Lawyer touts new legal time-bomb for Android
Phones and slab makers in peril, says 'totally bogus' attorney
Every manufacturer using Android is in breach of the GPL, according to IP attorney Edward Naughton, though his last accusations didn't exactly run Android out of town.
Last time it was a complex argument about how effectively Google had cleaned GPLv2-licensed header files, but this time the argument isn't so esoteric and could, in theory, open manufacturers up to litigation from anyone who has contributed to the Linux kernel.
The premise proposed by Naughton is that all the Android manufacturers have, at some point, been in breach of the licence in failing to distribute source code alongside their devices, sometimes lacking specific drivers and sometimes with parts of the source apparently switching licences (being distributed under the Apache variation, for example).
The GPLv2 is pretty explicit that anyone failing to distribute source is in breach, and that switching licences isn't allowed. Critically the licence also states that anyone in breach surrenders all rights to any protection at all, so, according to Naughton, all the Android manufacturers could be open to litigation from anyone involved.
In March the same chap raised issues about the legality of Android, based on how Google had cleaned up C header files to extract them from the GPL. That point was dismissed by father of Linux Linus Torvalds as "totally bogus", and decent legal minds also cast doubt on the issue which revolved around whether a header file could be copyrighted.
That subject still hasn't come to court, as pointed out by patent-watcher Florian Mueller, who also puts the issue in relation to the recent case of BusyBox and Best Buy.
In that case, an individual Linux developer who had contributed to the open-source BusyBox distribution sued Best Buy for distributing kit with the OS preinstalled. That case was settled out of court, but Meuller reckons it still sets a precedent for a single contributor to a GPL-covered project taking on a company using the code in breach of the GPL.
And at a glance it seems that the rules have indeed been breached, distributors are required to make source code available (or at least explain how it will be made available)... and many haven't. Enthusiast Matthew Garret helpfully compiled a list of tablets showing which are in breach.
None of that matters if no one decides to sue, and even then they'd need significant financial backing. But Naughton points out that this is a hard thing to fix as thousands of developers have contributed to the kernel over the years, so it could hang over Android's head for a long time. ®
Why do you lot reprint bullshit from Edward Naughon? He's a Microsoft lawyer trying to stir up some FUD. And you are assisting him in that aim.
> The GPLv2 is pretty explicit that anyone failing to distribute source is in breach,
The GPLv2 requires *either* that source be distributed with the binaries (section 3(a) ) *or* that a written offer valid for 3 years to distribute that source accompany those binaries. It does not matter that source is not immediately available - Naughton is just bullshitting. Again.
GPLv3 has very similar clauses in Section 6.
Come on, Bill, at least make a token effort towards journalism. Like readnig the licence you're claiming to be writing about.
Why pick on Android (though it is Open Season, of course)?
What about gear like routers, Tivo's, satnav's, and a gazillion other hi-tech widgets which run on something Linux.
I think this guy just wanted some free advertising or his Warhol15.
another slow news day
1: a casual glance at the list confirms what I expected, a long list of piss poor, low end devices thrown together in Chinese sweatshops are non-compliant. Good luck convincing the Chinese to do anything about that and try not to be surprised if none of us are surprised. After all these shady companies tried building fake Android devices before realising they could just grab the real thing!
2: the GPL doesn't specify a time limit on supplying source and it's (unfortunately) fairly common for it to take a few weeks. There's slop in the system because of that and swift enforcement isn't really an option.
3: to date many companies have had to be nudged into releasing the source *faster* by eager modders. There's been no panic from copyright holders and very little feeling any of the companies within reach of the law aren't going to comply eventually.
4: Naughton misrepresents how enforcement is usually handled. Delay too long and yes, the licence is declared void but getting compliant and saying 'sorry' almost always get's it reinstated - albeit often with a legally binding agreement not to do it again. Less of a time-bomb, more of a rubber mallet to compel compliance!
There will be companies that flout the licensing and inevitably some will be within reach of our courts and end up on the wrong end of a court.
That's not a specifically Android problem, that's the same corporate theft a long succession of scumbags have tried ever since the GPL was created. It's sad that the Reg's ongoing war against Android has sunk to this level. Couldn't you find a real story to beat on Google and/or Android with?
This entire story is frankly absurd!
Most of the major Android players (e.g. HTC, Samsung etc) do comply with the GPL although often not as quickly as perhaps they should.
To say this "threat" is hanging over Android, is a nonsense because all any individual phone/tablet manufacturer needs to do to comply with the GPL is publish the kernel source which isn't exactly rocket science.
Also, did the author of this article even look at the link which shows the list of GPL compliant/breaching list of tablets? It's so woefully out of date it's untrue (no Xoom, Transformer, GTab 10.1 etc), and when you look closely you'll see that the vast majority of the tablets in breach are the cheapo no-name Chinese clones who basically don't give a monkeys about the GPL.
Here we go again...
> Reading is fundamental.
It most assuredly is.
> The point is either you ship the source, or make it available.
I thought you said reading was fundamental?
Here's section 3(b) of GPLv2 :-
"b) 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;"
Show me where in that it says that you have to "ship the source, or make it available"...
> So if you don't ship it, you can easily set up a site for distribution.
You can. I would recommend any GPL distributors to do exactly that - it is by far the simplest method of compliance. But not doing so does *not* mean you are non-compliant - read the licence excert above to find out why.
> I would suggest you learn more about the law
And I would recommend exactly the same for you. As I did the last time you held forth on a subject you didn't understand.