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Android Google Open Source Software The Courts Linux

Lawyer Continues Android v. GPL Crusade 155

jfruhlinger writes "Edward Naughton has been insisting for months that Android violates the GPL because Google created a new set of Linux kernel headers that it hasn't released the source code for, despite the fact that it incorporates open source code. While numerous commentators, including those who helped write the kernel headers, claimed this code isn't copyrightable, Naughton in persisting in his crusade, saying that the questions need to be resolved in court for the good of the open source movement."
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Lawyer Continues Android v. GPL Crusade

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  • No legal standing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:40PM (#38014746) Journal
    Only the copyright holders have legal standing - and they've already said its all good. Naughton should know that, but that never stopped anyone who wants to do damage by creating FUD.
    • Only the copyright holders have legal standing - and they've already said its all good.

      Have all of them said it's all good? Linux doesn't use copyright assignments, and I was under the impression that Edward Naughton might represent someone who has had at least one patch accepted.

      • Wha? Microsoft had one patch accepted, so yes, he's represented someone who does.

        Nobody has said it's bad, literally. If anyone had, that's not only a: something for the copyright holder to decide what to do (along with the purported violator), and b: something that has nothing to do with court unless a is resolved first.

        Lots of avenues exist outside of going to court. We're not all microsoft and patent trolling for fud, after all.

        • by mortonda ( 5175 )
          ... and you think Microsoft would go to court to "validate" the GPL for us???? ROFL
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            ... and you think Microsoft would go to court to "validate" the GPL for us???? ROFL

            I think Microsoft would find it worthwhile to go to court to "validate" that the GPL means that anyone who has ever contributed to non-assignment GPL project has standing to sue over any alleged GPL violation by any distributor of any work derivative of that project (they'd probably like to do the same with assignment-based GPL products under an intended-beneficiary theory, though that's more a stretch legally.) Now, in one s

            • It would also help validate the perception of GPL works as legally risky propositions for downstream users.

              I have, of late, come to the conclusion that doing anything with a computer more complex operating the power switch is a legally risky proposition. If you write code then chances are high that there is someone else out there who feels entitled to a cut through patent, copyright or trademark (specious or not). Always a cut of the profits but never a cut of the costs/losses.

            • by mortonda ( 5175 )

              It would also help validate the perception of GPL works as legally risky propositions for downstream users.

              Well, if you don't want to abide by the GPL, then using that source is no different than stealing code from someone else with any other license. It's the same risk.

              • Well, if you don't want to abide by the GPL, then using that source is no different than stealing code from someone else with any other license. It's the same risk.

                In a world where the legal system had (and used) a 100% reliable filter to assure that only claims that, in fact, had merit would be filed and impose any burden on the defendant, that would be true.

                In the real world, expanding the number of people who have standing to sue you for an alleged license violation increases your legal risk even if you

            • by Kjella ( 173770 )

              So what would be so revolutionary about that? If someone makes a photobook with 100 licensed photographs but doesn't care one bit about stopping copyright infringement, then of course the owners of each photograph can go after them instead. It's only legally risky if you violate the license, and between having one mega-corporation with lawyers and a real "lost income" claim as opposed to thousands of mostly harmless OSS pundits, I'd take the FSF over Microsoft, Apple or Oracle on my ass any day.

      • You can make a new phone book, it can look different but the information inside it must still be the same and it would not be infringing any copyrights. Headers files are the same, you can dress them up any way you want but they still must define everything the same way or everything else will break.
        • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @03:49PM (#38015540)

          But header use alone does not trigger a GPL requirement.

          From the second link:

          Torvalds responded to my inquiry on March 21 and had this to say:

          "It seems totally bogus. 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, and the kernel details are exported through the kernel headers to all the normal glibc interfaces too.

      • If he represents one of the copyright holders, he must file the suit on their behalf with them as the plaintiff. Or have people learned nothing from Righthaven?

      • by jbolden ( 176878 )

        It wouldn't matter. Far too many people with standing have argued that there is no violation. Even if there would otherwise be a violation, that kills the violation.

        If I say that you aren't violating my property rights be being on the back 1/3rd of my backyard, even though legal reasoning is nonsense that kills the trespassing charge.

      • If the headers are merely an experession of documented standards like the SVR4 and BSD compatability macros, then I don't see how it could possibly be copyrightable. The whole point of standards is to share them, not own them.

        But I could see a copyright troll trying to take the interpretation that they are copyrightable, as happened with the timezone data.

    • don't forget that naughton has worked with microsoft, to boot. His credibility is not only in question, but it's basically inaccurate. This is just banging the same old fud drum that naughton raised before.

    • If the copyright owners have said it's ok then does that constitute a verbal license agreement between the copyright holders and Google? Plenty of things get released under multiple licenses. A more common example would be allowing a company to pay to use code which is otherwise available under the GPL in their closed source product. It isn't a GPL violation because they aren't using it under the GPL. The GPL is not involved.

      If 'saying it's ok' amounts to a verbal license then there really isn't any GP
      • There's no need for a license - everything that was published by Google is unprotected.

        This was dealt with back in March []

        Just because a file has a GPL license doesn't mean that the entire contents of the file are copyright, same as a copyright book may also contain, for example, a poem that is in the public domain. You're free to copy the poem.

        In the case of the headers, there are large portions that are not under copyright (and this ignores the fact that many of the patches NEVER contained copyright

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:41PM (#38014770)

    Obviously he would like to see it being resolved in court... it's a lawyer.

    In a case where neither plaintiff nor accused are interested in this, the lawyer is the only person who could possibly win!

    • In every case, the lawyer is the only person who could possibly win!


    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Lawyers usually prefer to see cases resolved out of court, as there's more profit in a settlement than reaching a verdict. Plus, if you have a settlement you have a contract, but nobody knows for sure what a judge or jury will decide.

    • so basically he's looking for a job.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:46PM (#38014836)

    I loved him in American History X

  • Headers are Facts (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Your Anus ( 308149 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:47PM (#38014844) Journal
    SCO tried to cornhole Linux over errno.h being similar to BSD. SCO lost for the same reason and also because they suck. Unless they abused headers to jam in a bunch of functions that might be "creative" (and that would be their content anyway), the headers should just be lists of facts.
    • Re:Headers are Facts (Score:4, Informative)

      by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @03:21PM (#38015204)
      Technically SCO v IBM never got to that point. Many of their claims got thrown out due to lack of specificity and the rest was stayed until Novell v SCO was resolved. Since Novell won, the judge in IBM doesn't have to decide if errorno.h violates copyrights--SCO doesn't have standing to ask the judge to decide in the first place.
  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki AT cox DOT net> on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:48PM (#38014850)

    Aren't the bionic headers included with the Android source? I wonder who his clients are. I don't think he's wacky but he's certainly chasing a whole lot of nothing.

    • the GPL doesn't simply require the source code to be published for each modified version of software that is distributed, it also ask that this source of modified versions comes with the same freedom of modification that the original saoftware came with.

      so if you get some GPL software, modify it and distribute it, you need to publish th modified code as GPL too.
      but bionic is published under the same BSD-like license as the rest of android. So it would follow the GPL requirement.

      except that, GPL is a license

  • he's going The Distance []
  • this lawyer doesn't really understand programming - even his understanding of copyright is only enough to make him dangerous. he states, for instance, that a byteswap macro, because it is clever, is copyrightable. it's not: whole works are copyrightable. further, the license for the work in question explicitly states that the headers constitute the interface at which the license stops.

    there is no issue here. lawyer is trying to make business for himself and others of his species.

  • Another useless lawyer with an agenda. What else is new ... Anyone with a brain can see that Google is ripping off FOSS and doesn't give a shit about returning anything back to the community. Android IS a proprietary implemantation of the LInux kernel and shouldn't be considered part of the GNU/Linux community.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington