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Open Source Your Rights Online

Hosting Company Appears To Be Violating the GPL [Resolved] 418

Posted by kdawson
from the ten-years-is-long-enough-for-anyone dept.
palegray.net writes "A web hosting provider called Appnor has recently moved the network diagnostics utility WinMTR off of SourceForge, and is now claiming the program to be a closed source, commercial application (it was previously made available under the GPL). I emailed the current maintainer of the original mtr utility about this, and have been informed that this event most likely constitutes an overt GPL violation, as it is presumed that WinMTR contains mtr code. Appnor claims that they have the right to do this, as there have been no external contributions to WinMTR in over ten years. I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think copyright law works that way." Update: 01/10 18:24 GMT by KD : The CEO of Appnor, Dragos Manac, has posted a response, claiming that no GPL violation occurred, and promising to revert the code to GPLv2 by the end of the week.
Update: 01/11 14:01 GMT by KD : That was fast. WinMTR announced that the code is now available under the GPLv2.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Hosting Company Appears To Be Violating the GPL [Resolved]

Comments Filter:
  • Re:Abandonware? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10, 2011 @09:02AM (#34822494)

    I don't know, it probably wouldn't be because there's no such thing as an Abandonware "classification". It's just a feel-good term made up by people so they feel less bad about blatantly distributing games with still-active copyrights.

  • by pe1rxq (141710) on Monday January 10, 2011 @09:05AM (#34822524) Homepage Journal

    They might actually have that right IF:

    - It contains only code they have copyright over
    - They have permission from (if any) all other copyright holders.

    However they can't revoke the license they gave everyone who downloaded their gpl versions, these old versions and their license is still valid.

    However if the code indeed contains mtr code and they have no permission from the copyright holders to distribute is under something else than the GPL.... Then they have a problem
    But you have to prove that first.

  • Re:Abandonware? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wrexs0ul (515885) <mmeier@@@racknine...com> on Monday January 10, 2011 @09:05AM (#34822526) Homepage

    Doesn't make it legal. There's still copyright on Abandonware, the idea though is that the original authors will make no/cannot make an attempt to litigate, hence it being "abandoned". The classification doesn't usually come from the author, but people who find great software that's (typically) no longer available, then make an effort to keep distribution of that software alive.

    Don't just take my word for it: Wikipedia on Abandonware [wikipedia.org].

    -Matt

  • Re:Abandonware? (Score:4, Informative)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday January 10, 2011 @09:07AM (#34822554) Journal

    There's no such thing as "abandonware".
    You've invented a term that is popular but doesn't actually exist in legal parlance. There's copyrighted work like 1928's Steamboat Willie, and then there's uncopyrighted work like 1946's It's A Wonderful Life (the license was not renewed) AKA public domain. Since this MTR program is only 10 years, the copyright has Not run out yet.

  • Re:Abandonware? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jabrwock (985861) on Monday January 10, 2011 @09:28AM (#34822790) Homepage
    If there's no expiry date in the contract you agree to, then as long as you continue to use the service (the gpl'd code), then you are continuously agreeing to abide by the terms of the contract. There's no abandonment clause.
  • by Novus (182265) on Monday January 10, 2011 @09:38AM (#34822922) Homepage

    I finally managed to pull a copy of the v0.8 source from archive.org [archive.org], and it seems that you can still access the CVS repository [sourceforge.net] even though it seems to be missing from the SourceForge page. I can find references to contributions by Vasile Laurentiu Stanimir (the main developer) and Silviu Simen in the source code and Teodorescu Cristian in the commit logs. The latter is interesting as he seems to have started work on WinMTR 0.9 in 2004, contradicting Appnor's statement of inactivity.

  • Some Clarifications (Score:5, Informative)

    by dmanac (1973926) on Monday January 10, 2011 @09:48AM (#34823048)
    I think there is a need for some clarifications:

    1) The company has rights over the entire source code, bought from the original maintainer. There is NO other code from contributors.

    2) The whole thing is written from scratch for Windows. No MTR code is used.

    3) The binary is available for free. We just thought nobody cared too much having it Open, since there were no contributions in almost 10 years.

    Again, we are not trying to violate GPL and we will make sure there are no licensing issues. We are checking this with our lawyers.

    Dragos MANAC
    CEO Appnor MSP S.A.
  • Re:Abandonware? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Monday January 10, 2011 @09:50AM (#34823060) Homepage

    If copyright weren't so unbalanced by corporate lobbying, this work would eventually become public domain.

    At that point, you can just ignore the GPL or any other license because it isn't required anymore.

    The GPL only has any force because the default state of everything is "all rights reserved" and copyrights are effectively perpetual at this point.

  • by Just Brew It! (636086) on Monday January 10, 2011 @09:58AM (#34823178)

    If not, then they can make future versions proprietary if they wish, since they presumably hold all of the copyrights. OTOH if there have been outside (community) contributions, then they can only take it proprietary if everyone who has touched the code consents. So we still don't know enough to say whether this is a violation or not.

    Note that the above has absolutely no bearing on past versions; you can't "take back" existing code after it has been distributed under the GPL. If they are trying to go after people for distributing old versions (or derivatives thereof), then this is indeed a blatant GPL violation.

  • by FrootLoops (1817694) on Monday January 10, 2011 @10:19AM (#34823398)
    Actually, the site reads "[WinMTR] was started as a clone for the popular Matt’s Traceroute (hence MTR) Linux/UNIX utility." That doesn't mean source code was necessarily copied, just that they wanted to duplicate MTR's functionality. However, Rob Shinn posted evidence that code has been copied in a comment [palegray.net] to the summary's Palegray link. For instance, the lines

    sequence[seq].index = index;
    sequence[seq].transit = 1;
    sequence[seq].saved_seq = ++host[index].xmit;

    appear in both sources.

  • by paiute (550198) on Monday January 10, 2011 @10:29AM (#34823504)

    http://winmtr.net/slashdot.html [winmtr.net]

    Dear visitor,

    You have reached us trough a Slashdot story that is a bit malvolent.

    The story goes like this:

    "A web hosting provider called Appnor has recently moved the network diagnostics utility WinMTR off of SourceForge, and is now claiming the program to be a closed source, commercial application (it was previously made available under the GPL). I emailed the current maintainer of the original mtr utility about this, and have been informed that this event most likely constitutes an overt GPL violation, as it is presumed that WinMTR contains mtr code. Appnor claims that they have the right to do this, as there have been no external contributions to WinMTR in over ten years. I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think copyright law works that way"

    Our response:

          1. Our company has rights over the entire source code, bought from the original maintainer. We are the current maintainers. There is NO other code from contributors.
          2. The whole thing is written from scratch for Windows. No MTR code is used.
          3. The binary is available for free. We just thought nobody cared too much having it Open, since there were no contributions in almost 10 years.

    Again, we are not trying to violate GPL and we will make sure there are no licensing issues. In the unlikely situation in which there are some licensing issues, we will make all the required changes/updates to the product, in good faith.

    We think the license change is within the boundaries of GPL. We are double checking this with our lawyers.

    Thank you for reading the full story.

    Dragos MANAC
    CEO Appnor MSP S.A.

  • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Monday January 10, 2011 @10:31AM (#34823520)

    Because plots are copyrightable, the actual functionality of code is not.
    Both the text and plot of a book can be copyrighted.
    Only the actual text of a program can be copyrighted(along with it's machine code version of course).

  • by Doctor_Jest (688315) on Monday January 10, 2011 @10:37AM (#34823590)
    1. I find that hard to believe considering the list of contributors on the sourceforge site.

    2. I doubt that seriously based on the CVS tree. Why remove 0.8 if you "forked" a 0.9? Why call it WinMTR in the first place if you wrote it "from scratch"?

    If you removed the source from sourceforge because it was "abandonware", put it back up, since your "WinMTR" contains none of the original's code. You can't co-opt a GPL project, remove all other versions and pretend that you're doing it with "new" code.

    3. You still have to provide the source to those who want it. Read the GPL. Check with your lawyers all you want. You are in direct violation of the GPL. So peddle your excuses somewhere else.
  • Worse, there actually appears to be code directly copied from mtr [palegray.net] in the WinMTR codebase, which contradicts Appnor's current claim that it was independently developed.
  • Re:Abandonware? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cylix (55374) * on Monday January 10, 2011 @12:12PM (#34824786) Homepage Journal

    Actually based on their reply at http://winmtr.net/slashdot.html [winmtr.net] it makes more sense....

    Quoted directly from the link,

    "Dear visitor,

    You have reached us through a Slashdot story that is a bit malvolent.

    The story goes like this:

    "A web hosting provider called Appnor has recently moved the network diagnostics utility WinMTR off of SourceForge, and is now claiming the program to be a closed source, commercial application (it was previously made available under the GPL). I emailed the current maintainer of the original mtr utility about this, and have been informed that this event most likely constitutes an overt GPL violation, as it is presumed that WinMTR contains mtr code. Appnor claims that they have the right to do this, as there have been no external contributions to WinMTR in over ten years. I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think copyright law works that way"

    Our response:

          1. Our company has rights over the entire source code, bought from the original maintainer. We are the current maintainers. There is NO other code from contributors.
          2. The whole thing is written from scratch for Windows. No MTR code is used.
          3. The binary is available for free. We just thought nobody cared too much having it Open, since there were no contributions in almost 10 years. The license changes we made are justified by the fact that we own the copyright for the code.

    Again, we are not trying to violate GPL and we will make sure there are no licensing issues. In the unlikely situation in which there are some licensing issues, we will make all the required changes/updates to the product, in good faith.

    The license changes we made are justified by the fact that we own the copyright for the code, nothing else. A good reason was the lack of interest for the project in the OSS community.

    We think the license change is within the boundaries of GPL. We are double checking this with our lawyers.

    Thank you for reading the full story.

    Dragos MANAC
    CEO Appnor MSP S.A."

    With this information it is quite well within their rights assuming they are the owners the source code and have no outside contributions.

    Thus you could still obtain a copy of the code which was released under the GPL and fork it. However, since no one touched it in a while I really doubt there is much interest.

  • by ryanisflyboy (202507) on Monday January 10, 2011 @01:03PM (#34825424) Homepage Journal

    The CEO has promised to revert the product back to GPLv2:

    http://winmtr.net/slashdot.html [winmtr.net]

    "Instead of dealing with this, I decided to take the blame and do the mature thing: revert to GPL v2. By the end of the week (January 16 2011) the updated sources (stating the new license) will be on Sourceforge for all to download and further enhance."

    Please update the story. It seems like Dragos is at least trying to operate with good faith and fix a potential mistake.

  • Re:Abandonware? (Score:2, Informative)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Monday January 10, 2011 @02:41PM (#34826850) Journal

    Well, no. The GPL is a contract for a license.

    I hate it when people attempt to miss the obvious here and apply some inane ideology.

    Copyright law states you need a license to use the code. The gpl states you need to agree to these terms and follow these procedures if applicable to "your use as copyright law is concerned" and in exchange, you will have a license for as long as you are in compliance.

    the entire ideology line is right in that copyright is the key to enforcement of the contract, but the GPL is an exchange of something of value defined by law for behavior. It's a contract for a license.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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