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How Far Should GPL Enforcement Go? 432

Posted by timothy
from the lo-unto-the-ends-of-the-earth dept.
itwbennett writes "The debate over enforcement of the GPL flared up again this week when Red Hat kernel developer Matthew Garrett wrote in a blog post that Sony is looking to rewrite BusyBox to sidestep the GPL. Which is a perfectly legal undertaking. But it raises the question: 'Is there social pressure within the Linux kernel community to not undertake GPL compliance action?' writes blogger Brian Proffitt. 'This may not be nefarious: maybe people just would rather not bother with enforcing compliance. Better, they may argue, to just let the violation go and get on with developing better code.'"
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How Far Should GPL Enforcement Go?

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  • by PCM2 (4486) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @06:21PM (#38908761) Homepage

    I confess I only skimmed TFA -- this is Slashdot, after all.

    But I'm not sure I understand the argument that is being made here. If Sony is really trying to "rewrite Busybox" -- which makes it sound like they're going to look at the Busybox code and write a new version that does the same thing in a different way -- then surely that's a derivative work of Busybox and it's a copyright violation.

    If, on the other hand, Sony is planning to write a Busybox replacement from scratch -- what's wrong with that? Are companies not entitled to write code? How is that "violating licenses with impunity"?

    If Sony is planning to do a clean-room re-engineering of Busybox -- what's wrong with that? Isn't that essentially what Linux kernel developers have done for all kinds of devices? Again, how is that "violating licenses with impunity"?

    Sony wants to not use GPL-licensed code in its proprietary products. What could be more clear? Would you rather they used it without complying with the license?

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @06:27PM (#38908827)

    corporate death penalty

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @06:39PM (#38909009) Homepage

    BusyBox is just some standard UNIX utilities in one executable. BSD has all the necessary code. The BSD license doesn't require source redistribution. Putting together a BusyBox replacement shouldn't be a big deal.

  • Re:Execution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bheading (467684) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @07:03PM (#38909375)

    No, the GPL does not force others to share.

    You have a simple choice, which these guys are now attempting to execute - don't use GPL software, write your own.

    If they think that they can produce software which is as capable as busybox is, and if they think they can attract OSS developers to contribute to it for free while seeing their copyrighted work locked away, more power to their elbow.

    I really doubt that they'll be able to do it but it would be interesting to be proven wrong.

  • by stephanruby (542433) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @07:05PM (#38909397)

    Except that even copyright law is being treated differently in different countries.

    In Germany for instance, a few court rulings set the precedent that in order for German developers to maintain their rights under copyright, they must actively defend those rights (so not surprisingly, German open source developers are doing just now right now and they're currently contacting/suing everybody who are using their code but not complying with their license).

    And in places like Tawain, Chinese manufacturers are not even paying lip service to open source (even if providing the sources to their modifications wouldn't be difficult at all). So they're not getting sued at all, unless they have offices in the US, because it's far easier to sue in the US than it is in Tawain.

  • by turing_m (1030530) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @07:24PM (#38909643)

    The golden rule CAN actually work, if you approach life with a tit for tat strategy (benevolent or otherwise). If you are nice until someone shits on you and are then a bastard in return, this is completely compatible with the golden rule a.k.a. "do as you would be done by". If you are nice to others and they are nice to you in return, it all works out. And if you are reasonable, then you would also understand that someone is going to attempt to shaft you if you shaft them first. However, as long as you are nice to someone using a tit for tat strategy then you will never see their vengeful side. So "employ a (benevolent) tit for tat strategy as you would hope others do towards you" is not only nice, it is a very practical way to approach life, consistent with a functioning society that will even self regulate in the absence of a justice system.

    You do need to be guarded against those who would feign tit for tat for an extended period of time until they judge the time is ripe for a mortal blow.

  • Re:Execution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mabhatter (126906) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @09:06PM (#38910633)

    Exactly. I can't record songs off the radio and put them in my YouTube videos, right. One set of copyright advocates has set the bar very high that even background recording has to be trimmed out. They do it less now because they cut a deal with Google to just steal YOUR ad revenue if something is "infringing" rather than take down the item.

    So to the established industry, taking ALL your ad revenue for "one small portion" that infringes is perfectly reasonable. Sony OWNS the companies that WROTE these deals... The GPL is far more leinant because it doesn't deal with damages... Just fix the infringement by adjusting your work and move on.

    These companies all want SOPA. Fine. Let's hear up BusyBox devs to be the first in line with the new style domain seizures... For a company like Sony with hundreds of products all tied to Sony.com getting the "three strikes" on BusyBox alone should take till about noon the day after the rule hits the books. Hopefully the courts would remember WHO pushed for the law!

  • Re:Execution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nursie (632944) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @10:45PM (#38911235)

    Yes, I've heard of this sort of thing, seems a neat enough way to sidestep copyright.

    It's considerably more complex than just "transcribing code", I'm sure it's been done as much in the pursuit of FOSS as in the pursuit of closed source software.

    Out of interest, has this been tried in a court in recent years?
    Just wondering if the general IP hysteria has affected whether or not this procedure is legal.

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