, nor to explain GPL, nor discuss our proprietary
    code.

    We’re very disappointed that Red Hat would not be more professional in
    its communications about licensing compliance matters, particularly to a
    company like ours that has been a major contributor to Linux and
    therefore also to Red Hat’s own products. So, while I invite you to
    talk about this with us directly, I also advise you – respectfully – not
    to make public accusations that are not true. That is harmful to our
    reputation – and candidly, it doesn’t reflect well on you or your
    company.
    "
    so basically if they developed the code and use a closed source OS that is not linux then redhat don't have a leg to stand on...

    if they use a module inserted into linux then it will "taint" the OS then it gets shifty...

    have fun

    john

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:07PM (#41986537) Homepage Journal

    Seems like RTS customers are the ones who would have a right to demand the source to whatever GPLed software they bought or been given. And any of them could legally "leak" to Grover. Not sure how RTS currently has any obligations to Grover, though. Why would they?

    Remember that GPL is about protecting users. As handy as it usually is for developers, that's incidental; it's not for developers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:10PM (#41986577)

    Hi Alan and others,

    I've been advising Rising Tide Systems (RTS) in this matter. Please let me reassure you that RTS is acting on advice of counsel.

    RTS (and specifically Nicholas Bellinger) wrote the scsi target code and owns its copyright. We registered that copyright at the Library of Congress. RTS contributed a version of the scsi target to Linux for distribution under the GPL. On behalf of Marc Fleischmann, CEO of RTS, I can reassure you that RTS remains committed to the Linux project and will continue to contribute to it. We are pleased that RTS software is a part of the Linux distribution under the GPL.

    RTS also has a commercial software business. It distributes versions of its scsi target code that support features and functions not officially in Linux (or at least, not yet). That commercial RTS business includes the licensing of those derivative works of its own code to its own customers. Nothing whatsoever in the GPL or in the policies of the Linux Foundation prohibits that.

    I would also like to address some comments made on these lists by Andy Grover and Bradley Kuhn.

    First, I hope that we can tone down the arguments about whether the use of Linux APIs and headers automatically turns a program into a derivative work
    of Linux. I think that argument has been largely debunked in the U.S. in the recent decision in Oracle v. Google, and in Europe in SAS v. World
    Programming. Does anyone here question whether the original work that RTS contributed to Linux (and that *is* under the GPL) is an original work of
    authorship of RTS despite the fact that it links to other GPL code using headers and APIs?

    Second, we are grateful for the efforts that Bradley Kuhn and others put in to enforce the GPL. As I said above, RTS owns and has registered the
    copyright on its scsi target and will enforce it if necessary. So Brad, we may solicit your assistance if we find any third party who is distributing
    an unauthorized non-GPL derivative work of the scsi target now in Linux. RTS, of course, retains the exclusive right to do so, but no third party can
    do so without a license from RTS.

    Best regards, /Larry

    P.S. In accordance with my obligations as an attorney when communicating with a represented person, I am copying attorneys for Red Hat and Linux Foundation on this email. If anyone wishes to respond to me, please copy me directly since I am not subscribed to these lists.

    Lawrence Rosen

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:31PM (#41986805)

    Seems like RTS customers are the ones who would have a right to demand the source to whatever GPLed software they bought or been given. And any of them could legally "leak" to Grover. Not sure how RTS currently has any obligations to Grover, though. Why would they?

    Presumably because Grover as the Red Hat SCSI target maintainer (or, more likely, Red Hat as his employer) contributed, under the GPL, code (patches, etc.) to the piece of Linux he accuses RTS of infringing, thus what Grover is doing is accusing RTS of infringing the copyright on his (or Red Hat's) code by not complying with the GPL with regard to that code.

    Remember that GPL is about protecting users. As handy as it usually is for developers, that's incidental; it's not for developers.

    The GPL, like all copyright licenses written or chosen by the licensor with a take-it-or-leave-it choice for the licensee is used by copyright owners to protect the interests of the copyright owner; its not a contract, so users don't even have the arguable enforcement rights they might have as intended third-party beneficiaries of a contract. Now, it may be that the FSF, as the original authors and users (as licensors) of the GPL had, as their interests in mind for it to protect, what they perceived to be the general public interest or the interests of end-users. But it would be a mistake to forget that its for copyright owners, first, last, and only.

  • Guilty by confusion. (Score:1, Informative)

    by pavon (30274) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:32PM (#41986817)

    If you read the list, it is clear that no one is disputing the facts of what happened; no one is making unfounded assumptions. Rising Tide Systems has a SCSI module that they have written entirely from scratch. In the process of writing this they pushed much of it into the kernel, so much in fact that one of their employees became the Linux SCSI targets maintainer. They have kept some of it back and are shipping a modified kernel containing their code to customers without providing the source code.

    They believe that this is allowed, and that their code is not a derivative work of the kernel. Basically RTS is saying: If NVIDIA can have proprietary drivers, why can't we have proprietary kernel subsystems? The other side believes that what NVIDIA is doing likely is a GPL violation, and furthermore some of the technicalities that NVIDIA claims make it legal don't apply to what RTS is doing.

    This issue has been ticking time bomb ready to go off. It is entirely possible that some, all, or none of the proprietary drivers written are a violation of the GPL. It all depends on the courts interpretation of derivative work, and no one knows for certain (although some arguments have stronger precedent than others). Furthermore, it is too late to add GPL linking exception [wikipedia.org] to Linux's license to clarify this (one way or the other), because there are too contributors at this point to come to an agreement. So it will remain murky as mud until someone finally sues someone over the issue. Sounds like this may actually be happening. But even then, the ruling may end up depending on the nature of the proprietary extension, and thus remain fuzzy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:54PM (#41987029)

    WTF? I see this all the time. Just because is it your friend who breaks the law, doesn't mean you shouldn't turn him in. Yes, you sour the relationship, but turning a blind eye is only going to encourage him the break the law even more.

    No, this is more like you see a brand new BMW in your friend's driveway and you call the cops because you're pretty sure he can't afford that, it must be stolen.

  • by macraig (621737) <mark...a...craig@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:58PM (#41987063)

    Ummm, no. Wasn't Microsoft, it was Quarterdeck (DESQview, DESQview/X).

  • by rduke15 (721841) <rduke15@nospAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @09:09PM (#41987141)

    Wasn't Amiga multitasking even before Windows? I mean for a comparable price. SGI Irix and other Unix machines of that time were not "Personal" computers if price is considered.

  • by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @09:15PM (#41987187)

    RTS could make Red Hat happy by running a Black Duck analysis on their proprietary code and sharing the result.

    That would likely not be reliable, since the wrote the original and forked it into the kernel, and developed the original further into their own product. The analysis would certainly contain many false positives since the kernel source came from proprietary source.

    Besides, its only the back-flow of contributed changes that would make the GPL apply to their original code, and perhaps not even that
    would be sufficient. Does a contributed two line patch drag the entire original proprietary source into the GPL?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @09:18PM (#41987223)

    Not so. The key issue is that NVIDIA does not ship a kernel with their driver, and that the driver is very obviously not based off the Linux kernel. But don't take my word for it. [lkml.org]

  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @09:20PM (#41987247)

    UNIX preemptively multitasked in 1969. Kinda predates Amiga.

    The earliest example of a protected memory model using separated memory paging I can think of is OS/2 (1987).

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @09:29PM (#41987305) Homepage

    That would be correct if and only if the vendor is providing the source code along with the device. If they aren't, then GPL v2 section 3b [gnu.org] applies:

    Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

    Emphasis mine. It doesn't say just customers. It doesn't say just people who have the binaries. It says "any third party". That means any third party, no further restrictions or conditions. The GPL v3 would let you limit your obligation to provide source to only those who have the binaries, but the Linux kernel is under GPL v2 without the clause allowing use of later versions.

  • by saleenS281 (859657) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @10:01PM (#41987543) Homepage

    They use Linux, there is no proprietary OS. From their own description:

    RTS OS is a single-node integrated storage operating system based on Linux and the standard Linux Unified Target, developed by RisingTide Systems (RTS), including support for iSCSI, Fibre Channel, FCoE, InfiniBand, SMB2 and NFS3/4.

    http://www.linux-iscsi.org/wiki/RTS_OS [linux-iscsi.org]

  • by pla (258480) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @11:17PM (#41988143) Journal
    This is probably what Red Hat thinks needs to be proven.

    Then they would have it completely wrong.

    "As you know, we contributed the Linux SCSI target core, including the relevant interfaces, to the Linux kernel. To be clear, we wrote that code entirely ourselves, so we have the right to use it as we please."

    RedHat would, instead, need to disprove that. I honestly don't know the truth of it, offhand. But, if true, RedHat doesn't have a leg to stand on.

    If I modify your GPL'd code, I need to release my changes. If I releasing my own code under the GPL, I can also release it however else (ie, closed and proprietary) I want, and you can't do a goddamned thing about it. You have no rights to my further improvements thereof, you have no rights to me continuing that codebase in the future, you simply have no rights beyond what I've granted you with the GPL version.

    More to the point - The GPL doesn't change the ownership of a snippet of code. It only changes the terms under which others can use that code. The original author still retains the right to do whatever the hell he wants with his code.
  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @11:22PM (#41988171) Homepage Journal

    UNIX preemptively multitasked in 1969. Kinda predates Amiga.

    But not on a PC, which was the criteria here, right? So, perhaps not.

    I do, however, have a predates-Amiga candidate: OS/9 for 6809. From 1979. The Amiga was 1985.

    OS/9 6809 [wikipedia.org] was spectacular for its day. For a 1 mhz system to run a whole bunch of terminals (which could just as easily be other computers... I used SS50 systems with graphics cards and keyboards attached to a parallel port on the CPU card), each client with access to the OS/9 machine's various I/O and other facilities... and using almost no memory... just awesome. Had a really decent scheduler, too -- guaranteed even the lowest priority process would get at least a little time.

    I oughta drag that sucker out and set it up and run it. :)

  • by Guy Harris (3803) <guy@alum.mit.edu> on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:37AM (#41988541)

    UNIX preemptively multitasked in 1969. Kinda predates Amiga.

    The earliest example of a protected memory model using separated memory paging I can think of is OS/2 (1987).

    If by "separated memory paging" you mean "paging in separate per-process address spaces", the earliest example I can think of is the Berkeley Timesharing System on the SDS 940 (1966 or so), followed by Multics (1969), TSS/360 (1967 or so), and TENEX (1968-1970 or so).

    (Given that you mention UNIX in 1969, you're not restricting this to OSes running on IBM-compatible PCs.)

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @03:49AM (#41989303) Journal

    From LKML thread in question. Some choice quotes:

    "You ship Linux as part of RTS OS. Even if you had not asked for LIO to be included in mainline, this would still be true and would require you to publish your changes under the GPLv2."
    (http://marc.info/?l=linux-kernel&m=135240979330272&w=2)

    "Is your code an independent and separate work from the Linux kernel? Some tests might be: can it be used without the Linux kernel? Can it be used with alternative kernels? Even if the answer to these questions is YES (which it isn't) then that second quoted sentence would still put your code under the terms of the GPL, since RTS OS distributes its changes along with the Linux kernel."
    (http://marc.info/?l=linux-kernel&m=135250402701805&w=2)

    "RTS OS is based on a stock Linux enterprise kernel. This Linux kernel has naturally the ability to load either one of our standalone self-contained target module versions without any modifications."
    (http://marc.info/?l=linux-kernel&m=135242690804322&w=2)

    "To be clear, we wrote that code entirely ourselves, so we have the right to use it as we please. The version we use in RTS OS is a different, proprietary version, which we also wrote ourselves. "
    (http://marc.info/?l=linux-kernel&m=135240512628253&w=2)

    So, to sum it up: it looks like they distribute the Linux kernel, bundled with a bunch of dynamically loadable proprietary modules of their own authorship. They claim that said bundling does not produce a derived work, because the modules are not physically part of the kernel, and they can load into any Linux kernel, not just this particular one (i.e. they're written against an interface). This is exactly equivalent to claiming that it's okay to use a GPL'd library so long as you dynamically link to it, something that FSF has long claimed is a no-no. Similarly, kernel developers have also claimed that making a module dynamic rather than compiling it directly into the kernel does not change its status as a derived work. It is this claim which is being disputed here, and if it is successfully defended, then it makes GPL effectively identical to LGPL in practice.

  • by fatphil (181876) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @05:39AM (#41989729) Homepage
    Not entirely on speculation. The device claims to run the GPL'ed linux kernel. Therefore the module they link to the kernel must also be GPL.

    The comments from the subsystem maintainer (like about 70% of the comments on /.) indicate that he is ignorant of the meaning of the GPL. This *alone* is a fairly good reason to dismiss him from his role even if his company is innocent of the allegations.

    diff --git a/MAINTAINERS b/MAINTAINERS
    index fdc0119..5859f2a 100644
    --- a/MAINTAINERS
    +++ b/MAINTAINERS
    @@ -6735,7 +6735,6 @@ F: fs/sysv/
      F: include/linux/sysv_fs.h

      TARGET SUBSYSTEM
    -M: Nicholas A. Bellinger <nab@linux-iscsi.org>
      L: linux-scsi@vger.kernel.org
      L: target-devel@vger.kernel.org
      L: http://groups.google.com/group/linux-iscsi-target-dev

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