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GNU is Not Unix The Courts

Palm Sued Over Palm Pre GPL Violation 374

Posted by timothy
from the license-quicksand dept.
zaxl writes "Palm is being sued by Artifex Software over the PDF viewer in Palm's Pre smartphone, which may violate the GNU GPL. Artifex alleges that Palm has copied Artifex's PDF rendering engine, called muPDF, and integrated it into the Palm Pre's PDF viewer application without the proper licensing conditions. The entire application must be licensed under the GPL if muPDF is part of the application. It seems more and more cell phones are shipping with open source code, but in a closed manner."
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Palm Sued Over Palm Pre GPL Violation

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  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @11:09PM (#30348762) Journal
    No, actually it only tells you what you are required to do if you distribute projects that contain it. You can use with out distribution however you want, no restrictions.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 06, 2009 @11:16PM (#30348806)

    Pls don't feed the copy&paste troll ... ... this very same 'story' has been posted way too many times *sigh*

  • Re:Well (Score:5, Informative)

    by Interoperable (1651953) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @11:24PM (#30348856)

    If you use someone else's (copyrighted) code you must abide by the license restriction. If it would be too costly to do so then you can't use the code.

    Developers should fully understand whatever license they release under. If someone wants to restrict usage of their code to only open-source projects they are free to do so. If they want to release for the benefit of everyone they are free to do so. If they want to try to make some money off their efforts they are free to do so. The key is understanding what you're doing when you choose a license.

    New GPL code is not a donation to the community. It is a payment to those who have written GPL code in the past, released on the understanding that others will pay for it by contributing further code. GPL carries restrictions, learn what they are before you use or write GPL code.

  • by postbigbang (761081) on Monday December 07, 2009 @12:14AM (#30349118)

    Uh, no.

    The terms are really simple here, and the violation is obvious. If you distribute mods, you must distribute code. No evidence of code out there.... and the app doesn't exist in a vacuum. The argument really isn't legitimate. If fact, it's quite clear what the problem is: violation.

  • Re:How hard is it? (Score:2, Informative)

    by xiando (770382) on Monday December 07, 2009 @12:18AM (#30349146) Homepage Journal

    In Palm's case, they would never sell any phones, not because the software is Open Source but because no US carrier would let it on their network.

    fixed that for ya, in EU you can buy any phone (at a higher price) and 3 pay as you go sim cards from different carriers and use whichever card you want when you want. The US is the only country I am aware of with a phone-tied-to-carrier system.

  • Re:the FSF? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 07, 2009 @12:31AM (#30349240)

    I know you were joking, but copyrights (which is what the GPL is based on), and patents are entirely different things.

  • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Informative)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday December 07, 2009 @12:42AM (#30349276)
    Actually, copyrights are the basis of the GPL, RMS and the FSF have never denied this. The copyleft strategy is intended to reverse the normal manner in which copyrights are used, but copyrights still form the basis of the license. This is why the GPL carries legal weight, why it stands up in court, and why companies bother paying attention to it.

    The only reason we have software licenses at all is copyright. Installing software requires at least one copy of the software to be made; thus, unlike a paper book, you must get the permission of the copyright holder to use their software even after you purchase (or otherwise obtain) a copy. The copyright holder can give you such permission with all sorts of restrictions, or without any restrictions at all (such was with the BSD license).

    I am not saying that this system is ideal or that I support it, but it is the reality that we have to deal with.
  • Re:How hard is it? (Score:3, Informative)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Monday December 07, 2009 @12:50AM (#30349330) Journal

    The US is the only country I am aware of with a phone-tied-to-carrier system.

    Even in the US, as long as you use GSM pones, they are not tied to the network. T-Mobile will provide unlock codes for phones they sell, so you can unlock your phone and take it to AT&T. I know this works because I have done it. I have also used phones bought in Europe on T-Mobile's network.

  • Re:How hard is it? (Score:5, Informative)

    by cptdondo (59460) on Monday December 07, 2009 @12:52AM (#30349342) Journal

    Oh come on... I can buy a GSM modem and stick it on an embedded board from embeddedarm.com. I now have a fully programmable open phone that, according to you, I can now use to wreak utter havoc on the cell phone industry. (I know, I programmed one. A direct bridge between the GSM network and our wifi network. Wneee! Hear those towers toppling!)

    Not really. It's the same bullshit argument you hear about almost anything these days - can't trust the user, have to lock it down, we need DRM, those users are all thieves.

    BULLSHIT! It only inconveniences the legit users, not those who really want to destroy civilization.

  • by originalhack (142366) on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:02AM (#30349382)
    http://opensource.palm.com/1.3.1/index.html seems to have the source and patches. Is this the end of it or is something missing?
  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:06AM (#30349408) Journal

    Like all licences, GPL constrains how you may used the licensed thing.

    You said "used" which I assumed was supposed to be "use". Use and distribution are two different things. Distribution is not a way to use software. Even if it was, the gpl is very explicit in its goal to only cover only distribution. Many people get confused over this point and think that they are not free to use GPL in a personal project that will never be distributed.That's why I responded: to clarify your statement in the general sense. Yes, in the case of palm they did distribute. But, I think its more important that people understand what the GPL says, then the specifics of any one case. This is why you will notice any actual reference to this case in my first post.

    A great example of this is something like MySql. I can change the software to do what ever I want, and use it on my server to build a facebook killer, without being required to distribute the source code for it, even though its licensed under the GPL. Because, again the GPL only covers distribution, not use( or other uses if you insist on your ridiculous definition of use that includes distribution).

    Also, you misspelled licenses. I'm usually the guy that people point out grammatical errors to, rather than visa versa. But, still, if you are going to offer advice about a subject, it helps your creditability to actually spell it correctly. Or at least use a web browser with integrated spell checking. Again, the point of posting was not nitpicking, but clarifying as posts similar to your last one have led to quite a bit of misinformation about the GPL license.

    Once again:GPL covers distribution only, not use.

  • Re:MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:07AM (#30349414) Homepage

    Umm, don't you think that is probably something they checked before filing the lawsuit?

    You never know. :-P

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:12AM (#30349446) Homepage Journal

    They've been busy, haven't they? The patch to busybox I looked at was well commented. Looks like the kind of thing which could be taken upstream.

    The ipkg changes might be useful on the openmoko.

  • by xrayspx (13127) on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:12AM (#30349448) Homepage
    On the phone is a PDF called "Open Source Information.pdf". In this document they list the projects they used for the phone:

    libgpg-error (only certain files are licensed under GPL), linux-hotplug, libsamplerate0, fuse, freefont, vpnc, sysfsutils, iptables, dosfstools, alsa-plugins, busybox, ipkg, netbase, oprofile, pmeloop, alsa-utils, PPP (only certain files are licensed under GPL), readline, setserial, upstart-initscripts, e2fsprogs (only certain files are licensed under GPL), module-init-tools-cross, module-init-tool, base-passwd, iproute2, usbmon, mupdf, libpurple, makedevs, update- modules, netcat, gdbm, cifs, rsync, update-rc.d, upstart, wireless-tools, udev, bootchart, fbset, dnsmasq, binutils, libgcrypt (only certain files are licensed under GPL), libfuse, Sysvinit, Linux Kernel, pulseaudio, procps, psmisc, mtools, UN Batang Korean True Type Font, faad2, e2fsprogs-libs (portions are licensed under GPL, other portions are licensed under LGPL), sysstat, screen

    I don't know why there's a suit unless someone requested the code and was denied, but Palm clearly advertise the fact that they use the app. The document is 37 pages long, but it's not hard to find references to the software they use.
  • Re:I'm confused (Score:3, Informative)

    by maxfresh (1435479) on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:29AM (#30349564)

    ...but as with all software licenses, the GPL must give you permission to install and run the program in the first place...

    That's not correct.

    From the standpoint of copyright law, nobody needs a license just to install, or run, a legally acquired copy of GPL software, nor any other software.

    U.S. copyright law, 17 USC 117(a)(1), specifically states that the owner of a program has the right to copy it, as an essential step in utilizing it:

    TITLE 17 > CHAPTER 1 > 117. Limitations on exclusive rights: Computer programs

    (a) Making of Additional Copy or Adaptation by Owner of Copy.-- Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of that computer program provided:

    (1) that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner, or

    (2) that such new copy or adaptation is for archival purposes only and that all archival copies are destroyed in the event that continued possession of the computer program should cease to be rightful.

    The GPL acknowledges this fact, in section 9 which states, "You are not required to accept this License in order to receive or run a copy of the Program."

    The fact that the GPL acknowledges the owner's right to use the softare is laudable, but it is not really needed by the end-user, because the right to use software that has been legally acquired is already guaranteed by law.

  • Re:Well (Score:3, Informative)

    by jamesh (87723) on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:44AM (#30349642)

    Do I risk being labeled as an anti-GPL troll for saying that the people who aren't willing to offer one for any price are assholes?

    You risk being labeled ignorant. A lot of GPL software has more than one contributor to the code base...

  • Re:How hard is it? (Score:3, Informative)

    by marcansoft (727665) <hector@@@marcansoft...com> on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:49AM (#30349662) Homepage

    On the iPhone it's still a separate chip. As far as I know, the interface isn't a serial line. Instead, it's a higher-bandwidth interface with a multiplexing protocol for several channels. Some of these virtual channels do emulate good old serial lines, and the AT command part is completely true.

  • by poopdeville (841677) on Monday December 07, 2009 @02:25AM (#30349842)

    Apache doesn't use the GPL... Apache uses the Apache license, which is much closer to the MIT license than anything else.

  • Re:How hard is it? (Score:3, Informative)

    by FlyingGuy (989135) <flyingguy.gmail@com> on Monday December 07, 2009 @02:55AM (#30349982)

    I am quite sure many people have tried to hack the tower interface in the spirit of Captain Crunch [wikipedia.org] but who knows how many have tried and succeeded and kept quiet ( although I am quite sure the bragging rights would be legend ), tried and succeeded and ben arrested, tried and succeeded and been paid to be quiet or tried and failed.

    Trust me, I am pretty sure we will never know because I am quite sure that the phone companies want that kept quiet.

  • by lisaparratt (752068) on Monday December 07, 2009 @03:56AM (#30350256)

    Um, that's looks like today's date to my European eyes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 07, 2009 @04:05AM (#30350294)

    The GPL doesn't require the source to be available online or at point-of-sale either. All you have to do is offer to send the source code to anyone who asks, provided they already have a copy of the binary version (i.e. they bought a Palm Pre.)

    It's generally accepted that the GPL applies to code that's dynamically linked, although it's one of the legal grey areas for the GPLv2.

    In the case of the Palm Pre, WebOS "applications" are written in Javascript. Applications communicate with backend services using DBus. If that's what they're doing with the PDF app -- running the PDF renderer in a separate process and controlling it using DBus -- it will be difficult for Artifex to argue that the app is really "linking" against muPDF.

  • Re:maybe not... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 07, 2009 @04:23AM (#30350372)

    What about http://palm.cdnetworks.net/opensource/1.3.1/documentserver.tar.gz [cdnetworks.net] ?

    $ ls -1 documentserver/
    COPYING-LGPL2.1.txt
    debug-x86-org
    documentserver
    include
    lib
    Makefile
    mustd.h
    PDF.cpp
    PDF.h
    PDFOutline.cpp
    PDFOutline.h
    PDFPage.cpp
    PDFPage.h
    PDFRenderer.cpp
    PDFRenderer.h
    PDFService.cpp
    PDFViewer.cpp
    PDFViewer.h
    Search.cpp
    Search.h

  • by mjwx (966435) on Monday December 07, 2009 @04:26AM (#30350384)

    Anyone else notice this? -> Mikael Ricknäs (IDG News Service) 07/12/2009 07:53:00

    Oh dear, I've travelled back in time to the seventh of December in the year 2009.

    There's still time, I have to warn people about Stallman before its too late.

  • Re:Well (Score:3, Informative)

    by wrook (134116) on Monday December 07, 2009 @04:32AM (#30350420) Homepage

    The thing is the GPL isn't the "golden chalice" even for the FSF. That's why they have the LGPL. And nobody (that I've ever heard of, anyway) is going to criticize anybody for choosing another free license (like BSD) either. Choosing the correct license is a very important thing and every developer should think very carefully about it before they release. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard developers complain about being "ripped off" because somebody used their code in a "commercial product" without their consent -- only to find out that they had a BSD license. Or that they complain about being "ripped off" because someone charged money for their application without their consent -- only to find out that they had a GPL license.

    People need to think about what they want to accomplish with their license. Sometimes something like BSD is the best. The advantages are wide adoptability. People can join your project easily. But someone may just stick your code in their own product. You'll be competing against yourself, but at a disadvantage since they can use your code and you can't use theirs. For a lot of stuff you don't care and BSD is great.

    Maybe you care about end users being able to use the latest version of your code, but you don't care about unfair competition. In this case the LGPL is a great license. Anybody can use the code any way they want, but your users can fix bugs in your code or add new functionality, etc.

    Maybe you care about making sure nobody can use your code to leverage an unfair advantage against others. Everyone who adopts the code in their program must agree to a common set of principles. This way nobody is at a disadvantage. The GPL is great for that. But remember that the more restrictive your licensing is, the less potential users you will have. And there is no question that the GPL is more restrictive than the BSD license. However, for the reasons above (and many others) a very large number of people think it strikes a very good balance.

    Personally, I don't like licenses that are more restrictive than GPL. As a user as well as a programmer "free" (as in software) is extremely important to me. It's worth more than money to me. I regularly fix bugs and add features to code I use. And I value the ability to ask my friends to help me out when I can't fix it myself. When I have had to use proprietary software (both as a user and programmer) I have almost always been very frustrated with the lack of ability to fix my own problems. I've decided never to write software that is more restrictive than GPL and I wish others would do so as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 07, 2009 @04:41AM (#30350458)

    Perhaps he lives in a country where they spell 'licence' correctly instead of the US?

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:00AM (#30351372) Homepage

    If they statically link or dynamically link, they *must* license as GPL.

    Not [wikipedia.org] so clear [brouhaha.com]. The jury is still out - not literally though, since the dynamic linking issue hasn't yet been tried in court.

  • Re:Well (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:33AM (#30351910) Journal
    There are three open source PDF libraries that I am aware of. Two are GPL'd. Of these, one is GPL2 (no or-later clause) and works well, the other is GPL3 and is more or less vapourware. There is one BSDL PDF library, but it is written in Java and does not integrate well with non-Java programs. If you want to provide PDF functionality then you have three choices:
    • Use GPL'd code.
    • Pay for a proprietary implementation (FoxIt, Adobe, and a few other companies provide these)
    • Use Java code.

    The second option is expensive and the third option will probably push the price of the device up (you need either more RAM or to pay ARM for the Jazelle extensions in the CPU core). The GPL'd option looks the least expensive. It's worth noting that iRex follows the GPL path and includes a GPL'd PDF reader on their devices. This has been forked by the community, and the community version is much nicer than the one that they supply. The rest of their software stack sucks (although the hardware is nice).

    A lot of companies choose BSD licensed alternatives when they exist, but they are not always available. A lot of companies that choose BSD licensed alternatives contribute code upstream, because it's cheaper for them to do this than maintain their own fork. A lot of companies that use GPL'd code either spend time and effort isolating the GPL'd component so that they can avoid releasing their code, or just ignore the GPL and hope that they won't get caught. The latter option is quite common, but it's starting to become a lot less safe, so hopefully that will push more companies to seriously evaluate other options.

    By the way, I recently interviewed the creators of a Linux-based handheld and asked them why they picked Linux over a BSD variant. Their answer had nothing to do with the relative technical merits of the platforms; they said it was simply to do with brand recognitions. If you say 'Linux based' then geeks buy it and non-geeks have probably heard something positive about Linux, even if they can't tell you what it is. If you say 'BSD-based' then a few geeks buy it and no one else knows what it means, so you don't get any marketing advantage.

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