Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses The Courts Your Rights Online

Skype Founders File Copyright Suit Against eBay 107

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the leggo-my-eggo dept.
Saif writes to let us know that Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, the founders of Skype, have filed a copyright suit against eBay for altering and sharing the peer-to-peer source code behind the calling service. The founders managed to maintain ownership of the source and licensed it to eBay in their 2005 deal and are now seeking an injunction and statutory damages which could total more than $75 million per day. "Mr. Zennstrom and Mr. Friis have developed a reputation for litigiousness in some legal circles. They filed three separate lawsuits against Pamela Colburn, an investment banker who represented them in the original sale of Skype, in the United States, the Netherlands and Britain. In May, a British judge dismissed the case and said the two men's reason for pursuing the matter in his country 'remains inexplicable.' The buyers of Skype have not publicly addressed the founders' lawsuit against eBay in Britain or their potential legal liability."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Skype Founders File Copyright Suit Against eBay

Comments Filter:
  • Basically (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:37PM (#29470403)

    They sold Skype to eBay.
    But managed to maintain ownership of a chunk of code because eBay's lawyers were fucking retarded.
    They now claim eBay has altered that code, thus infringing on their copyrights.

    Why are now suing for damages that could be up $75,000,000. Per day.

    My question - how do they know the source doe was altered?

    • Re:Basically (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous McCartneyf (1037584) on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:43PM (#29470501) Homepage Journal
      Because eBay, in a fit of insanity equal to failing to obtain the copyright to that code in the first place, shared the altered code. eBay distributed it. Did they really think the founders of Skype wouldn't see?
      Copyright law -- is there any chaos it can't cause?
    • Re:Basically (Score:5, Informative)

      by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:52PM (#29470635) Journal

      My question - how do they know the source doe was altered?

      You dont need the source code to see changes. Assembly code is always available via debugger like ollydbg or others. Also, these guys are the ones who created kazaa/fasttrack and skype's algorithm, they probably have the technical intelligence to check it themself too or just hire someone to do it.

      Its pretty hard, one could say almost impossible, to hide the algorithm changes since all the code is available as assembly.

      This is just about eBay's stupidity on the point of purchase, because they didnt buy the whole thing.

      • Re:Basically (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Friday September 18, 2009 @04:34PM (#29471127)

        Changing the code was perfectly legal, so long as they only used it internally or developed a compiled product with it. That's why they licensed the source code in the first place.

        However, distributing the code is not legal. It sounds to me like someone at Ebay was dumbass enough to think that minor changes would be enough to alter the copyright, making it theirs and therefore distributable. In fact, depending on the license they agreed to, it may have legal to distribute the altered portions only, or not at all. Either way, to make re-distributing the code legal would have required a substantial re-write, basically just using the Skype code as a guide and not much more than that.

        The Skype founders may be overly-litigeous bastards, but on the surface it sounds like they are in the right on this one.

      • Re:Basically (Score:5, Interesting)

        by coolsnowmen (695297) on Friday September 18, 2009 @04:46PM (#29471293)

        you've clearly never tried to look at skype's code then. It has multiple levels of code obfuscation.

        Last I checked the majority of the program's contents are encrypted. The loader decrypts it into memory, and also deletes the boot-loader from memory. Additionally, the the program will try and detect if you are running it in a debugging environment and jump into random pages. This in turn is hard to detect because seemingly random jumps are all over the code from checking checksum's on itself (to make sure you didn't put in software debugging).

        I'm not even explaining this fully-
        from: http://blogs.securiteam.com/index.php/archives/355 [securiteam.com]
        read: http://www.blackhat.com/presentations/bh-europe-06/bh-eu-06-biondi/bh-eu-06-biondi-up.pdf [blackhat.com]

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sopssa (1498795) *

          I must say I haven't tried looking at it and while I know that Skype has lots of obfuscation and different layers of protection, the guys who developed it most likely know also how to get around it. And these protections were in Skype even before the sale to eBay.

          • Re:Basically (Score:5, Informative)

            by coolsnowmen (695297) on Friday September 18, 2009 @05:22PM (#29471683)

            You are probably right about the originators being able to tell. I should have quoted what is different about this animal.

            When you said, "Assembly code is always available via debugger like ollydbg or others."

            I thought to myself: yeah, for my programs, but skype is a different animal.

            But if you already know this, then I can only hope someone else on /. found it interesting (I know I did when I first read it).

            • I can only hope someone else on /. found it interesting

              I did, but I don't have mod points. ;)

            • by Cyberax (705495)

              Skype uses anti-debugging tricks, but they can be bypassed.

              For example, their Linux version has much weaker protection than the Windows version.

      • My points were:

        Wouldn't obtaining said code for inspection be illegal without a warrant?

        Why isn't eBay's further idiocy (passing the code out like Dr. Tran with hot dickings) mentioned in the summary?

    • My question - how do they know the source doe was altered?

      I'm so sick of people fawning all over eBay like they did nothing wrong here. EBay gave a dear sum of money to Skype to license the code, but didn't get full rights toit. Their mistake. I bet they try and pass the buck and blame the lawyers and their ilk.

      Oh, and totally off-topic, but does anyone know a 24-hour chapel where they do weddings? My grandfather is making my aunt elope.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by idontgno (624372)
        I didn't know there was a shotgun season [wikipedia.org] for aunt-elope [wikipedia.org].
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by rattaroaz (1491445)

        Oh, and totally off-topic, but does anyone know a 24-hour chapel where they do weddings? My grandfather is making my aunt elope.

        Can't advise you on a 24-hour chapel, but I can advise you not to quit your day job.

      • by Avalain (1321959)

        My question - how do they know the source doe was altered?

        I'm so sick of people fawning all over eBay like they did nothing wrong here. EBay gave a dear sum of money to Skype to license the code, but didn't get full rights toit. Their mistake. I bet they try and pass the buck and blame the lawyers and their ilk..

        People are "fawning" over eBay because despite whatever legal rights the creators of Skype have, selling a 95% of a company for 2.6 billion and then turning around and suing for another 27.375 billion per year is seen as a very underhanded move.

        I have a hard time cheering for the people that sell their program and then revoke the license for a core portion that wasn't sold.

        • Re:Basically (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday September 18, 2009 @05:18PM (#29471641)

          With all the shit ebay has pulled over the years, and I'm not just referring to ridiculous fee increase, but all the ways they have given third parties veto power over auctions (e.g. try selling a copy MS windows on ebay and watch the auction be disappeared because MS thinks all copies of windows sold by individuals are pirated and ebay just lets them cancel auctions independently) its basically a case of ebay getting hoisted by their own petard (live by arbitrary and unfriendly contracts, die by arbitrary and unfriendly contracts).

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by digitalunity (19107)

            If Skype did this to anyone other than EBay, I would be kind of pissed. EBay has engaged in a lot of really anti-user policies of late, mostly because they (legally) garnered a monopoly in the online auction world. A lot has changed though over the last 10 years though and EBay doesn't have the same power they did in 2000.

            Regardless, yeah it's pretty shifty what Skype did. I bet in talks they TOLD eBay they were buying everything, but held back copyrights and the eBay lawyers skimmed over it. Nobody would p

        • It appears you've made the error of taking one of my Friday posts seriously. Would you like some help with that? My post, relevant parts in bold:

          My question - how do they know the source doe was altered?

          I'm so sick of people fawning all over eBay like they did nothing wrong here. EBay gave a dear sum of money to Skype to license the code, but didn't get full rights toit. Their mistake. I bet they try and pass the buck and blame the lawyers and their ilk.

          Oh, and totally off-topic, but does anyone kn

      • y grandfather is making my aunt elope.

        The hell? Just tell him to pound sand.

      • A lot of people just got whooshed.

        I almost did, then I noticed my typo.

        My hat has been thusly tipped, sir.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Maybe by going to www.skype.com and downloading something?

    • Not exactly ... (Score:3, Informative)

      Another lawsuit [washingtonpost.com] revealed an interesting piece of information that will likely impact these proceedings:

      What's most interesting about the lawsuit is a single disclosure early in the lawsuit complaint. Not only does Skype not own the core P2P technology underlying the service, but they don't even have access to the source code (emphasis added):

      A source code version of the GI Software is licenced by Joltid to Joost, allowing Joost to be the first company to successfully deliver television and other video content in real-time over a peer-to-peer network. An executable-only object code form of the GI Software was licensed by Loltid to Skype, a well-known Internet-based company that provides users throughout the world wiht free or low-cost telephone services over the Internet. Skype did not obtain a license to the GI Software source code, however, and the license it did obtain was terminated based on SKype's breaches of the license agreement.

      I don't know enough of either suit to definitively make heads or tails out of it, but it appears that the code Skype is suing eBay over may not even be theirs to begin with.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        From the smell of what is going it, I would wonder whether EBay themselves are behind the investor buy out. You know, a bit of behind the scenes shenanigans and a big fat off the books sales commission and a troublesome business venture is dumped for a profit (it would be just so typically an EBay sale).

        You would think some open source video call peer to peer software and the many ISP's who already provide VOIP call technology (a very simple extension of those services) would inevitably bring about Skype

  • KaZaaM! (Score:5, Funny)

    by JackSpratts (660957) on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:40PM (#29470461) Homepage

    kazaa/fasttrack founders suing for copyright violation? it's hard to know just where to begin...

    - js.

  • by VinylRecords (1292374) on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:41PM (#29470471)

    They should have just left negative feedback. Isn't that the policy for a bad transaction on eBay anyways?

  • 1) if you "buy" an outfit, you should get the code that made it.

    2) if you didn't, you should have modification rights.

    3) if you "sell" an outfit, you should spend your money and not try to steal the sumbitch back.

    conclusion: put them all in a room, with their laywers. on the titanic. hit an iceberg. it's a start.

    • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:48PM (#29470583)
      Why did EBay agree to the terms where they did not get control of the source when they bought Skype? Shame on Ebay for making this possible when they bought Skype with a bajillion of their shareholders money. I predict that this will lead to a class action suit by Ebay shareholders against Ebay.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It could go down as one of the worst business moves in the history of mankind. Paying billions of dollars for a temporary right to license a free service while leaving patents and copyrights to the previous owners.

      • >> Shame on Ebay for making this possible when they bought Skype with a bajillion of their shareholders money.

        Hello AJ, how have you been? I just found you stuck inside the word billion in that post.

      • by Korin43 (881732)
        I'd have to agree. It's seems (to me) that buying the software without full ownership of the source code is a terrible idea. While it's easy to blame the Skype founders for offering a terrible deal, it seems like someone at EBay should've read the contract before signing it. Don't they have teams of lawyers for this? Or at least hire one temporarily to look through the contract and point out "Yeah so you can use this, but you won't actually own it"?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by swanzilla (1458281)

      conclusion: put them all in a room, with their laywers. on the titanic. hit an iceberg. it's a start.

      Unfortunately, the Titanic sank in 1912. A chubby red-haired woman survived, but a floppy haired blonde guy froze in the water. There was a movie about it a few years ago.

      • by RulerOf (975607)

        A chubby red-haired woman survived

        She went on later to become a Nazi who trades sex for dramatic reading. They made another movie about it some years later.

    • by jd2112 (1535857)
      Waste of a perfectly good ship. Put them on the iceberg and let it melt. That way global warming is doing some good for a change.
      • firing squad. Then charge their families for the bullets used. It's what THEY would do if they had the chance.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by houstonbofh (602064)

      1) if you "buy" an outfit, you should get the code that made it.

      2) if you didn't, you should have modification rights.

      3) if you "sell" an outfit, you should spend your money and not try to steal the sumbitch back.

      conclusion: put them all in a room, with their laywers. on the titanic. hit an iceberg. it's a start.

      If you spend millions to buy something and never have anybody who understands what you are buying read the contract, you deserve what you get. Read the fine print... http://www.mevis-research.de/~meyer/MISC/di/a.htm [mevis-research.de]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:41PM (#29470479)

    You can see he has a key with "(TM)" on it

    • Or he's just a Mac user? On a Mac, shift-option-2 gives the trademark symbol and Slashdot's unicodophobia turns it into (TM).
  • Damn unicode... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by clone53421 (1310749) on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:42PM (#29470489) Journal

    If we can't get it working, can we at least have the editors strip the unicode out of the summaries?

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      can we at least have the editors strip the unicode out of the summaries?

      Wait - Slashdot has what now? When did we get those?

      • by prozaker (1261190)
        you're lucky you have summaries, in my days we had to click the article to see what it was about.
    • by xaxa (988988)

      Slashcode is using Unicode fine on Solidot.org [solidot.org] (A Chinese /.).

  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:44PM (#29470515)

    I'll be generous... 2006 to 2009, 365 days per year minus about 100 days for the remainder of 2009, at $75 million per day. That's $102 billion...

    eBay bought them for $2.6 billion in 2005. Revenue, according to a quick google lookup, has been about $1.1 billion in the years 2006 to 2009.

    This seems ridiculous? Or am I reading this wrong?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's a copyright lawsuit. Thanks to other industries who make their living off copyright (especially the RIAA and MPAA), the legally accepted penalties for violating copyright are allowed to go far beyond the actual damages. Yes, 100x has precedent.
      At least, if eBay loses, it has a chance to pay the fine in its lifetime. You don't want to be holding a PayPal card if it comes to that, though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      I believe it is $75 million from the time they illegaly distributed the source code, not from the day of the deal. When exactly that would be I have no idea, but the British version of this lawsuit goes back to March of this year.

      Using a March start date, you're still looking at $13.5 billion, but that is based on the maximum statutory damages (which these litigious copyright owners do not set, btw). More than likely if eBay loses it will be substantially less than that, but still very significant.

      If eBay

  • The AP reported this [mercurynews.com] a few days ago.

    And today, they report [mercurynews.com] that they are suing the potential buyers of Skype as well.

    • And today, they report that they are suing the potential buyers of Skype as well.

      The reason the developer/owners are doing this is that they want to cash cow back. They are really trying to intimidate anyone thinking of buying Skype, and intimidating the current owners to sell to them.

  • Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, who became billionaires after selling Skype to eBay in 2005,....

    Take your money, buy an island, fill it with beautiful naked women or use the money to start something else and add more value to the economy.

    Suing just enriches the lawyers - they don't need any help - and it doesn't add anything of value to the economy.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Where does one shop for "beautiful naked women"? Can I claim accelerated depreciation for them on my taxes? How many "beautiful naked women" can one purchase for $2.6 billion (less the cost of the island, of course)? Finally, what should the founders of Skype do if their tastes run more towards beautiful naked men?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Where does one shop for "beautiful naked women"?

        Red light District

        Can I claim accelerated depreciation for them on my taxes?

        No. Women never get depreciated, only under appreciated.

        How many "beautiful naked women" can one purchase for $2.6 billion (less the cost of the island, of course)?

        More than you can afford.

        Finally, what should the founders of Skype do if their tastes run more towards beautiful naked men?

        There's an app for that.
        (Just kidding)

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by jonbryce (703250)

          You depreciate your assets over their expected useful economic life. Beautiful young women quickly turn into ugly middle aged women, so there is a finite useful life.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Overzeetop (214511)

        Beautiful naked women aren't bought - they are leased. Finding them is relatively easy - they will seek out the cash. Lease and operations rates are typically high, but very manageable if your bank account balance looks like a phone number. Since you can only lease BNW, they are always deductible provided sufficient accounting creativity.

        If the founders are looking for men, the same applies, however overall costs tends to be greater.

      • Re:Some people. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by coolsnowmen (695297) on Friday September 18, 2009 @05:04PM (#29471511)

        If I wanted to buy a person. I would take the amount of money they would need in a life time to support a family, and multiply it by 10. That should allow you to find a naked woman to by. Beauty is subjective. Let's say for here: http://www.livingwage.geog.psu.edu/counties/12086 [psu.edu] (Miami-Dade, Florida). So about 3 million dollars. For 2.6 billion, you could have about 867 naked women MAX

        For a minimum, I'ld look at what porn stars get paid. A good porn start can make about 750K/year. Assuming that you want top quality women for the rest of your life (50 years), you could have 69 women minimum (rotating the old ones out and new ones in as they age and your preferences change).

        • Damn I forgot my factor of 10 in the first calculation. The second one is a better way to look at it anyways.

        • Unfortunatelly, buying a woman is much cheaper. According to US' State Department, in 2005 somewhere between 14500 and 17500 people were trafficked into the US.

      • Where does one shop for "beautiful naked women"

        Mauritania [wikipedia.org]? Though I hear that anywhere in Central Africa isn't a bad place for that sort of thing... ~

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by z4ce (67861)

      Can I suggest you contact your local ACORN office? They can help you set up a tax dodge for the island and probably arrange women through their contacts in Tijuana...

    • fwiw, they've been running an investment fund and Joost, a distributed video streamer w/ content deals.

  • Brilliant Hack (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Friday September 18, 2009 @04:21PM (#29470977) Journal

    Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis were clearly not content to hack compelling software. Their travails sound like a Gibson novel. As far as I can tell, they made themselves the monarchs of Skype. One day, some enterprising journalist will tell us how the fuck they managed to sell Ebay an empty XBOX 360 box for billions of dollars.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by corbettw (214229)
      The best part is, eBay didn't even open the box until after they left their feedback: "A++, great communication, would buy from again".
  • This might be.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    This might be a little bit off topic, but... Is there any good skype alternative? Something that works in linux, windows, and mac?
    • Erm. Why not just use Skype? It works in Linux, Windows, and Mac.

      ... and the iPhone, Windows Mobile, Nokia, and PSP...

    • This might be a little bit off topic, but... Is there any good skype alternative? Something that works in linux, windows, and mac?

      Magicjack works for me.

    • by fatalwall (873645)

      Its not off topic for those of us reading who have skype paid services. I myself would like to have a backup ready as I see this either lasting years or skype just being shut down.

      I dont care about the chat portion of the system however the ability to call internet users, land lines, have 5 way phone calls(easier then figuring out how to do it on the physical phone) and maybe the ability to port my skype number in...

      If anyone knows anything share please!!

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      Asterisk and a SIP client. You get to host your own server that way! If you want...

    • by selven (1556643)
      Ekiga Softphone, which comes with Ubuntu. I don't know about how good it is, but for simple talking it should suffice.
    • by jps25 (1286898)

      Sadly, there isn't one currently.
      Ekiga, Gizmo5 and so on do not support VOIP+webcam on Windows, Linux and Mac.

    • Is there any good skype alternative? Something that works in linux, windows, and mac?

      Depends on what exactly you need. If it's just voice chat, then the recent release of Pidgin supports GTalk voice and video [pidgin.im] these days, so you can use that on Linux / OS X, and GTalk itself on Windows.

      For cheap calls to landlines, not sure.

      • For cheap calls to landlines, any SIP phone and then just pick a SIP provider near the people you call (you can pick a few of them if you call different countries and some are cheaper than others). And, because SIP is an open protocol, you will find lots of cheap SIP phones; even my mobile (cheap, oldish, Nokia phone) can talk SIP so when I'm in my house it uses SIP for outgoing calls, only falling back to using the mobile network when I am away from WiFi.
  • by bobdotorg (598873) on Friday September 18, 2009 @05:32PM (#29471783)

    eBay / PayPal routinely shaft sellers out of PayPal payments, sweetly telling the post-coital shaftees to, "Read your user agreement, you explicitly agreed to accommodate our shaft."

    Apparently those Kazaa guys' lawyers were skilled at placing a StealthShaft(TM) in the contract.

    Take it eBay. Take it.

  • First of all, it's old fashioned greed. I am very sure lawsuit is driven by lawyers, not founders themselves. Second, it could destroy Skype - and I really hope it does. I have my own share of dissatisfaction of Skype, but more or less my basic argument not to used - it is closed and not standartised. It eats resources like crazy. It has serious problems with quality of voice calls. And I'm tired of Skype not providing any way for thirty party to integrate their protocol in their products.

    Most of my friends

  • Genius! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jerrry (43027) on Friday September 18, 2009 @06:22PM (#29472231)

    The Skype founders must be genius negotiators if they managed to sell their company to eBay for billions of dollars yet keep rights to the source code that runs the business. Either that or eBay's lawyers must be the world's biggest idiots.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ClosedSource (238333)

      "Either that or eBay's lawyers must be the world's biggest idiots."

      So that's where the IBM lawyers that negotiated the MS-DOS contract ended up.

  • eBay doesn't even have a source code license. [washingtonpost.com] They're just a binary licensee with a bulk buy deal, like any other end user of commercial software.

    They bought the customer base, but not the software.

Overdrawn? But I still have checks left!

Working...