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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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  • Re:Well (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ducomputergeek (595742) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @11:02PM (#30348704)

    That's why we're very careful that any libraries we use in distributed software are licensed under BSD or MIT style licenses.

  • by Chysn (898420) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @11:17PM (#30348818)
    ...since Palm mentions muPDF in their documentation, and they don't have a commercial license for it. Anyone in the software industry, anyone using libraries they didn't write, should understand that there's a difference between "open source" and "public domain."
  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @11:18PM (#30348828) Homepage Journal

    Maybe a palm pre owner should just ask for the source code. They may get it.

  • How hard is it? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @11:33PM (#30348896)
    How hard is it to just release a totally OSS version of your OS with all applications and stuff there and let people modify it and put it on your phone? I really don't see the point of trying to complicate things by closing the OSS. Release everything for free and you can take a lot more free code and not having to worry about paying lots of money when you are caught.
  • by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Sunday December 06, 2009 @11:34PM (#30348900)

    The pre actually ships with a fair amount of code on it: It's based on a Linux system, after all. Hook it up as a USB drive, and there will be a folder with a copy of the GPL and the full code for much of the OS.

    If Palm actually shipped this without the right licensing, I'll bet it's an oversight. I'm betting the first Palm knew of this was when the lawsuit reached them.

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

    by iammani (1392285) on Monday December 07, 2009 @12:16AM (#30349130)
    Why not? The GSM/CDMA part can still be implemented separately, say on a separate chip and the all other functions of the phone on an arm processor which can run any compatible OS of your choice, may be even an OSS OS.

    This way, the cell tower is safe and you get to run any application/library, add external devices to the phone without requiring the blessings of the manufacturer or the cell phone providers.

    I dont understand why this is not possible. Hell, they could even make a USB based GSM/CDMA card, that could be used with any laptop/palmtop that supports USB. Want to switch providers, just use a new usb card.

    The only reason why they dont make these is that, the cell phone providers want *complete* control over any thing related to cell phones.
  • Re:Well (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 07, 2009 @12:25AM (#30349196)

    Palm actually uses a bunch of GPL'd code (the Pre is Linux based) and they do make the code available. In fact, I think some of it even comes on the device itself.

    I'm sure this is just an oversight if the code really is GPL and isn't available.

  • by caseih (160668) on Monday December 07, 2009 @12:28AM (#30349214)

    Yeah the "industry" would love all open source code to be BSD so they can use it with impunity. Honestly let's stop this FUD. It's simply not true. Code under the GPL is no different from code under any other license. If you don't use it in compliance with the license then you are in a copyright violation situation, and the law allows financial remedies for such a case. The fact that it is GPL is irrelevant to this. Also the summary is incorrect. Palm is in a copyright violation now and have three choices: 1. remove the GPL code, 2. license the code under a different arrangement, and 3. License their derivative product as GPL.

    Why are you upset when copyright holders exercise their rights under the law to prevent a company from knowingly or unknowingly rip them off? How would BSD help this situation? Because the GPL actually has teeth we're starting to see the tip of the ice berg as far as willful license violations go. It's impossible to judge how much code is being used illegally in proprietary products. We're not talking GPL either. Any license. Microsoft code, code from some other source.

    Do liberty and capitalism allow one the right to violate copyrights? The GPL exists to protect the rights and freedoms of the developers and the end users while allowing free redistribution of code. I know of no other license that does this so effectively. In my opinion, if all open source code was BSD, there really would be no open source community or ecosystem. Like Adam Smith said, sometimes you have to balance self-interest with self-interest. The BSD doesn't do that really well. Certainly there is zero incentive for a company to release code under the BSD if it's just going to be used directly against them. The GPL allows companies to foster communities and promote development, while maintaining a level playing field for all the players.

  • Re:How hard is it? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bendodge (998616) <bendodge@nOSPam.bsgprogrammers.com> on Monday December 07, 2009 @12:58AM (#30349366) Homepage Journal

    The truth is in the middle. No, a truly open phone isn't going to wreck anything. But the carriers won't sell it, because that would endanger their nickle-and-dime model. They do NOT want people to see them as just a mobile ISP.

    Yeah, a handset maker could sell them directly to the customer, but that market is simply too small. Almost everybody leases their phone directly from the carrier. What we need is an Android-type device running on a WiMAX network that realizes it's just a dumb pipe...then we'll get some progress.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:19AM (#30349496)

    isn't Artifix based on Ghostscript which is GPL, Artifix packages a version of ghoscript with support? Can anyone in the know clarify the situation with regards to ghostscript?

  • by thedarknite (1031380) on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:44AM (#30349638) Homepage
    Further to your comment, I pulled down the source code from Palm (http://opensource.palm.com/1.3.1/index.html) and compared it to the the earliest source I could find on Artifex's site. Palm is using an earlier version (02-Mar-2008) of the muPDF source which is licensed under GPLv2. Artifex's available source(01-Jul-2009) is GPLv3.

    IIRC GPLv2 allows Palm to distribute the application as they are doing.
  • Re:Well (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:55AM (#30349690) Journal

    Which brings up a question I have had on my mind for quite awhile now since all these companies started getting sued for GPL violations, that nobody has really been able to answer: What is wrong with BSD? Is it broken, code sucks, bloated beyond repair, what?

    Because it seems like from a business standpoint, especially after RMS wrote the "TiVo clause" into GPL V3, that the business world would just avoid anything GPL altogether, and stick with BSD code that won't come back to bite them in the ass. After all it worked for Apple and MSFT, so what is wrong with BSD? There has to be SOME reason why these companies keep snatching GPL and dealing with possible lawsuits when you can do whatever you want with BSD and all is golden, so what is it?

  • by Achromatic1978 (916097) <robertNO@SPAMchromablue.net> on Monday December 07, 2009 @02:01AM (#30349716)
    Douglas Adams once posited in The Deeper Meaning Of Liff that the shortest measurable duration of time in the universe was "the time elapsed between the light turning green, and the driver behind you blowing his horn". I now beg to differ. It's the time between someone claiming a GPL violation, and the Open Source hordes clamboring for someone's head, regardless of merit.

    the violation is obvious

    No evidence of code out there.... and the app doesn't exist in a vacuum.

    If fact, it's quite clear what the problem is: violation.

    http://opensource.palm.com/1.3.1/index.html [palm.com] would disagree with you.

    I'd agree, it is quite clear what the problem is. But it's not a GPL violation...

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

    by cerberusss (660701) on Monday December 07, 2009 @02:40AM (#30349910) Homepage Journal

    it is entirely another when you take out a whole cell tower or several cell towers do to either malicious programing or just bad programming

    Don't be silly. You drank the Apple FUD coolaid. Anybody can build, or even easier, buy a GSM scrambler for a small range [dealextreme.com]. Make it a bit more powerful and you can blanket whole blocks. You could have done so for decades.

    And now Apple (and others) are getting comments on their closed ecosystem, and they respond with FUD: "teh evil terr'ists can COMPLETELY jam our phones ZOMG". And you actually believe there isn't a much easier way?

  • by dovgr (935487) on Monday December 07, 2009 @02:41AM (#30349922)
    If you look at the Artifex license page (http://www.artifex.com/indexlicense.htm) you will actually see that they have a very strange interpretation of the GPL. They basically claim that you can't bundle Ghostscript together with non-GPL programs, or install it with the same installer. If they used the same legal advice for writing their licensing terms as they have used for filing the lawsuit, then it might turn up in the end that the whole case has no merit...
  • Re:Well (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mdenham (747985) on Monday December 07, 2009 @02:47AM (#30349942)

    Actually, it's irrelevant as to how many contributors there are for that - the ones who are blocking the idea for whatever reason are still assholes. (If the contributors collectively just can't decide on an amount and therefore say "you know, since we can't come up with a fair amount, you're out of luck"... well, that's not assholery, that's more of a "if you're this indecisive about something that should be beneficial, I'd hate to see how you guys react to a disaster" situation.)

    In an ideal world, you should be able to buy a non-GPL license from any GPL project that you don't want to contribute your additions to for whatever reason. (The project's team should be able to ask what this reason is and charge accordingly.) This right should not allow you to then proceed to cockblock the project in any way - just let you distribute the program without providing your changes in source form. (If the original team manages to figure out how you wrote your additions and adds them, the license in question should provide them with immunity from a lawsuit from you.) This provides a simple means for injecting capital into GPL projects.

    The problems are two-fold: 1) people are assholes; and 2) the mass delusion that once a project has been released under the GPL, it can not be released under another license without violating the GPL (...which I think may actually be true for second-generation GPL projects - the second-gen group would have to get a relicensing from the first-gen group in order to relicense it, right?).

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

    by Sentry360 (1694728) on Monday December 07, 2009 @03:50AM (#30350230)
    Just got my N900 the other day... and the way this phone integrates with Skype is a thing of beauty. With WiFi + 3G and I have slim to no reason to use any minutes. You are right though.... carriers are afraid of this.. and I can see why... because who's going to pay $70 a month for lackluster internet service... while the whole arbitrary minutes to $ value is a good way to make a lot of money. Thus I had to order my phone from Dell... and T-Mobile gives you the same deals as a contract with no contract if you don't want any phone subsidies. I think all communications companies need to realize they're all going to be ISPs in the future, and the only thing they'll be able to charge for is how much bandwidth they deliver. I also think that T-Mobile starting to realize that... seeing as how they offer a $40 data-only plan... to which I'm considering switching eventually.... after I see how this Skype thing plays out over time...
  • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Monday December 07, 2009 @03:54AM (#30350244)

    You seem to be confused. If we can talk about a copyright law consensus on slashdot, that consensus would be that copyright is there to benefit the authors but it should not be used as a weapon to hinder any social, cultural and educational use of any copyrighted work. That, oddly enough, is the premises where the french copyright tradition is built upon. That is the reason why commercial distribution of an unauthorized copy of a copyrighted work is frowned upon (i.e., piracy) but if you can (or at least should) be able to freely access copyrighted works without the need for an authorization of the copyright owner if it's strictly for personal use and your distribution does not have any meaningful and measurable impact on the commercial distribution. It's straight forward and it has been the norm in an awful lot of countries, at least until the US started to force it's version of copyright law onto the world.

  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday December 07, 2009 @04:11AM (#30350320)

    if Palm is dynamically linking rather than statically linking the software and isn't modifying the GPL software, they have a legitimate argument as to whether or not they have to comply with the more onerous licensing terms. Meaning that they don't have to license their application as GPL.

    Incorrect. If they statically link or dynamically link, they *must* license as GPL. What you're probably thinking of is if the libraries that they link to (dynamically or statically) happen to be LGPL, then they would have a choice. But if one of the libraries is GPL, then they have to show the complete source for each executable which links to it.

    It would be a bullshit license if they required that code that uses dynamic linking had to be GPLed as well.

    The GPL is not a bullshit license, it's very well thought out so that bullshit companies who just want to leach someone else's code can't do it.

  • Re:maybe not... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dahan (130247) <khym@azeotrope.org> on Monday December 07, 2009 @05:42AM (#30350794)
    I don't know enough about Pre development to tell whether that's the entire source for an app, but yeah, that certainly does look like it could be it.
  • simmer down (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 07, 2009 @05:52AM (#30350834)

    While yes, including distribution as a 'use' of software is quite a stretch...

    The parent was spot-on in his use of licences, I am assuming you were educated in the states, most likely in public school. In US, people (aka teachers) have a terrible time with English homophones. They can keep track of the difference between advice[N] and advise[V], yet not for example practice[N] and practise[V]. Look again at the line of his you quoted, he is using *both* the noun and the verb form, absolutely correctly. Whilst attempting an arrogant ad hominem on his use of language, ultimately you only made yourself look the fool.

    I hope this can be a learning experience for you.

  • by koiransuklaa (1502579) on Monday December 07, 2009 @06:29AM (#30351002)
    The source to the pdf viewer? Where? The claim isn't about mupdf sources, but a derived work, the actual PDF viewer.
  • Re:I'm confused (Score:3, Interesting)

    by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradisNO@SPAMpalegray.net> on Monday December 07, 2009 @07:10AM (#30351134) Homepage Journal

    should not be used as a weapon to hinder any social, cultural and educational use of any copyrighted work

    I strongly disagree on two points. First, to say that the average Slashdot reader honestly has the public good in mind when talking about copyright policy is laughable. The most frequent post simply amounts to "damn those big companies, I'll do what I want."

    Next, I personally disagree with your view on the purpose of copyrights. While I accept that copyright law has gotten completely out of hand with absurd extensions on the lifetime of copyrights, I vehemently oppose the idea that there should be varying levels of protections based on the "intended use" of the work. If an copyright holder would like to specifically allow exemptions for educational use or non-commercial use, he has that right. However, there should not be a law that forces the holder to allow such exemptions.

    I personally license 90% of what I create under Creative Commons licenses. That's my choice, but it's not yours or any government's to make for me. Period.

  • Re:maybe not... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:49AM (#30352104)

    That might be just an oversight, there is a GPL-license in the directory.

  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:51AM (#30352120)
    Don't forget that Palm here plays the role of a distro. They are selling a piece of hardware with a distribution on it. So the linking, whether static or dynamic, is their decision prior to distribution. The user's choice to combine the executable with some GPL library is not involved at any stage.

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