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Ask Slashdot: When and How To Deal With GPL Violations? 151

Posted by Soulskill
from the stop-or-i'll-say-stop-again dept.
jd writes "There are many pieces of software out there, such as seL4 (kindly brought to my attention by another reader), where the vendor has indeed engineered something that they're entitled to Close Source, but where their closed-source license includes the modifications to GPLed software such as the Linux kernel. Then there's a second type of behavior. Code Sourcery produced two versions of their VSIPL++ image processing library — one closed-source, one GPLed. It was extremely decent of them. When Mentor Graphics bought Code Sourcery, they continued developing the closed-course one and discontinued, then deleted, the GPL variant. It's unclear to me if that's kosher, as the closed variant must contain code that had been GPLed at one point. Here's the problem: complaining too much will mean we get code now that maybe four or five people, tops, will actually care about. It will also make corporations leery of any other such work in future, where that work will be of greater value to a greater number of people. So, the question I want to ask is this: When is it a good time to complain? By what rule-of-thumb might you decide that one violation is worth cracking down on, and another should be let go to help encourage work we're never going to do ourselves?"
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Ask Slashdot: When and How To Deal With GPL Violations?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 04, 2011 @04:38PM (#37952668)

    Code Sourcery produced two versions of their VSIPL++ image processing library — one closed-source, one GPLed. It was extremely decent of them. When Mentor Graphics bought Code Sourcery, they continued developing the closed-course one and discontinued, then deleted, the GPL variant. It's unclear to me if that's kosher, as the closed variant must contain code that had been GPLed at one point.

    It's their code so they are free to decide. It doesn't matter if they once also GPL'd it - the owner still retains copyright. Bitching about that will just mean no company ever will provide both closed and open source versions. You are not magically entitled to them.

    • by RobertLTux (260313) <robert@lauren c e m a rtin.org> on Friday November 04, 2011 @04:45PM (#37952742)

      the hook on this is

      THEY CAN NOT PREVENT THE GPL VERSION FROM BEING USED AND UPDATED

      so if somebody else with a copy of the code decides to continue the work then they can not say anything.
      if a company decides to make a GPL project closed source then they have to have permission from Every Single Contributor (assuming that they are all still available) this is one of the reasons that the Linux Kernel is still GPL 2 since chunks of the code are set with GPL 2 (no later version) licenses.

      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday November 04, 2011 @04:54PM (#37952832)

        Yes, this is true, but it's beside the point. The FA is talking about a product that was GPLed, but its owner deleted the GPL version (though this doesn't mean others can't keep copies of it, or even fork it), and continued developing it under a proprietary license. It's their code, so they're completely allowed to do this.

        You're only disallowed from making GPL code proprietary (or using GPL code in a proprietary product) if you don't own the copyright to the code in the first place. If it's yours, you can do whatever you want with it.

        • GPL code made from scratch, however, is pretty rare in my experience. People lift routines, interfaces, file system calls, all sort of stuff, routinely. To go closed source mandates not using that code, as it was released under the crux of a different, OSS license that in the GPL2 & 3 sense, don't allow that.

          I'm not saying it couldn't be done, but it wouldn't be easy. Where does the poster contest this? Good question. My guess is to explore functionality in areas where code is more likely to be stolen/l

          • by Sique (173459)

            Why referring only to GPL code?

            Code made from scratch, however, is pretty rare in my experience. People lift routines, interfaces, file system calls, all sort of stuff, routinely.

            It's true for all sorts of code. It's called in the words of the immortal Bertrand of Chartres "standing on the shoulders of giants". It's what makes us humans so successful: Being able to learn from examples, being able to mimic what worked for others.

            • Me, too.

              I think the presumption of the question in TFA confined the discussion to GPL. But we would agree otherwise.

          • by jbolden (176878)

            It sounds like the code was originally dual licensed. I would bet the routines are MIT/BSD licensed otherwise they would have not been able to distribute the code dual licensed originally.

            • That's if you trust them, then you could make the bet with a better chance of a positive outcome. I'm not sure I trust them, but will leave the results to another investigator.

        • by jd (1658) <imipak@nOSPam.yahoo.com> on Friday November 04, 2011 @06:22PM (#37953430) Homepage Journal

          It's a little more complex. I'll clarify. There were two code bases - one optimized and closed-source, one regular and GPLed. There was quite a lot of code shared between them, but there was code that solely existed in the GPLed version (all the non-optimized functions, for example). I believe the GPLed version took code contributions* and any that applied to the shared code would then exist in both versions. I do NOT know if the GPLed version included code from pre-existing VSIPL code bases for which Code Sourcery had rights under open source licenses but did not own that software - it seems entirely possible but it's not certain.

          *The USAF paid for several years for Code Sourcery to have the GPLed version and paid them to have developers maintain it. It's a safe bet that the USAF wouldn't have paid extra specifically for that license if having it closed would have been just as effective. At the very least, it can be assumed the US Government contributed patches to the GPLed code.

          Mentor buys Code Sourcery and continues the closed-source version. That's their right. That's fine. Provided, of course, that the closed-source version Mentor currently deploys has no software that Code Sourcery had no right to close. (I'll assume Code Sourcery played nice and didn't break any licenses themselves.) I'd consider it a possibility, but it would be extremely hard to test. Since the USAF now uses the closed source version, whatever it was that was contributed CAN be assumed to be in the closed version.

          The open source version is another matter, in that it depends on whether Mentor is the true owner of it or if they are merely the owner of a fork. Since the GPLed code was produced under contract to the DoD and since any bits pulled from other projects would still be nominally owned by their original authors, it's impossible to assume Mentor bought the full rights. They're more likely to have bought only Code Sourcery's fraction of the rights.

          Again, though, even if we assume it's all fully legal - which it may well be, it does not seem in the ethos of open source (hence the usage of kosher) to prohibit access to that part of the code which was shared and has not been changed since. What they do with the bits that are theirs that replaced the open source stuff, that's their business, along with the code that was never shared and always closed. The remainder --- uhhhhhh. It feels very icky that anyone, owner included, can retroactively alter the rights to something.

          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            it does not seem in the ethos of open source (hence the usage of kosher) to prohibit access to that part of the code which was shared and has not been changed since.

            Unless I'm not understanding you correctly, there's no way they can prohibit access to code that's been released under the GPL. They're under no obligation to continue hosting that code for others to download, but they can't prevent someone else from forking it and doing what they want with it. That's the whole reason the GPL was invented, aft

            • Yes, in theory -- anyone else who has the GPL'd source can fork it.

              Unfortunately, I can think of another case where this wasn't quite true -- ExtJS 3. For those who don't know the story, basically, they released ExtJS as LGPL, but then switched to GPLv3 ... and started making claims that no one else had ever heard (that you'd have to release all source code to your backend services for using their javascript toolkit, and there were questions of if users downloaded the javascript files, was that 'distributi

              • by Raenex (947668)

                It sounds like their license was some weird LGPL with their own imposed conditions, so it was never truly LGPL to begin with.

                • by jbolden (176878)

                  Except they called it the LGPL. Which you can't do with a weird license. By calling it L:GPL you essential dual license it to the recipient.

              • by jbolden (176878)

                This is pretty clear cut.

                Company X releases version Y of product Z under the LGPL.
                Company X releases version Y+ of product Z under the GPL.

                User A can freely do whatever they want under the LGPL with version Y.
                User A can freely do whatever they want under the GPL with version Y+.

                And Company X's opinion doesn't matter. The stuff about the fork is nonsense. However reading the articles the question is that people don't want to be locked at version Y. And Company X is free to do whatever they want with code

          • by mwvdlee (775178)

            So if I may summarize; the question is (as it always is with GPL going closed) "Do all the copyrights on the code belong to the entity that closed the code?".

          • Again, though, even if we assume it's all fully legal - which it may well be, it does not seem in the ethos of open source (hence the usage of kosher) to prohibit access to that part of the code which was shared and has not been changed since. What they do with the bits that are theirs that replaced the open source stuff, that's their business, along with the code that was never shared and always closed. The remainder --- uhhhhhh. It feels very icky that anyone, owner included, can retroactively alter the rights to something.

            My understanding is that a developer only has to provide source code to users within some time frame. They don't have to distribute to the public in general. Once they stop providing and supporting the software (binaries) and that time frame (3 years ?) elapses they may no longer be obligated to provide the source code at all.

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            The DoD/USAF may have paid for development on the GPL version - but did they pay Code Sorcery to do the work and retain the copyright? Perhaps they bought features to be implemented and Code Sorcery implemented them, owning the code.

            It depends on the contract, but I'm guessing most government contracts let the developers keep the code - they just want to pay so if they say they need something added, it becomes a priority 1 item.

          • code contributions are usually only accepted if the contributor agrees to let the company do whatever they want with the code. This is standard procedure in the OSS world. There is nothing complex about it. the Linux Kernel is an exception to this rule, which is why it is stuck at gpl v2 even if Linus wanted to make it gpl v3. There was a big discussion of this when gpl v3 was being drafted.
          • by jbolden (176878)

            It feels very icky that anyone, owner included, can retroactively alter the rights to something.

            They can't. Mentor is not choosing to distribute under the GPL, that doesn't mean that someone else who got the code from Code Sourcery couldn't distribute under the GPL.

            At the very least, it can be assumed the US Government contributed patches to the GPLed code.

            And the question is
            a) what license are those patches under. They might be PD, with the USAF asserting no rights to them.
            b) Even if they were ori

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      The only right a non-copyright owner has is to request the code for the old, GPL'ed version, as required by the GPL and continue developing it himself.
      The copyright owner cannot undo the GPL license of code released under GPL.
      Any changes after closing the code are not GPL and thus no longer bound by GPL rules.

      • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

        And only if you actually have the binary, or the product with the binary with it, according to my understanding.

        If no one uses the GPL version binary, updating to the more recent alternate version because it has better features, it becomes irrelevant. And they have no obligation to continue hosting either the binary or the source code. You don't have to offer a download, just provide it on request.

      • by amorsen (7485)

        The only right a non-copyright owner has is to request the code for the old, GPL'ed version, as required by the GPL and continue developing it himself.

        True, but it is a somewhat useless right. You can request the code, but if they refuse, they are in breach of the GPL. Yay you say and go sue them, but your suit can only be "breach of contract" and you'll have a lot of fun proving that they entered into a contract with you. The copyright owner can sue them for copyright infringement, but the copyright owner is THEM and people rarely sue themselves.

  • If they've released the code under GPL and you still have a copy of it, you're entitled to do what you want with it, up to and including rebranding it and maintaining it as a GPL product for the future. The GPL granted you permissions to do certain things (copy, change, distribute the code) under certain conditions (you had to provide source code if requested). As far as I'm aware, they can't revoke those rights unless you break the other conditions; see Open Office/Libre Office for a similar situation.
    • by 3dr (169908)

      Yeah, I don't see what the issue is in the summary. Company B bought company A which includes A's assets, then discontinues development of a GPL-covered variant. Well, B still owns the non-GPL version, so where's the confusion. Code can be dual licensed, and is, often. See QT for a project that has gotten lots of mentions lately for an example of this.

      As soon as GPL'd code is out there, it's always "out there" at that point.

  • by Arlet (29997) on Friday November 04, 2011 @04:44PM (#37952724)

    If code was produced with a dual license, one GPL, and one closed, then it's perfectly legal to abandon the GPL version, and keep working on the closed version.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Perhaps they meant the primary developers had accepted contributions from outsiders under GPL and rolled them into the proprietary-only product. That's the only way I could see a violation.
      • by idontgno (624372)

        Unless the project had copyright assignment in place, in which the contributors wouldn't have a leg to stand on; the entire codebase would belong to the primary developers.

        In which case, "Mmmm fork fork fork" would be the Swedish I mean only way forward.

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          Unless the project had copyright assignment in place, in which the contributors wouldn't have a leg to stand on; the entire codebase would belong to the primary developers.

          In which case, "Mmmm fork fork fork" would be the Swedish I mean only way forward.

          How about if the contributions were borrowed from other sortware released under the GPL? Huh, think of that? Huh? Huh?

          Yeah, we could go on second guessing, third guessing and forth guessing, but I suppose the fork is the only possiblity left - just make it rock 8)

        • It is unclear...if...perhaps...unless...

          "When is it a good time to complain?" Sometime after you understand the facts and the laws relevant to the matter at hand.

          • by jd (1658)

            Ah, yes, and what facts specifically am I to find out?

            What laws would you recommend understanding?

            I think it safe to say that I wouldn't have asked the question if these were simple matters, and I think it's also safe to say that you would have been specific if you'd known any more than I do.

            And even then, you've not answered the questions. Sure, I could do a lot of digging, but that involves bothering those involved and will make both them and others less inclined to do ANYTHING for the Open Source communi

            • JD, your question as posted by the editors is contradictory and either uninformed or uninformative.

              You seem to say first that one company has something they are entitled to offer a closed-source license for that includes part of the Linux kernel. This makes no sense. Second, you seem to claim that a company that offers version 1 of its code under the GPL must also make version 2 GPLed even if it owns the code, and that is simply wrong.

              If you can't make a clearer case for a GPL violation, you shouldn't

            • by 3dr (169908)

              It's their code to release, and they can release it simultaneously as a separate GPL project and as proprietary product.

              However, if you think they have included contributed code (GPL'd) into their proprietary product, then write them and voice your concern, and ask about it. I don't think one letter will stifle future sharing, especially since they've already taken the step of killing the "free" GPL'd version.

      • by jd (1658)

        That's what I'm meaning. Further, any contribution submitted into the shared codebase after the last GPLed release and before the code went closed-source only would exist only in the closed-source version. The first case, it may be argued that the code was known to be under both licenses so submissions would be understood to be in both trees and thus discontinuing one tree is still not a problem. Submissions made after the last GPLed version drop but before Code Sourcery were bought - errr, that's not so cl

        • by Toonol (1057698)
          Yes, it's legal to abandon the GPLed version but nobody has answered (so far) the fact that a certain percentage of the code WAS distributed under the GPL and whilst the GPL has a provision for allowing code to be reused in closed-source software, it only permits that specific piece of re-use to not be GPLed when it is substantially different from the GPLed version.

          That's not true at all. If you wrote the code, or have the copyright assigned to you, you can change licenses to and from GPL at will. You
        • by Arlet (29997)

          It depends on the specifics of the case. If somebody owns the code, or has been granted a special license that allows closed source development, the GPL doesn't apply to their fork, so they can keep developing it, without any obligation to put their changes also in the GPL version.

          If they take patches from the GPL tree, and apply it to their own (closed source) tree, it depends on the agreements. If contributors to the project agree to transfer the copyright to them, or they allow patches to be copied into

          • by jd (1658)

            For VSIPL++:

            Ok, I'll agree with that, only we don't know what patches they took (accreditation is worse than it was in the Linux kernel prior to SCO) or what other source trees they obtained code from (it's likely they did, but it's not certain they did). As a result, we've no means of knowing what agreements were made.

            In the case of Mentor buying Code Sourcery, again we've no information on what it was that Mentor actually bought. They bought the company, sure, but VSIPL++'s open source variant was under a

            • by jbolden (176878)

              Someone with standing, i.e. who wrote a patch can demand information. Mentor would need to respond to a DMCA complaint with exactly the kinds of information you are discussing.

              If you know one person who wrote one patch that is actually in the code...

          • by jbolden (176878)

            Except the product was dual licensed. So the patches couldn't have been exclusively GPLed.

        • by jbolden (176878)

          but nobody has answered (so far) the fact that a certain percentage of the code WAS distributed under the GPL...

          Just in case you are still confused on this point. Mentor has copyright, the GPL applies to the licenses and they code they distribute. It doesn't apply to code Mentor distributes. Copyright does not assert the existence of some platonic ideal code it is specific to where it came from.

          A gives me a copy of program B under the GPL.
          C gives me a copy of program B under the BSD license.

          I have 2 v

      • by jbolden (176878)

        The GPL version was originally dual licensed. People don't use GPL outside code for dual licensed projects.

  • It's unclear to me if that's kosher, as the closed variant must contain code that had been GPLed at one point.

    My interpretation of copyright law and licensing is that you can distribute source code you wrote under any license you choose. Where it becomes in issue is when other people have contributed to the project, muddying the ownership of parts of the software.

    It's the same as having different licensing terms for different customers -- even if the licenses conflict, the restrictions apply to that co

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      It's unclear to me if that's kosher, as the closed variant must contain code that had been GPLed at one point.

      My interpretation of copyright law and licensing is that you can distribute source code you wrote under any license you choose. Where it becomes in issue is when other people have contributed to the project, muddying the ownership of parts of the software.

      It's the same as having different licensing terms for different customers -- even if the licenses conflict, the restrictions apply to that copy of the software and don't affect other copies that are distributed, even if the code is the same.

      The trick, of course, is determining if the closed source does include andy GPLed contributions. Compile the last GPL copy and compare binaries, I suppose that would work. I believe it's been done before.

  • by jeff4747 (256583) on Friday November 04, 2011 @04:46PM (#37952756)

    When Mentor Graphics bought Code Sourcery, they continued developing the closed-course one and discontinued, then deleted, the GPL variant. It's unclear to me if that's kosher, as the closed variant must contain code that had been GPLed at one point

    Doesn't matter. They created the software. They do not have to keep distributing new versions under the GPL. The 'must remain open' part of the GPL does not apply to the people who hold the copyright. They can change licensing of any future versions at any time.

    • by jd (1658)

      Mentor certainly didn't create it. It's not even clear to me if Code Sourcery created it, since VSIPL software already existed and it's entirely reasonable to think that they used code that already existed under Open Source licenses.

      Even if Code Sourcery created every bit of the version Mentor bought, it's not clear Mentor owns the GPL version. They own the proprietary version, sure, as they bought the company that had the rights. Mentor never produced or distributed the GPL version. Since the code bases in

      • by Toonol (1057698)
        If you think they might have taken GPL'd source closed for which they don't possess the copyright, then you complain, then sue. But you aren't going to get anywhere if you're going on a hunch. For one thing, you don't have standing. You need to find somebody who has donated code to the project, back when it was GPL'd, and who hadn't assigned away their copyright. If you can find that, it's a slam-dunk case; otherwise, it's just speculation.
      • by jeff4747 (256583)

        Even if Code Sourcery created every bit of the version Mentor bought, it's not clear Mentor owns the GPL version.

        The only way something is distributed under the GPL is if the copyright holder does so. If Code Sourcery/Mentor didn't own it, it could not have been released under the GPL. The copyright holder is the only entity that can license the software.

        Mentor never produced or distributed the GPL version

        Irrelevant. They bought the copyright when they bought the company that owns the copyright.

        Since the

      • by jbolden (176878)

        Forgetting whether you'd win in court, is it kosher to take software that had once been GPL and close it to the world?

        That's why the right to fork is so important and is a key part of the Debian free software guidelines and the GPL. Right to fork prevents most abuses this one included.

  • When Mentor Graphics bought Code Sourcery, they continued developing the closed-course one and discontinued, then deleted, the GPL variant. It's unclear to me if that's kosher, as the closed variant must contain code that had been GPLed at one point.

    Whether its kosher or not depends entirely on copyright. If they accepted patches from the community, incorporated them, and the community did not assign them the copyright, then no they can't change the license without removing any code they don't have copyrigh

    • The only real restriction on it, is the new open source fork doesn't have copyright so they can't change the license -- ie its stuck on gpl version X. The new fork can't close source it or change the gpl version.

      Wrong. If the code has the "or any other later version" clause it can be changed without needing permission.

      • by vux984 (928602)

        Are you sure?

        So if it says "GPLv2 or later", you are welcome to fork it and release a "GPLv3 or later" version? What about a "GPLv3 only" version?

        I thought it was always GPLv2 or later, so yes, you could use it with GPLv3 stuff just fine... but you couldn't ever take away the GPLv2 at will.

        It was stuck on "GPLv2 or later".

        Am I mistaken?

  • The owner of the code can do whatever they want with it. Making it GPL doesn't force them to keep making future versions GPL, because they own all the rights. Users of GPL code need to adhere to the terms of the GPL because they don't own the rights, but are rather licensees of the owner.

    That being said, if you have a copy of the GPL'd code, you were automatically granted some rights under the GPL which can't be revoked. So you can continue to use the code that you have under the GPL terms for as long as yo

  • by Arlet (29997)

    Looks like they are distributing their own binary, together with complete sources of the Linux kernel + patches.

    Whether this is a GPL violation depends on how these two parts interact, exactly.

  • Totally "Kosher" (Score:5, Informative)

    by SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) on Friday November 04, 2011 @04:59PM (#37952896)

    "It's unclear to me if that's kosher, as the closed variant must contain code that had been GPLed at one point."

    It's absolutely fine. They own the code, they can publish it under whatever license they want. They can also stop publishing a GPL'd version if they want. Anyone who received the GPL version can continue to use it, modify it, etc. under the GPL. They cannot revoke that.

    • Besides, they can always try to sue themselves if it's not "kosher". With GPL, it's only the copyright owner who can sue the downstream copyright infringer (as a user, your only recourse is to report the infringer to the original GPL copyright owner).

      Just imagine the court case, you would need to be some kind of genius, or have some kind of split personality disorder, in order for you to be able to sue yourself. I'm not saying this is not possible, after all in the land of the free, anything is possible. I'

  • It is no way certain that there is any GPL violation here. Don't bother until you find one. I mean don't yo feel bad everything you hear about some site getting take down notices for reasons that prove unfounded? I wouldn't want to be like that. So really you need to find evidence in the binary that source code submitted by someone outside of MG and CS was used to build the closed version. If you find that, then you need to contact that person and learn whether or not they have the rights to that (could hav

    • by jd (1658)

      Ah, good, a reply that's actually getting the point! Yay!

      The problem is that in the first case (seL4), they specifically prohibit you from invoking or asking about any Open Source license whatsoever under any circumstance. To ignore that and ask them anyway is more likely to produce a backlash than a sympathetic response.

      Under certain circumstances, you want to try anyway because it's more important TO try than to not try, no matter what the probability of a good response is. Under other circumstances, it's

      • by mzs (595629)

        Is this what you wanted? http://www.vsipl.org/vsipl++-2005Jun29.tgz.tar [vsipl.org] It was the second google result. Good luck.

        • by jd (1658)

          I believe that to be where Code Sourcery started from, but their version had about 4-5 years worth of bugfixes, code cleanups and extensions on top of the code in that 2005 reference drop. (It's because I believe Code Sourcery forked that code when making their own version that I'm as unsure as I am as to who owned what.)

          Now, that's not to say the link you found isn't useful - it is - but getting the 2009/2010 version that Code Sourcery were using would be the ideal. (Using the 2005 drop is like using X11R4

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 04, 2011 @05:14PM (#37953012)

    I contacted the FSF's GPL folks some years back about a GPL'ed program that had been re-licensed to a proprietary one. The answer is simple: the copyright _owners_ can decide how to license their own code. Including changing anything any way they like. (In my example, the owners purged Sourceforge and all other reachable repositories.)

    You may also remember a dust-up over Mepis Linux not providing source code to what was essentially a repackging of GPL code. The GPL requires that if you _distribute_ GPL code, you must provide the source as well. Stallman said this was to prevent just the situation you're seeing; the original source goes dark for some reason.

    So, while it's distressing to have a nice tool go proprietary, Stallman called it right again. He _thinks_ about these things, and is far from being some fanatic. He has a goal and he has been calling his shots right since the whole Xerox debacle in the seventies.

    There was another case where the code in question had contributions by multiple people. Those people were the owners of the copyrights, and were able to engage the offender and uphold their rights. So if you own any of that code, complaint is the correct course of action. If not, then there's not much you can do, as they appear to be within their rights.

    In my example, the user community put out the word to find the most recent copy of the GPL source, and they have continued development from there. One reason a company would open-source their code is to get the advantage of volunteer developers; you get source, they get code. If the open-source community for that code is 5 people, they may well decide there's no advantage, and that they should reduce their costs by shutting down the resources used for that collaborative development.

    • by jd (1658)

      This is an excellent response, thank you. It shows that the issue is complex enough that it DOES have be to thought through and that it's not just me who is unsure just what is acceptable, and is highly informative over what the rules are. This is exactly the sort of info I was wanting, even though it doesn't go much into the ripples a decision either way will make.

      (Doing nothing when doing something is correct is as much a problem as doing anything when doing nothing should be done. Both will produce rippl

  • I always marvel at the open-source "advocates" that try and throw the book at the poor company that fails to comply with every aspect of the GPL or other open-source license. What is their goal? To educate the company? A polite letter to the legal dept & board will accomplish that...

    • by jd (1658)

      My point is not to throw the book and even to say that under certain circumstances violations should actually be tolerated because it's more important to achieve the desired goal of greater openness than to win specific battles that nobody will ever use the code from anyway. Equally, there may be times when technically legal but non-kosher situations SHOULD produce a stronger response. The technicalities of the situation are an extremely bad and naive place to start, you have to start with the long-term obj

    • And I always marvel at the closed-source "advocates" that try to throw the book at the poor people who fail to comply with every aspect of their licenses.

      I mean, what are they trying to prove? That they believe their licenses should be followed?
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      "Poor company" is when you're with someone who you'd rather not be. Statistically nobody is jumping right to book-throwing; the polite letters generally come first, and are generally ignored. If we don't enforce the GPL then it is useless.

    • by bug1 (96678)

      What is their goal? To educate the company? A polite letter to the legal dept & board will accomplish that...

      Have you ever tried that ?

      Do you think highly paid lawyers, paid to act in a companies best financial interests sit around waiting for amateur coders to send them letters about how to do their job ?

      Ive tried enforcing the GPL a couple of times, its really hard to find someone to treated things like this seriously, last time it took 10 months to get them into compliance.

      Your not human if you dont get a bit mad when people exploit freedom for financial gain.

      I marvel a proprietary "Advocates" who send customer

  • As stated probably 50 or 60 times by now. The best you can do is get the last GPL'ed version and then essentially fork it to add whatever features/fixes you want. If they required people who contributed code changes to sign over ownership of the code (see MySQL as an example), then they own the code outright and can choose to continue providing it in GPL'ed form or not for future versions. MySQL has both free and proprietary parts and versions. Due to the Oracle ownership, and Oracle's (and even previously
  • You're asking whether a rights holder can infringe their own rights? Are you smoking crack?
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by jd (1658)

      There's no evidence that Mentor Graphics ARE the rights holder, and in the case of seL4 they certainly AREN'T the rights holder, so no I'm not asking that. Since that's obvious to everyone else but you, the safe bet would be that you're the one on drugs.

  • From the original news post:

    When Mentor Graphics bought Code Sourcery, they continued developing the closed-course one and discontinued, then deleted, the GPL variant. It's unclear to me if that's kosher, as the closed variant must contain code that had been GPLed at one point.

    As long as they hold the copyright on all of the code in question (or any code they don't hold the copyright on is under a permissive non-copyleft license like BSD or Apache), it is completely kosher. It would be a pretty standard case of a dual license, much like the licensing model Oracle uses for MySQL. There is nothing in the GPL that compels the original developer to continue supporting a package against their will (other than providing the GPLed version of the source code o

    • Last sentence above should have been: "What they cannot do is retroactively take back anyone's rights to continue using/modifying/distributing the old GPLed version(s)."

      (Sorry for replying to my own post, but I figured that needed clarification...)

  • The FFmpeg team has some ideas [ffmpeg.org] about this.

    I see they are currently updating the page - they do that a lot.

    What I am unclear on is whether they are just noisy whiners, or if they ever actually put the legal teeth to any of their targets?

  • There is a subtle distinction (not so subtle if you ask rms) in that GPL is a free software license. It is persistent and code released under the GPL is specifically designed to keep it free forever. Commercial organisation (which aren't necessarily evil) have to do a lot of work in order to not run afoul. The OP is suggesting in other points in the thread that he suspects Code Sourcery might have accepted code contributions into the optimised code set. You would have to look at what sort of contributio

  • The icon attached to this story is for "Open Source" yet the story is discussing GPL licensed software. Ironically the objective of OSS advocates was exactly to hide the obligations that Free Software licensing imposed on distributors. It would seem from the problem being discussed that they've succeeded.
  • Here's the problem: complaining too much will mean we get code now that maybe four or five people, tops, will actually care about.

    If you can be shown to deliberately have failed to enforce your rights that constitutes consent. They go from being GPL violators to being licensed under the new terms. You don't have the option of setting a trap and waiting.

    Further I'm not sure you have standing here. This doesn't sound like it is your code so you don't have the right to do anything.

    Code Sourcery produced

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