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Linux Devicemaker Sued In First US Test of GPL 315

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the running-it-up-the-flagpole dept.
An anonymous reader writes "For the first time in the U.S., a company is being taken to court for a GPL violation. The Software Freedom Law Center has sued Monsoon Multimedia over alleged GPL violations in the Hava, a place- and time-shifting TV recorder similar to the SlingBox. Interestingly, Monsoon Multimedia is run by a highly experienced international lawyer named Graham Radstone. According to his corporate biography, Radstone has an MA in Law from the University of Cambridge, England, and held the top legal spot at an unnamed "$1 billion private multinational company." He also reportedly held top management positions with Philip Morris, Pfizer, and DHL. Sounds like the makings of a good old legal Donnybrook ahead."
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Linux Devicemaker Sued In First US Test of GPL

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  • by dedazo (737510) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:07PM (#20690361) Journal
    I'm not sure what the big test is here. The GPL isn't some sort of special magical construct that exists on a different plane of reality. It relies on established copyright and contract law to enforce its distribution restrictions. Laws that have a crapload of precedents, usually in favor of the plaintiffs.

    A court would be hard pressed not to uphold a copyright claim from the SFLC. That would mean that everyone else's copyright claims on everything else are also null and void. If Viacom and Disney can do it, so can the FSF. That's how it works.

    • by Sparr0 (451780) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:19PM (#20690463) Homepage Journal
      Some [misguided] courts have held that because the GPL makes some "offers", the author gives up their rights to pursue copyright violations and is restricted to only pursuing the issue as a matter of contract breach. This has at least SOME logical basis, illustrated by this quite-oversimplified semantic example:

      I say {you can distribute my code} under the terms of the GPL.
      I say you can {distribute my code under the terms of the GPL}.

      In the former case, you have permission to distribute my code, but have violated our contract if you do so outside the terms of the GPL. In the latter case, you ONLY have permission to distribute my code if you do so under the terms of the GPL, and have violated my copyright if you do so without that conditional permission. Any sensible judge will understand that the latter is the only viable way to handle the issue, but we have some quite nonsensible judges on benches in various places these days.
      • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:31PM (#20690569) Journal

        Actually, it's a little bit simpler than that.

        Fair and personal use exemptions notwithstanding, copying copyrighted works without permission from the copyright holder is copyright infringement. Period.

        GPL'd code is copyrighted. The GPL merely grants permission to copy to people. Period.

        However, the GPL _ONLY_ grants permission to those who agree to the terms of the license. If one doesn't agree, then unless alternative arrangements have been made with the copyright holder, there is nothing granting permission to copy. Without permission, any copying that isn't otherwise exempt from infringement suddenly becomes copyright infringement, just like any other copyrighted work.

        The only reason derivative works are allowed to be forced to be subject to the GPL is because copyright naturally extends to derivative works anyways, as long as any copyrighted content from the original exists in the derived work.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Planesdragon (210349)

          GPL'd code is copyrighted. The GPL merely grants permission to copy to people. Period.

          Wrong.

          The GPL is legal agreement between two parties -- the copyright holders and anyone who wishes to make a derivative work thereof. Like any other legal agreement, it is subject to the interpretation of the judges of the world, as argued by the lawyers of the world. (even a simple "you may use my work X in your work Y" permission is a legal agreement.)

          One of the things that judges can do, if moved by a lawyer's argument or their own sense of public policy, is void part of a contract while still leavin

          • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:11PM (#20690935) Journal

            The GPL is legal agreement between two parties
            Even if this were correct, it is superfluous. GPL'd works are copyrighted, and may not be copied without permission from the copyright holder. The GPL says that one must agree to its terms to get permission, so without it there is no permission unless otherwise arranged with the copyright holder. Whether the GPL itself has never been tested in court is also irrelevant because copying any copyrighted work still requires permission from the copyright holder.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Sparr0 (451780)
              The point that some lawyers have tried to make is that the violator DID agree to the terms, and GOT permission. *THEN* they violated the terms during distribution. There ARE precedents that say that once permission is given, the only further recourse is as a contract violation, not as copyright infringement. And sadly, some judges think that is binding.
              • by AJWM (19027)
                There ARE precedents that say that once permission is given, the only further recourse is as a contract violation, not as copyright infringement. And sadly, some judges think that is binding.

                Cites, please. Especially any that refer to open-source type licensing rather than distribution contracts, which are entirely different things.
            • The problem goes much deeper. The GPL claims that it is based only on copyright law, yet parts of it demand that the license be agreed to. Yet contracts are a completely different body of law than copyrights. If the GPL is indeed a EULA, then the conditions hold. But if I do not assent to the GPL contract, do the conditions still apply? If the GPL is not a contract, do I get the permissions without the conditions?

              Yes, I know how the average Slashdot poster will answer. But the average Slashdot poster is NOT
              • by AJWM (19027)
                The GPL is a conditional license. It is not a contract. It is not a EULA.

                It only demands agreement if you are planning on doing something that would otherwise violate copyright law. You can do whatever the hell you want with GPL'd code -- except copy and distribute it -- without accepting it.

                If you want to copy (including making derived works) and distribute those, the GPL grants permission conditional upon accepting the terms. Failing to accept the terms (or reneging on an earlier commitment to hono
                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by Brandybuck (704397)
                  Courts where the GPL has been tested (e.g. in Germany) have upheld this.

                  But this isn't Germany. Every nation has slightly different legal systems. I tried looking up your term "conditional license", and the only thing showing up is stuff about drivers licenses. I very strongly suspect you made up this term, and that it doesn't exist in US law.
          • Actually, I think you are wrong on this one... it doesnt matter whether you agree to the GPL or not, you need permission to use copyrighted works. The GPL offers such permission in agreeing to it - in whole. By ignoring parts of the GPL, you thus are stating you don't agree to that contract and would need other means to obtain permission to use the copyrighted work - or it's copyright infringement.

            Now, IANAL, but I would think that "claiming" to agree to the GPL and then violating it would be pursued as t

          • by arth1 (260657) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:38PM (#20691175) Homepage Journal

            The GPL is legal agreement between two parties -- the copyright holders and anyone who wishes to make a derivative work thereof. Like any other legal agreement, it is subject to the interpretation of the judges of the world, as argued by the lawyers of the world. (even a simple "you may use my work X in your work Y" permission is a legal agreement.)

            An agreement or contract is only valid if both parties accept it. It's not enough that one party does. If you don't accept the contract, but still copy the software, you're not violating the contract, cause you never entered it in the first place, but you are violating copyrights.

            Saying "by copying this code you agree to the contract" is not valid, because there's nothing to stop you from disagreeing and yet copy it. It's not enough that the copyright holder says you agree -- you too must agree.

            In other words, it's pretty much up to the defendant whether this should be seen as a copyright violation or a breech of contract. It's clearly a violation no matter what, but of two different kinds.
            • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:09PM (#20691473)
              so the rest of your post is meaningless.

              The GPL is a distribution license (as stated by Eben Moglen), which you are free to accept or reject. And the instant that you redistribute the work that it covers (and hence copy that work), then you are subject to copyright law, whether or not you agreed to the license.

              And that's where agreeing or rejecting the GPL becomes relevant, because if you didn't agree to the GPL then you are guilty of copyright infringement, since nothing else gives you the right to copy. Simple.

              Contracts require bilateral agreement. A distribution license doesn't require your agreement at all --- nobody forces you to agree to it, but it's on offer if you want it. However, if you don't accept it then nothing else will protect you from copyright infringement if you redistribute the work.
            • An agreement or contract is only valid if both parties accept it.

              Yes. But acceptance is not the same as performance. The GPL is constructed in such a way that downloading the software is acceptance to be bound by its terms. No explicit grant of permission is needed from the copyright holder, since the authorization exists in making the software available in the first place. No specific notification is required by the licensee, as the GPL has neither requested nor required it.

              Once a contract is accepted by both parties, a license exists and the power to revoke has le

              • by AJWM (19027) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:37PM (#20692223) Homepage
                The GPL is constructed in such a way that downloading the software is acceptance to be bound by its terms.

                Bullshit. It is no such thing.

                Read Section 0, second paragraph, and Section 5 (referring to GPL 2, which is the one in question here).

                Offering the software for download indicates acceptance of the terms by the offeror of the download (who may be several steps downstream from the copyright holder). The downloader is free to do with it as he or she wishes, totally ignoring the GPL unless he or she wishes to further redistribute the code (modified or unmodified). The license, should they choose to accept it, is granted by the upstream copyright holder, not the offeror of the download.
        • That's one interpretation, the most sensible one and the one the FSF advances.

          However, another interpretation, which also has some precedent, is that the GPL creates a contract, under which the distributor has the right to distribute in return for following its terms. In this case, if the distributor fails to comply with the GPL, it's not a copyright violation, because they did have a copyright license (the GPL), but it's a contract violation, because they breached the GPL's agreed licensing terms. Still il
      • by rtb61 (674572)
        What would the world be with out punctuation. The first case you give cannot work with out a judiciously placed comma. This is of course what the legal battle will be all about, legal obfuscation, delaying tactics and the source and depth of funds for an extended legal tussle. It will hardly be a legal battle because of course all the code can be attributed and the code contributors can join in the case indirectly to support the GPL, a foregone loss by the cancer lawyer.

        Then of course there is the negativ

      • by m0nkyman (7101)
        It's exactly as clear as the second amendment.
        A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

        and look at how people disagree about that!
      • by AJWM (19027)
        Some [misguided] courts have held

        Oh? Which ones? Any of those in the US?

        I've heard a few non-lawyers handwaving that sort of speculation, nothing anywhere remotely authoritative.
      • Some [misguided] courts have held that because the GPL makes some "offers", the author gives up their rights to pursue copyright violations and is restricted to only pursuing the issue as a matter of contract breach

        I have heard of a ruling that the Artistic License [lwn.net] is a contract. I Are you sure you are not confusing that with the GPL?

        Anyway, suppose it is ruled to be a contract. You cannot claim statutory damages. However you might be able to persuade the court to order specific performance (they are usu

    • There is a big deal (Score:4, Informative)

      by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:21PM (#20690477)
      Sure, the GPL uses copyright as an instrument and copyright law is pretty well tested, but that is not all there is to GPL. If it was then there would be no GPL.

      What remains untested is the interpretation of the GPL and there are large parts of the GPL which are open to different interpretation.

      For instance, the definition of "derived work" is pretty key to understanding the the GPL and the definition of that phrase is from being a done deal. The FSF has an faq that give Stallman's definitions and interpretations but these are not binding on the GPL.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      All true, but the big deal here is that this is the first time someone has stepped forward and said, "Hey, you're not complying with the GPL so we're taking you to court."

      It'll be interesting to see where this case goes & if other lawsuits will follow if this one is a success.
      • by Kalriath (849904)
        In the US, that's correct. However, it has been upheld overseas several times (mostly against DSL router manufacturers).

        It's actually kind of funny, Slashdot gives nowhere near the coverage to overseas GPL lawsuits.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ThosLives (686517)

      I think this will be an interesting suit. Without knowing all the details, it sounds like the situation may be:

      Monsoon built a box, and put the BusyBox software on it, and uses the BusyBox software as a "black box" utility package.

      Now, the question is: are the things that use BusyBox derivative of BusyBox or not? It doesn't make sense that Monsoon could be sued because it's not distributing the source code for BusyBox, because the product offered is not "BusyBox" - besides that, BusyBox source can presuma

      • by Ajehals (947354) <a.halsall@pirateparty.org.uk> on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:41PM (#20690649) Homepage Journal
        Using your example of "Monsoon built a box, and put the BusyBox software on it, and uses the BusyBox software as a "black box" utility package."

        I think the issues would arise if:

        1) They are not telling anyone that they are using GPL software and not passing on the license or an offer for the source,
        2) They have not modified BusyBox and are not passing on where they got the sourc0e for it from or passing on an offer for the source,
        3) They have modified BusyBox and wont share the changes to their customers.
        4) They are making some sort of claim that the GPL means that copyright doesn't apply - I have heard it before but never from a top lawyer.

        In all cases the appropriate result would be that Monsoon either release the source, plus and modifications and derivatives, plus the license, to their customers, or they must stop using the software and presumably pay some compensation to both the copyright holder (for copyright violation / contract violation) and preferably also pay compensation to their customers (they are also harmed by this after all). In no case should they be compelled to release code that does not fall under the GPL (as decided by the court - if it gets there.)

        Well that's my view anyway, but then I am not a top lawyer and have never worked for a $billion company. - IANAL this is not advice.
      • by belmolis (702863)

        Sorry, this is wrong. It is not true that the GPL constrains only the distribution of derived works. According to clause (3) of the GPL, if you distribute unmodified binaries you must make the source available. Here is the relevant portion:

        3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

        a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-r

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by yankpop (931224)

        You're very confused about what the GPL does. If Monsoon is selling a piece of hardware that is running GPL code, that is very clearly distribution. If they haven't modified the code in doing so, they are still required to make the source available to their customers should they request it. And if they have modified the source at all, their modifications must be made available. Whether or not there is other code included in the product that is unrelated to busybox is immaterial. They can put all the proprie

        • by ThosLives (686517)

          Well, it appears I'm uninformed, because I wrote it that way. The article isn't very clear about what the suit is about - and I admit I didn't read the case filing - but if the suit is about "they didn't offer the source code to BusyBox and we couldn't find where they are making that source available, and then we asked them to make it available and they didn't" that's a different suit than "they are using BusyBox but they aren't making all the source to everything on their hardware available". So, I was

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by yankpop (931224)

            that's a different suit than "they are using BusyBox but they aren't making all the source to everything on their hardware available".

            I think the more tricky points here are about what it will do to the related works (aggregates, etc.)

            This is very clearly spelled out in the GPL. From version 3:

            Inclusion of a covered {i.e., GPL} work in an aggregate does not cause this License to apply to the other parts of the aggregate.

            As far as the difference between a png decoder and a Stephen King novel, there

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AJWM (19027)
        Monsoon built a box, and put the BusyBox software on it, and uses the BusyBox software as a "black box" utility package.

        Yes, and for every instance of that box that Monsoon sells (or gives away), they are distribiting a copy of that BusyBox software.

        The GPL doesn't offer the option of distributers in Monsoon's situation just saying "oh, you can get the source from BusyBox's web site". Monsoon has to provide or make available the source themselves. This is especially true if Monsoon has modified BusyBox (o
    • by NitroWolf (72977) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:33PM (#20690593)
      The big deal is that it will set precedent for future cases. This accomplishes two things. One being it makes it easier for future copyright holders to win a case by citing this case (assuming the SFLC wins) when making theirs. When another judge has already ruled that this sort of case one way, another judge (or the same judge) is more likely to go with that ruling, rather than going the other way. Everything else being equal in a case, if there is precedent set, it will usually tip the judge in favor of ruling with the established precedent.

      The second, and perhaps bigger issue here is, as I've already said, set precedent... so if this case is handled poorly by the SFLC, and precedent is set improperly, it's going to make enforcing the GPL that much harder for the next person. While it's unlikely that the SFLC would lose, if their lawyers completely botched it, it would be very bad for the GPL, at least in the short term and would potentially encourage unscrupulous companies to continue or begin to infringe the GPL, since there is case law that shows it's unenforceable.

      So yes, it's a big case. Any case that establishes precedent is a big case for the issue involved.
    • From the complaint [softwarefreedom.org]:

      WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs respectfully request judgment against the Defendant as follows:
      (1) That the Court issue injunctive relief against Defendant, and that Defendant, its directors,
      principals, officers, agents, representatives, servants, employees, attorneys, successors and assigns,
      and all others in active concert or participation with Defendant, be enjoined and restrained from
      copying, modifying, distributing or making any other infringing use of Plaintiffs' software.
      (2) That the Court order Defendant to pay Plaintiffs' actual and consequential damages incurred,
      in an amount to be determined at trial;
      (3) That the Court order Defendant to account for and disgorge to Plaintiffs all profits derived
      by Defendant from its unlawful acts;
      (4) That the Court order Defendant to pay Plaintiffs' litigation expenses, including reasonable
      attorney's fees and costs of this action; and
      (5) That the Court grant Plaintiffs any such further relief as the Court may deem just and
      proper.

      That's never been done before.. and it could spell a new era of Free Software development.

      • by Kalriath (849904)
        Yes, we can look forward to new "GPL Troll" companies. Like Patent Trolls, but all they do is GPL obvious code and sue anyone that uses it. Scary.

        Item 3 on the list is a crock of shit, to make the device they would have had to do something themselves, and the SFLC is apparently saying "give us all the money you made, even though we didn't make most of the device". Fine them, yes. Damages, fine. But demanding they hand over all the profit? Fuck off. Seriously.
        • by QuantumG (50515)
          Actually, that's about the only one they have a chance of winning.

          It's almost the default settlement in copyright infringement cases.

          It's *trivial* to comply with the GPL, I don't know why anyone would risk their profits by not.
  • by QuesarVII (904243) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:09PM (#20690381)
    I just hope they don't put Stallman on the stand!
  • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:15PM (#20690429) Homepage Journal
    It doesn't even really matter if this guy even believes that the GPL is sound. The years long court battle to emerge from it, regardless, will keep him busily employed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AJWM (19027)
      The years long court battle to emerge from it,

      I sincerely doubt it will come to this. Once Monsoon's lawyers read over the complaint and the GPL, they'll advise Monsoon to settle. The SFLC will advise Anderson on what's reasonable to settle for.

      The lawsuit is just away of getting Monsoon's attention, since they seemed inclined to try to blow the whole thing off. Some people/companies are like that.
  • Over under (Score:4, Funny)

    by Supergood-ape (959376) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:22PM (#20690487)
    On the number of amateur law experts (with absolutely no fucking idea what they're talking about) that turn out for this one?

    250?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:25PM (#20690525)
    DaveJakeman over on Groklaw said:

    I'd say insufficient attempts to notify and communicate with the offender have been made. The smart way to litigate is to avoid it if at all possible:

            15. Upon information and belief, on August 28, 2007, Defendants were notified by third parties of Plaintiffs' copyright in BusyBox and of Defendant's infringement thereof. This notification was provided via a public forum on Defendant's website. Upon information and belief, on September 5, 2007, via the same forum, Defendant's employee or agent, identified as "Gary-MM" of "MyHAVA Support", confirmed that Defendant was redistributing BusyBox, but not providing source code as per the requirements of the License.

            16. On September 11, 2007, through their counsel, Plaintiffs notified Defendant of its unlawful conduct based upon its failure to comply with the License. Defendant has not responded to Plaintiffs' notice and continues to distribute the Infringing Products and Firmware in violation of Plaintiffs' exclusive rights under the Copyright Act.

    So, plaintiffs posted an entry in the defendant's web forum, acknowledged by a support droid on 5th September and here we are on the 19th, with a lawsuit filed. Have these guys got money to burn? Has the "notification" even got past the support droids to the parts of the company that matter? Whatever happened to communication?

    I have to say that I agree. In all such things I ask myself: "What would Eban Moglen do?" Until recently he was the legal genius behind the GPL. (maybe he still is, I'm a bit confused) His approach was always to resolve the problem without needing to sue. It really does seem to me that these guys went off half cocked. If you want to see what happens when you do that, check out SCO.

    The reason we should care about this is that it could produce a precedent that we don't like.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by redneckHippe (744945)
      Actually, we know what Eben Moglen would do. from TFA:
      'In a statement, Eben Moglen, Founding Director of the SFLC, said, "Free software licenses such as the GPL exist to protect the freedom of computer users. If we don't ensure that these licenses are respected, then they will not be able to achieve their goal. Our goal is simply to ensure that Monsoon Multimedia complies with the terms of the GPL." '
    • by dslauson (914147)
      You know, I tend to agree with you. As a general rule, it's good practice to try to resolve these things without a lawsuit. However, wouldn't it be nice to have a legal precedent to point to? Whether it makes sense or not (hint: it doesn't), just thumbing through the comments here, there are a lot of people who see the GPL as being untested, and therefore potentially legally unsound. Having one easy win in a U.S. court could bring more respect to the license, and maybe help deter those who would violate
    • DaveJakeman over on Groklaw said

      I'd have to say that Mr. Jakeman has serious reading comprehension issues.

      The relevant part is

      16. On September 11, 2007, through their counsel, Plaintiffs notified Defendant of its unlawful conduct based upon its failure to comply with the License.

      (emphasis mine.)

      So they didn't just notify a "support droid", they notified Monsoon's lawyers.

      And the lawyers never responded. Not even a "we'll look into your claims" or anything like that.

    • by AJWM (19027)
      DaveJakeman over on Groklaw is a twit.

      Plaintiff's counsel (ie, the lawyers) notified Monsoon on September 11, and you can bet it wasn't by posting on their web site. Monsoon has so far ignored them. Having legal papers served (eg notice of a lawsuit) will be more effective at getting their attention.

      This has been pointed out over there, too.

      It's also been pointed out that Monsoon has been informally advised (ie, not by the copyright holder per se) of their GPL violations for months.
    • by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:10AM (#20692439)
      There is no obligation at all to inform the company that they're violating. The second someone downloads a copy of the binary or buys a piece of the hardware without the GPL included (and the source available), the company broke the law. The record labels and other groups who sue for copyright infringement generally provide no warnings whatsoever. It's definitely polite to give the company several weeks and several chances to respond, but it's not necessary.

      The company made a conscious choice to bundle Linux and Busybox with their product. This was a choice made even before the product was on the market. They demoed the product 4 months ago [myhava.com], and have been selling it commercially for 2 months. There's no way that the company wasn't aware of the fact that they were distributing Linux. And if the company (which presumably includes programmers and engineers) honestly want to claim that they had no idea what the GPL was, they're nuts.

      When they were confronted about the fact that they were in violation of the law (about 3 weeks ago), they brushed it off, "jokingly" accusing the guy who discovered it of reverse-engineering and violating the EULA, then saying that the forums were for paying customers only. They also ignored phone calls. When they admitted to it (2 weeks ago), they said they'd put it on a timetable, and not make legal compliance a top priority. When someone says "you're doing something illegal and could get sued for it", the right answer isn't "I'll have to contact the engineering team and see what the expected scope (level of effort) is and then balance it against our other development tasks". You don't balance legal compliance against "other development tasks". Especially since the relevant modules are in their SVN or whatever. IMHO, they've sort of brought it upon themselves.

      (IANAL)
    • by EzInKy (115248) on Friday September 21, 2007 @01:08AM (#20692759)

      I have to say that I agree. In all such things I ask myself: "What would Eban Moglen do?" Until recently he was the legal genius behind the GPL. (maybe he still is, I'm a bit confused) His approach was always to resolve the problem without needing to sue. It really does seem to me that these guys went off half cocked. If you want to see what happens when you do that, check out SCO.


      Well at first I thought as you did, at least until I went to Hava's forums [myhava.com] to see what got everybody up in arms. The support drones first response was to accuse the users of violating Hava's EULA:

      Greetings all.

      I have a little secret to let you in on - HAVA runs Linux! Yes, much of the source is GPL and we should publish those sections which we have modified per the terms of GPL. A project is underway to pull this together.

      A couple of observations - some of you appear to be violating the terms of the End User License Agreement, specifically:

      Quote:
      2. Restrictions

      You recognize and agree that the HAVA Software including its structure, source code and the design and structure of modules or programs, constitute valuable trade secrets owned by Snappymultimedia or its licensors. You will not copy or use the HAVA Software except as expressly permitted by this EULA and, specifically, you will not

      [...]

      (b) yourself or through any third party modify, reverse engineer, disassemble or decompile the HAVA Software in whole or part, except to the extent expressly permitted by applicable law, and then only after you have notified Snappymultimedia in writing of your intended activities;

      Seems to me that some of you have just come out blatantly admitting you are reverse engineering the firmware - or trying to. How should we handle this?

      Also, please realize that NOT ALL of HAVA's important functionality is covered by GPL, so you won't actually have everything you need to get HAVA working.
      _________________
      Best regards,

      MyHAVA Support


  • by rg3 (858575) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:29PM (#20690555) Homepage
    I've read the article at Linux Watch but I haven't read the PDF copy of the complaint, so I may be completely wrong. That said, BusyBox is a program that, as far as I know, is standalone. For example, Slackware uses BusyBox in the initrd you create with mkinitrd. The end result is a static binary called /bin/busybox that has links made to it, like /bin/ls -> busybox. BusyBox implements a lot of commands (they call them applets), and you can either call it as "busybox ls -l" or, if ls is a link to busybox, you can call it as "ls -l" directly and it will run the ls applet. So I am not sure how you can infringe the GPL with that. If they distribute something that contains BusyBox it could be considered a mere aggregation (as in "we need to run a bourne shell script so we distribute the script we wrote together with busybox and busybox runs the script"). But maybe they distribute a modified BusyBox.

    Anyone willing to give more details about where the legal problem is? Thanks in advance.
    • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:35PM (#20690607) Homepage Journal
      They're distributing GPL licensed software in binary form without the source code and without an offer to supply the source code on request.

      These are requirements of the license.

      It's really that simple.
      • by rg3 (858575)
        Doh. So it's just a matter of putting a copy of the BusyBox source tarball they're using on their servers and providing a link?
        • by QuantumG (50515)
          Something like that.

          If they put the source on a cd and distribute it with the device, or even, put the source ON the device, they'll be in compliance with the license.

          Otherwise, they have to supply to anyone they sell the device to a written offer, valid for 3 years, to provide the source code to any third party.. and yeah, putting the source on their server would be a way to do that, but they don't have to.

          It's all spelled out here [gnu.org].
        • by belmolis (702863)

          So long as they aren't linking with the BusyBox code, yes, that's all they have to do to comply. That's what makes it so odd that they haven't complied. All it will cost them is five minutes to set up and a little bandwidth.

    • by GryMor (88799)
      Modification is irrelevant. Distribution, outside the terms of the GPL, is copyright infringement. They have declined to provide source, one of the requirements of the GPL, and so they can burn (or not, if they actually talk to the Busybox developers and make things right).
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        The whole distribution thing kind of confuses me in one way. If I have a friend on dial-up, and I download Linux for them, and install it to their computer, does that count as distributing it to them? Would I be in violation of the GPL if I didn't make the source available to them? What if I did this on 2 computers? What about 10? What about 1 Million? What seems weird to me is that the Linux community encourages people installing Linux on everyone's computers that they can, but at what level of installa
        • You have distributed to your friend. If you asks for sources, you MUST give it to him. If you accidently threw away the CD that it was on, you'll be in deep legal doodoo. It won't be your friend suing it, it will be the original developer. Hopefully your friend won't rat you out...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why limit yourself to a Place and Time-shifting TV Recording when you can call it...

    A SPACIAL-TEMPORAL DISPLACEMENT AUDITORY VISUAL TRANSLATIONAL DEVICE!
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      Why limit yourself to a Place and Time-shifting TV Recording when you can call it...

      A SPACIAL-TEMPORAL DISPLACEMENT AUDITORY VISUAL TRANSLATIONAL DEVICE!


            Wow, that sound so good I think we should scrap the copyright idea and go straight for a patent!
  • gpl-violations.org [gpl-violations.org] Has been inactive for almost a year.

    Please note that this homepage is not maintained very well. We're so busy in both technically and legally resolving GPL violations that there's hardly any time left to keep this page up-to-date.
    Still some good information is contained herein.
  • ...he thought this about the BSD license, too:

    In a statement, Eben Moglen, Founding Director of the SFLC, said, "Free software licenses such as the GPL exist to protect the freedom of computer users. If we don't ensure that these licenses are respected, then they will not be able to achieve their goal."
  • Yay! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by frup (998325)
    Grocklaw has something else to jabber about! :P The GPL better hold tight, it would be seriously worrying what would happen otherwise.
  • Why not use a BSD? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by noldrin (635339) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:59PM (#20690831)
    If you want an OS for a box and to keep the source to yourself, then why wouldn't you use a BSD? What advantage do you get for using Linux and other code released under the GPL? Is it just corporate types who are looking to cheap out on development and know the Linux buzzword?
    • Is it just corporate types who are looking to cheap out on development and know the Linux buzzword?

      Possibly. Corporate types usually have no clue what's happening with in-house software development. I'd say it's likely to be developers who used GPLed code just to get the job done in a hurry. If so, that's a problem because the corporation needs to be aware of its legal responsibilities. It may turn out no-one outside the software team was even aware of the GPL violations. Wouldn't be the first time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515)
      More importantly, why would you want unix utilities like ls and cd and rm on a set top box?

      What's the point?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Flimzy (657419)
        I'd like to see you boot a working Unix system without those tools. I'm not talking about running a shell. I'm talking about simply booting the system. Mounting the root filesystem, starting init, starting whatever daemons are necessary... The Linux boot scripts depend *very* heavily on these tools. (That's not to say it's theoretically impossible to boot without using 'ls', 'cd', 'rm', etc... But you would need *something* that accomplishes the same functions.)
        • by QuantumG (50515)
          to continue the questioning, why would you want a unix system on a set top box?

          btw, at the boot prompt type: linux root=/dev/hda init=/foo.bin

          the root filesystem is mounted by the kernel.. init is started by the kernel, and in this case is my custom image foo.bin. As for daemons etc, wtf, it's a set top box.

          • They've got some sort of proprietary application running on the set-top box. The box needs an OS, and for a start-up company (they demoed the product in May and it went on sale in July), it must be cheaper to use Linux than to license or write an embedded OS. There are patch-sets for Linux and ways to set up module loading to make it pretty lightweight and (real-time) low-latency. Since all they need from the OS is basic hardware management and then running whatever proprietary program they use, Linux fi
            • by QuantumG (50515)
              Ya know, if you keep using "OS" and "Linux" synonymously I'm going to have a hard time understanding what you are talking about.

              Linux is a kernel, not an operating system. It appears they are using the Linux kernel and BusyBox (for something).

              Filmzy said:

              I'd like to see you boot a working Unix system without those tools. I'm not talking about running a shell. I'm talking about simply booting the system. Mounting the root filesystem, starting init, starting whatever daemons are necessary... The Linux boot scripts depend *very* heavily on these tools. (That's not to say it's theoretically impossible to boot without using 'ls', 'cd', 'rm', etc... But you would need *something* that accomplishes the same functions.)

              He seems to think they are running a stripped down Linux distro on this box. You seem to think the same.

              Why do you think this?

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                He seems to think they are running a stripped down Linux distro on this box. You seem to think the same. Why do you think this?

                Well, they've said that they're running Linux [myhava.com] on the box (gary-MM, halfway down the page). People also found evidence of Linux on the Hava using nmap and strings(1). I'm assuming it's with a patch-set, but you're right in that it could probably just be compiled with only certain modules. As far as the "for something", given the list of Busybox tools [busybox.net], the idea that they're using at least a handful of them does not surprise me. Maybe there are ways around using them, but that's not the point.

                I'm full

  • Has the copyright been registered with the US copyright office?

    If not, the question arises about the legal requirements about having a registration *before* going to court.

    If so, it raises the questions of statutory damages, but also raises the question whether the registration(s) were made by the actual authors of each separate snippet of code in the composite work, each having its own author and date of authorship.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      There is no need to register copyright since March 1, 1989. [wikipedia.org].

      I see you have been under a rock. You might want to catch up on some other events such as: the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the cold war, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by karl.auerbach (157250)
        You are confusing the now obsolete need to register to obtain a copyright with the still present obligation to register in order to bring an action complaining that the copyright has been infringed.

        In other words, even if you have a copyright you can't sue anybody until you register the copyright.

        And as far as I can see from the complaint busybox isn't registered. And there is a question whether the plaintiffs can do anything more than file a copyright registration on any but pieces of busybox, particularl
    • The obligation to register is found in 17 USC 411:

        (b), no action for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until preregistration or registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance with this title.

      The complaint does not claim that the work is registered by the author, or because it is may be a work from many hands, by the authors (plural).
  • Scroll down on the LinuxDevices article [linuxdevices.com] on the Hava to the screenshot that shows the "remote control".

    Look familiar [tivo.com]?

       
  • by Sirius25 (96063) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:41PM (#20692239)
    Even though they said something about requiring an EULA to download the firmware over two weeks ago, it's still freely available from their site.

    myhava.com/support_downloads_hava.html [myhava.com]

    For the, "Firmware - 32 bit version" (4.4 MB), just strip the first 96 bytes & mount it as a cramfs image.
  • by petrus4 (213815) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:46PM (#20692273) Homepage Journal
    The court case itself is trivial, regardless of the outcome. The point is what is going to happen to Monsoon outside the courtroom. A court case like this is the equivalent of Stallman standing up and yelling, "Attack, my children! Destroy them!" The legion of cultists are going to swarm, regardless of what the lawyers do.

    The owner of Monsoon might want to start thinking about what he wants written on his headstone right about now. If it were me, I'd be checking land prices in Siberia or the Antarctic. ;-)
    • Bad idea (Score:2, Funny)

      by Titoxd (1116095)

      The owner of Monsoon might want to start thinking about what he wants written on his headstone right about now. If it were me, I'd be checking land prices in Siberia or the Antarctic. ;-)
      Why would you want land in the Antarctic? There's PENGUINS there!

      ~~~~
  • Oy vi (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ilan Volow (539597) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:48PM (#20692293) Homepage
    Once GNU will comes out with a free software Hava clone called "gnagila" we can do circle dances.
  • by XScB (240898) on Friday September 21, 2007 @04:49AM (#20693807) Journal
    "According to his corporate biography, Radstone has an MA in Law from the University of Cambridge, England"

    Particularly interesting as Cambridge University don't award MA's in Law. As I was told, Cambridge generally don't give out Masters considering their graduate degree's being already equivalent, although they do seem to award out some Masters.

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. - W. K. Clifford, British philosopher, circa 1876

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