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GPL Kerfuffle Takes Xbian For Raspberry Pi Offline 154

Posted by timothy
from the oh-you-mean-that-was-a-license dept.
tetrahedrassface writes "Rasbmc developer Sam Nazarko is reporting that Xbian had violated the GPL and stolen his installer code without providing attribution and not releasing their source. His breakdown of events is interesting, and currently the Xbian project has been taken offline with several tweets saying Xbian development is terminated."
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GPL Kerfuffle Takes Xbian For Raspberry Pi Offline

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  • My guess is that they didn't want to release the code because, perhaps, they didn't have any, or perhaps because it was all chewing gum and bailing wire and they didn't even have it under source control.

    And this reads a little like one developer trying to use the GPL to prevent a fork.

    But, given the seeming quality of the distribution and level of response from the XBian people, I do not think that in this case it is any great loss.

    • by FrangoAssado (561740) on Friday September 21, 2012 @11:09PM (#41418465)

      My guess is that they didn't want to release the code because, perhaps, they didn't have any, or perhaps because it was all chewing gum and bailing wire and they didn't even have it under source control.

      If that had been the case, he could simply have tar'ed his whole tree and put it up in the same place he was distributing the installer. The GPL defines "source code" as:

      The “source code” for a work means the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it.

      I don't think anyone can argue that the exact tree that was used to develop the code is not the "preferred" form to make modifications to it -- it is the form he used to make his modifications.

  • You don't need permission to fork a GPL project and Nazarko is wrong to demand that he be asked.

    • by wierd_w (1375923) on Friday September 21, 2012 @10:24PM (#41418211)

      However, gpl code still has copyright ascribed to the author, which needs to remain. Eg, the author must be credited as the author under GPL.

      The GPL permits reuse, repurposing, and redistribution, as long as the terms of the GPL are observed. One of therms of the GPL is the attribution of original authors.

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Stop spreading FUD.

        The theme violated was failure to include complete source code. Attribution is a CC/BSD thing.

        • by wierd_w (1375923) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @12:16AM (#41418749)

          Uhm.. GPL is a hack on copyright law. In Berne convention signatory countries, the mere act of writing the software creates a copyrighted work, owned exclusively by its creator.

          The spirit of the GPL is to do away with this, and permit rapid collaboration and joint authorship of complex computer programs that could not otherwise be performed realistically in the absence of a license like the GPL.

          The employment of the GPL as a license does NOT negate obligations to copyright, in such countries. In fact, the GPL is enforcable *BECAUSE* of such copyright.

          Unless the creators of rasbmc explicitly waived rights of ownership and declaired the work to be public domain (if so, why GPL and not BSD?) Then the additional contributors to that code (the person who modified the installer) needs to attribute proper ownership. The license to use that code as delivered by the copyright holder is the GPL. Failure to comply with the GPL results in forfieture of license, which means that xbian is comiting copyright infringement.

          Claiming ownership of a copyrighted work so as to sidestep compliance with the license is a very big NoNo with GPLed codebases. If there is copyright, you MUST respect it, or you are defacto in violation of the license. (How can you caim compliance with a license created by someone you contest ownership of the code with?)

          While not explicitly part of the GPL, (since it is covered by wider copyright law, and not applicable to the GPL itself, but very relavent to enforcement) observing correct attribution of ownership is paramount to proper compliance with the license.

          The copyright holder can relicense arbitrarily. A GPL compliant user cannot, and must comply with the GPL license under law. Attribution is more than just a nicety. It is required for the GPL to function.

          • by Hatta (162192)

            Unless the creators of rasbmc explicitly waived rights of ownership and declaired the work to be public domain (if so, why GPL and not BSD?) Then the additional contributors to that code (the person who modified the installer) needs to attribute proper ownership.

            Kinda sorta. They need to refrain from claiming ownership of the code, and when asked they need to correctly identify the owners. But there's nothing about the GPL (excepting optional additional terms in v3) that requires explicit proactive identif

            • by HiThere (15173)

              I believe what he said was that the copyright law, not the GPL, required the attribution. I know it used to be a lot more specific than that, but copyright law changed a decade or so ago, and I don't know the current state.

              Originally, you were required to include (some form of...I'd need to look up the precise form):
              This post copyright (c) by Hi There, 2012, Erewhon, Utah
              (with the name and location being valid names and places)
              That phrase would be legally required to be preserved. I have no idea what the

        • Oh god no, that's wrong. Attribution is the most basic requirement in any license, and essentially every license does require it. The GPL certainly does.
          • by shentino (1139071)

            Please cite the clause in the GPL that requires attribution.

            If you find such a clause and it's not taken out of context I'll eat my words.

            • by donaldm (919619)

              Please cite the clause in the GPL that requires attribution.

              If you find such a clause and it's not taken out of context I'll eat my words.

              I won't deny that the word "attribution" is missing in the GPL2 however it is in GPL3 (See 7b Additional Terms). From here [wikipedia.org] "Attribution (copyright), concept in copyright law requiring an author to be credited". Now look at the GPL 2 or 3 they mention copyright and one of the requirements of the GPL is the requirement of the author of said software to be credited.

            • by bruce_the_loon (856617) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @04:57AM (#41419621) Homepage

              Clause 1 in GPL2 and Clause 4 in GPL4 require all extant license notices to remain in the files intact. Both define the minimum for the notices to contain " (c) Copyright Joe Soap Industries 2012"

              For modifications, Clause 2 in GPL2 and Clause 5 in GPL4 requires the developer to adhere to the verbatim copying clauses as well as the conditions in the modification clauses.

              To me that's pretty clear that the original copyright statements must remain prominent.

            • Attribution is the requirement to convey the identity of the copyright holder. No license that can be applied to third parties, like the GPL, could work legally without this. At a minimum you need the identity of the copyright holder and their license to have any rights beyond "All Rights Reserved".
          • by Asic Eng (193332)
            Not sure what you mean by that. GPL v2 is incompatible with attribution requirements, v3 allows you to amend the terms to require attribution. It's not a requirement by default.
            • All GPL licenses require attribution. Without exception. If you don't believe so, you just don't know what attribution is.
              • by Asic Eng (193332)
                That's a somewhat useless comment. If you think I'm missing something at least tell me what that is. If you want to talk about some legal technicality: either tell us what it is or have a hard look whether it's relevant in the context of this thread. Surely you can do better than this "I know something and you common people couldn't possibly understand" act?
                • I was giving you an opportunity to look it up for yourself. However, I will spoon-feed it to you.

                  When a copyright holder puts the statement:

                  Copyright (C) Author's Name

                  in their work, that is their attribution.

                  You may be required to make other sorts of statement by some licenses, but the statement that I have included above is always required. You are required to preserve it and convey it in the source code in every Open Source license (public domain isn't a license). Many licenses in addition require you

                  • by Asic Eng (193332)
                    Lame. "in their work, that is their attribution" - that's most definitely not what we were talking about in this thread, and you could have made your point in the first post without this whole dance. What we were talking about is whether you have to keep that note intact in derivative copies. Do you think you have contributed to clarify that point through your posts? Seriously: this style of discussion sucks.
      • by Hatta (162192)

        One of therms of the GPL is the attribution of original authors.

        GPLv2 prohibits attribution requirements. GPLv3 allows attribution requirements as an optional "additional term". We'd need to see the actual license to determine whether attribution is required.

        • GPLv2 absolutely, always, without exception requires attribution. You just don't know what attribution is.
    • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash@nOSPaM.omnifarious.org> on Friday September 21, 2012 @10:38PM (#41418305) Homepage Journal

      Also, all the supporting code was under GPL. The code that pulled everything together to make a distribution. And XBian wasn't posting that code. That's a hard requirement of the GPL. Attribution actually isn't a hard requirement of the GPL, it's just polite.

      • Debian also can assert a compilation copyright, although I don't know if they've claimed one recently. They must be attributed for the distribution overall.
      • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday September 22, 2012 @04:16PM (#41423323) Homepage Journal

        Attribution actually isn't a hard requirement of the GPL, it's just polite.

        People who are saying this just don't know what attribution is. It is absolutely always required. When you say "Copyright (C) name of legal entity, that is attribution. If you don't have some statement of that kind, you are always, absolutely, without exception, violating the GPL.

    • You don't need permission to fork a GPL project

      Correct. You can do whatever you like with it on your own private computer. But you do need permission to distribute it to *anybody*, whether you've made any changes at all or not.

      The GPL happens to give this permission in exchange of making the full and complete source code available to all those who receive the binary from you. If you don't comply, then you have no permission at all to distribute it to anyone, whether you've made any changes at all or not

  • NOT a GPL violation (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2012 @10:47PM (#41418373)

    The disputed code is not licensed under the GPL. The actual License can be found here:

    http://svn.stmlabs.com/svn/raspbmc/LICENSE

    • Debian distribution and its associated packages

      Hmmm I wonder what debian think about their software being aggregated with software distributed under this license?

      • by i.r.id10t (595143)

        Well, according to the Open Source definition they really don't have anything to think about it...

        9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software

        The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.

      • by bmo (77928)

        >Hmmm I wonder what debian think about their software being aggregated with software distributed under this license?

        "Mere aggregation" is just fine and is spelled out in the GPL.

        From 3.0

        A compilation of a covered work with other separate and independent works, which are not by their nature extensions of the covered work, and which are not combined with it such as to form a larger program, in or on a volume of a storage or distribution medium, is called an âoeaggregateâ if the compilation and it

      • They'd be fine if it was really aggregation. Want to bet the folks who wrote that crayon license can't tell when they're creating a derivative work?
        • Want to bet the folks who wrote that crayon license can't tell when they're creating a derivative work?

          Yes that was my thought.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Teancum (67324)

      WE reserve the right to change the terms of this agreement at our discretion.

      That is just an evil license agreement... something even Microsoft doesn't try to insert into their licenses. In other words they can change the terms at anytime to any other terms for any other reason and it can mean whatever they want it to mean when the time comes.

      I don't know how that would hold up under an actual legal challenge, but it seems real slimy. Yes, I know the GPL does have the ability to use the "or later version"

    • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday September 22, 2012 @02:56AM (#41419243) Homepage Journal
      The license text referred to indicates a poor understanding of licenses and law. It's what we generally refer to as a "crayon" license. The term "crayon" is referring to a Monty Python sketch about a dog license with the word "dog" crossed out and "cat" written in in crayon.

      The bottom line is that the stuff you wrote is probably derivative of other code, which you say is "exempt" from your license, but that's not enough, you must use a GPL-compatible license. And I don't see from that license text that you would understand what was derivative and what was not.

  • Really a violation? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neoshroom (324937) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @12:25AM (#41418795)
    "The problem is that XBian doesn’t release any source code, claiming that it is all ‘available’ via Raspian’s archives and XBMC’s website."

    I'm not sure XBian is wrong. All they did is take an installer from another project and use it for their own project. If they didn't functionally change the source, why can't they say "here's the code" and just point to where they got it from.

    According to this site [raspbmc.com] "This doesn’t account for all source code however, such as their plugins, their method of building images or their updating scripts. Thus, XBian is not GPL compliant and does not release its entire source."

    If these things are separate executables or modular plugins, why can't they be closed source? Maybe I don't know all the technical details or all the nuances of the GPL, but this sounds more like a project trying to badmouth a competing project than a huge GPL issue.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Plugins are not always separate. It greatly depends on how the plugin system works but basically, if they are library based plugins like dll and so files, then yes, they must be gpl since it is still considered to be part of the program.

      http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#GPLAndPlugins

      • That's sort of a silly requirement since any programmer can easily create a separate executable that interfaces with any DLL and then post messages between two executables, which does the exact same thing.

        In other words, everything on a computer is at some level connected to everything else. Divisions between executables and DLLs are rather arbitrary, especially since with the source of both, it is trivial to make one into another. No program is an island.
      • To be covered under the GPL, it has to be a derivative work. If you can make a plugin that is NOT a derivative work (for example, a driver that was made for BSD then ported to Linux), then it won't be covered under the GPL.

        Derivative work is a legal term, not a computer systems term. If someone can convince a jury that your plugins and dlls are not infringing, then they are not.
      • You interpretation that a plugin built as a dll or so file is must be GPL because they're built for a piece of GPL software is bollocks. That's not different than saying every single piece of software that runs on Linux must be GPL, since the Linux kernel is licensed under GPLv2 and all software calls the kernel at some point.
    • by msauve (701917)
      "I'm not sure XBian is wrong...If these things are separate executables or modular plugins, why can't they be closed source?"

      I tend to agree. The license [stmlabs.com] isn't GPL, although the author's complaint [raspbmc.com] speaks as if it is. In fact, the license never refers to source code, but has this vague requirement:

      IT should be noted that for components applicable to this license, any changes made MUST be made publicly available and free of charge.

      There's no requirement (as with the GPL) that additional components be made av

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A sentence stating that Xbian was supposed to be an XBMC port to the Raspberry Pi would probably have been too much.

    • I have no idea.

    • by jabberw0k (62554)
      Gotta love projects whose homepage (judging on Google's cache) have not a word of explanation of what they are. For that matter, what is XBMC? If your website does not explain, in 25 words or fewer, what it's talking about, that's a good sign that you haven't a clue what you are doing.
  • XBians Story (Score:3, Informative)

    by eNORm (2736569) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @02:39AM (#41419199)
    This is the case from XBians side:
    http://frambozentaart.com/xbian/sotu.html [frambozentaart.com]

    To summarize:

    1. XBian did NOT steal code.
    2. XBian DOES live up to the LGPL license.
    3. XBian is doing everything possible to get everything solved.
    • Re:XBians Story (Score:4, Informative)

      by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday September 22, 2012 @03:05AM (#41419279) Homepage Journal
      But if you are redistributing GPL code, even code that you have not modified, you must distribute the source for the GPL code too. You can't just say "get it from Debian".
  • The story is crap (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @02:49AM (#41419229) Journal

    The summary is two lines and doesn't explain what the referenced projects are about (and it's not something that you would know by default).

    It's also factually wrong, since - reading the linked content - the dispute is specifically over XBian installer, which was packaged and posted by a forum member not otherwise associated with the project, and the offending bit is said installer. The post had a link to Dropbox where the actual installer file resides. The original author who claims LGPL violation demanded that the post be taken down, which it was.

    Why this is even a front page story is beyond my understanding.

  • Listening to the sides I'm left with an overwhelming feeling that someone (whose project starts with an 'X'), got lazy, took short cuts, rationalized a whole bunch of cheesy decisions as within the spirit of Open Source, if not in fact by the letter. This is a cautionary tale of how people find themselves in a tight spot by cutting corners. You start with 100% integrity and everything is plugging along like gangbusters. But its a lotta work, and you're a busy guy, so you shave a few points, because hell, wh

    • by Teancum (67324)

      For people who are being lazy with the GPL, often the best course of action is just to insist that they get back up to 100%.

      I've had people do that to me in various locations where I've worked with open source content and it has helped. It does become a bit of an educational process, particularly compared to what happens in private business where the level of integrity is close to 0% and stuff like licenses or even concern about copyright is something that is left for the lawyers to figure out how to resol

  • For those that are interested or whatnot

    you can still get it on torrent

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