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The Real Reason For Microsoft's TomTom Lawsuit 408

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, Informative)

    by FrYGuY101 ( 770432 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:08PM (#27079933) Journal

    So really you lose all rights to using that code?

    You lose all rights to DISTRIBUTE that code. You can still use that code in perpetuity, though.

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

    by Chaos Incarnate ( 772793 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:26PM (#27080207) Homepage
    Because then users would need to install a special app on their desktop just to copy data to/from the memory card.
  • Re:Patents, not code (Score:5, Informative)

    by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:28PM (#27080239)

    Actually, the GPL forbids restricting other people's freedom.

    It is, and should be, a GPL violation to secretly get a patent license. If TomTom were to cave to MS without getting slapped with a GPL violation, then anyone who uses tomtom's work would be opening themselves up to patent infringement suits.

    Please RTFM and actually read the GPL. A good grep would be "they do not excuse you". Search the GPL for that text and you'll zero in on what I think is a very critical "failsafe" in the GPL.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:35PM (#27080341)

    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?

    No, because the GPL doesn't oblige you to sell or otherwise distribute software to Cuba or Iran, so a law prohibiting you from doing so does not conflict with your obligations under the GPL. This isn't difficult.

    Now if the law did permit you to distribute the binary code to Cuba but not the source then effectively the section would prohibit you from distributing just the binary to Cuba, but wouldn't stop you distributing it elsewhere.

    Next question?

  • Re:Classic GPL (Score:5, Informative)

    by iplayfast ( 166447 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:39PM (#27080407)

    You seem to have a misunderstanding of what the GPL is. It is a method of payment. TomTom using GPL'd software must abide by the payment method. That is, by providing the source for use or change by the people who they are selling to. Instead of dealing with dollars they deal with IP.

    The problem at hand is that MS feels that TomTom should be paying for their patents, which would violate the GPL payment method.

    You should be marked troll as you are obviously trolling for this response.

  • Excuse Me? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ratboy666 ( 104074 ) <fred_weigel AT hotmail DOT com> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:51PM (#27080587) Journal

    Gates (and Allen) developed MBASIC, and DISK BASIC. DISK BASIC used the "FAT" system to control free space.

    CP/M did NOT use the same scheme. Instead, CP/M built up free space maps by scanning the directory. It also did not use a linked list. Personally, I thought FAT was weak then, and still is....

    But the "industry" adopted it. It was allowed; we had a (at least) minimal common system for file systems. Enhanced to support directories and sub-directories.

    Then, Microsoft designed a long filename system on top of it, that was back-compatible with the old method. THAT was patented. And, no, it wasn't even the "obvious" solution -- that would have been a mapping file.

    What does this mean? It means that the long filename code SHOULD be ripped out. 8.3, baby! You want longname mapping? Linux has UMSDOS on top of FAT -- same result, no patent violation. Or, just use short names. Or, build a program that reindexes MS FAT longnames into UMSDOS (for read compatibility). Just don't write that format. It can be argued (I would try) that ANY longnames in MS FAT format that were found on a FAT filesystem then MUST have come from an MS patent licensee (because our proposed system wouldn't generate the MS FAT longname format). So, there are solutions. Maybe UMSDOS is too "crufty" to be resurrected, but it strikes me that something like posixovl.fuse could be used (with modifications).

    Microsoft was creative with the MS FAT longname solution. Either deal with it, or get the patent overturned.

  • Re:Misleading title. (Score:5, Informative)

    by geekboy642 ( 799087 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:51PM (#27080593) Journal

    one of the worst configuration file formats ever

    I hold up for example: XML, the Windows Registry, and

  • Re:Classic GPL (Score:2, Informative)

    by stonecypher ( 118140 ) <stonecypher@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:52PM (#27080599) Homepage Journal

    At no point did I try to evaluate what GPL is; as such by definition I could not be misunderstanding the nature of GPL, as I made no observations in that direction.

    Trolling is when people make ugly jokes to start a fight, not when people have an opinion you don't agree with. GPL zealots seem uniquely unable to tell the difference.

    The problem at hand is that MS feels that TomTom should be paying for their patents

    Wrong. The trouble is that TomTom is paying for their patents. Which means they can't use their GPLed products at all. Wait'll you realize how many other GPL vendors also break this GPL rule; it ruins almost every GPL basis device on the market.

    Like that TiVo internet download? Not for long: it licenses Frauenhoffer and Dolby technologies.

    Please stop lashing out with attacks every time someone disagrees with you. Slashdot's GPL community didn't used to be this rabid or ugly.

  • by ianare ( 1132971 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:08PM (#27080855)

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

    Uh, because he didn't post the article ?

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:14PM (#27080951)
    I don't know why companies just don't get *BSD working for them instead Linux. It would save them a lot of headaches.

    Maybe because companies like Microsoft have a history of stealing BSD code [], making minor changes, and then patenting their implementation []. This is why Ted Tso' said he would use the GPL for Kerberos instead of the BSD license if he had it to do over again.
  • Re:Misleading title. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:35PM (#27081255)

    Gah! Noooooo!
    You have invoked the name of ultimate evil, dooming us all!

    You should edit (evil light) instead and process it with m4.
    Nothing could be more intuitive.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:44PM (#27081361)

    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.

    The primary reason for success of Linux is a combination of timing and luck. When the BSD project's viability was in serious question due to the AT&T lawsuit, Linux hit its stride.

    Moreover, your response demonstrates a common fallacy: the idea that, if not forced to share improvements, companies will not do so.

    The reality -- as usual -- is much more complex:

    • The cost-benefit of analysis of failing to share re-usable improvements to BSD licensed code is fairly simple -- it costs quite a lot to maintain sizable private changes. Merging your code into the primary code base decreases maintenance costs and pushes the effort to the larger development community
    • Many corporations will not invest in GPL'd software if it can be avoided, as they often won't be able to use it. How many contributions does GPL software *lose*?

    I would argue that Linux has succeeded *in spite of* the GPL. Speaking with those in the embedded hardware industry, it's clear that Linux has a foothold because of its brand name, not because of significant technical differentiation. Many embedded hardware vendors -- even the major ones -- don't even understand the implications of the GPL! (see the Linksys GPL violations)

    If you observe the BSD projects, you'll note that features, bug fixes, and developer time is often provided by corporations that leverage the BSD licensed code in otherwise closed source products.

    To quote Juniper's VP of Foundation Technologies, Naren Prabhu:

    Juniper benefits from the powerful collaboration between leading universities, individuals, and commercial organizations developing FreeBSD to advance the operating system functionality. The FreeBSD release system provides Juniper with a roadmap for features and a stable base for our code, while its practical licensing enables Juniper to develop intellectual property for advancing high-performance networking. Juniper employs many active FreeBSD developers that continually contribute to the FreeBSD project to further its development as a leading operating system.

    I wouldn't be so quick to point to the GPL as a recipe for success. When you force individuals to choose between your way or the highway, many of them will choose the highway. The BSD project's more pragmatic stance has allowed corporations to contribute as they are able to do so, and has resulted in an extremely productive, ongoing relationship with commercial software vendors.

  • What's the problem ? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:51PM (#27081465)

    All they need to do in order to comply with both the patent and GPL : Get a Microsoft license for the patent, write a new VFAT driver with long file names support from scratch, release it as a binary module (like nvidia drivers for example).

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

    by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:18PM (#27081787)

    UDF is an ISO/IEC standard, so the format itself is not patent encumbered.

    Um, that doesn't mean it's not patent encumbered. MP3 is patent-encumbered all to hell, and it's an ISO/IEC standard.

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

    by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @05:42PM (#27082929) Journal

    Wrong. Linux is successful because it was there, at the right place, at the right time. HURD was decades from usability, though it still looked like it might be just around the corner. BSD was, according to another poster, involved in some sort of lawsuit with AT&T. Minix was simply copyrighted, with no right to redistribute.

    So your choice was, pretty much: Buy an 8086 and a copy of Minix, and then download a bunch of patches, install the Minix source code, apply the patches, recompile, and reinstall, and still not have quite the feature set Linux did, but don't you dare distribute your changes as anything other than a patch...

    Or save your money and buy a much faster 386, get a copy of Linux for free, and go play.

    Or go use DOS.

    As for the GPL vs BSD, I can tell you from experience that even the smallest of companies isn't going to be "caught" by the GPL and "forced" into anything. In fact, just the opposite -- we were using extjs, which was under a more liberal license. It was then switched to GPL -- and worse, the author tried to claim that the GPL also applied to the server it was connecting to.

    So our choice was to either at least GPL all our JavaScript, or buy a license. Or the third option: Say "fuck extjs" and switch to jQuery. It was painful, but in the end, we have something where we know the rug won't be pulled out from under us.

    And while I haven't contributed a lot back to jQuery, I have sent patches back to projects like Capistrano, Ruby on Rails, Castronaut, and other little libraries and tools. What you'll notice is, none of these are GPL -- they're almost universally MIT-licensed. In fact, given a GPL version and an MIT version, I'll usually try the MIT version first.

    Which means GPL is actually a disadvantage, if you're looking for commercial support. Yes, I could keep all my improvements to myself. But if I avoid your software altogether because it's GPL'd, I may as well have -- you get exactly zero code back either way. If your software is MIT'd, maybe I keep some of my improvements to myself -- but it makes much more sense for me to send some back -- after all, it's really not cost-effective for me to be maintaining Capistrano at this point.

    And keep in mind -- this is mostly stuff that I'm being paid to do. If I'm just playing around in my spare time, or if it's a completely, physically separate project (Capistrano might be a good example) that never links against code we really care about, I have no problem using and contributing to GPL'd code.

    But when I'm writing a brand-new program, I like to have the option to license it however I want, from public domain to a corporate EULA. The LGPL mostly allows that, the GPL doesn't allow it at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @05:51PM (#27083073)

    TomTom do have a Windows Mobile port of TomTom Navigator. It is buggy as sin and semi-discontinued but it does exist. (TTN6 was dropped after mass-piracy... they did eventually make TTN7, but it bundles with devices and can't be purchased standalone)

    Having said that, IMHO a court case is just begging them to finally drop the Windows Mobile version once and for all.

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

    by Lennie ( 16154 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @06:01PM (#27083281)

    Euh... Nokia is/has released Symbian as open source. I think we can say Cell Phones is something which has been concurred. LCD-TV's is also a field where Linux is doing well: Sony, Mitsubishi, LG, etc. are selling TV's based on Linux. Most ISPs run their e-mail servers on Linux or BSD with open source POP- or IMAP- and SMTP-software. I could go on, but I do want a life. ;-)

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn