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GNU is Not Unix The Courts

Palm Sued Over Palm Pre GPL Violation 374

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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  • the FSF? (Score:5, Funny)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday December 06, 2009 @11:02PM (#30348706) Homepage
    Those patent trolls...
  • 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.

      • by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <> 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: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by hedwards ( 940851 )
        The GPL doesn't require the source to be included, just that it be available in the same place. Which one would assume in this case would require that Palm provide that code in their store. I forget about cases where the code is itself completely unmodified from the originals are dealt with specifically.

        In this case 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
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by postbigbang ( 761081 )

          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.

        • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Rogerborg ( 306625 )

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

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

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              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.
  • 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.
    • I think the most common reason in this market might be meaningless product differentiation by simply switching bits. Customers shouldn't know that the only difference between two devices is the "if( expensive ){ enable_features() }" line.

      Another reason is that people will see how many patents they use without permission, and stuff like that.

      The publicly given reason is of course that it would enable the competition to gain advantage of their oh-so-valuable-software.

  • I'm confused (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bonch ( 38532 )

    Is Slashdot for or against copyrights this week? You know, since the GPL is a copyright license and relies on copyright law to have any power.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Is Slashdot for or against copyrights this week?

      Well, that depends. If the discussion revolves around people wanting to share files regardless of copyright, this community is probably against copyright law. If the discussion is about [insert large company here] violating the GPL, then copyright law is awesome. It's a simple conditional.

      • 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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          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 varyin

          • You are confused. (Score:3, Insightful)

            by gbutler69 ( 910166 )
            You say, "there should not be a law...". Well, if there were no law, then the copyright holder would have no protections whatsoever. Absent a law, you have no ability or right to stop me from doing anything I want with respect to copying of a copyable work. Only the law grants you a limited monopoly. In exchange for that limited monopoly (benefitting, you, the copyright holder) there is supposed to be a benefit to society as a whole. Lose site of that, and there is no reason to have copyright. So, now that
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            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."

            I can't (nor can anyone) speak for all slashdotters. Yet, I believe the explanation of why everyone should be able to freely access copyrighted works without the author's explicit authorization if it's for personal use and the commercial distribution i

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

      by afaik_ianal ( 918433 ) * on Monday December 07, 2009 @12:16AM (#30349124)

      Contrary to popular belief, comments on Slashdot are written by multiple users just like yourself (but different!).

      As it actually happens, the set of people who feel compelled to comment and moderate on "Pirate Bay" stories may not be exactly the same set of people that comment and moderate on GPL licensing stories.

      Of the users who comment or moderate on both kinds of stories, some might have what appear to you to be contradicting viewpoints, but you may need to stop looking at everything as black and white - maybe you'll learn something.

      I understand how "RIAA should not be destroying people's lives for downloading songs" could be interpreted by you to mean "Copyright sucks, and anyone should have the right to copy anything they want." But there's actually a not-so-subtle difference between those two viewpoints.

      I also understand how you might interpret "Corporations need to comply with the terms under which they licensed others' software by releasing their source code or remove the copyright software from their product" as "Burn the evil corporations at the stake", but again, these arguments are not the same thing.

      I hope this helps resolve at least some of your confusion.

    • Uh, no, the GPL isn't a copyright license, it's a procedural use of code that may or may not otherwise be bound by copyright. The 'open' side of the license, should a coder be bound by it, doesn't nullify copyright, and never did. It's a usage license that defines the procedure under which the code can subsequently be used, how modifications are treated, and says how the use of the code binds one to the obligations of the license.

      • by JonJ ( 907502 )

        It's a usage license

        The GPL never has, and never will be, about usage. It's about distribution.

      • 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.
    • In general /. seems to support the easy spread of information. Slashdot isn't inherently against copyright, just cases where it restricts the flow of information (basically everything but GPL). Of course many people like to over generalize and take sides for or against copyright without boiling it down to the basic issues.

      If your comment is taking a stab at those who over generalize, you understand this already. I realize I'm generalizing too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Slashdot is neither for nor against copyright, and neither for nor against copyright reform. Slashdot is both for and against copyright, and both for and against copyright reform.

      In case you hadn't noticed, we don't walk in lockstep here. There are varied opinions on every subject, including copyright.

  • by originalhack ( 142366 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:02AM (#30349382) seems to have the source and patches. Is this the end of it or is something missing?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The source to the pdf viewer? Where? The claim isn't about mupdf sources, but a derived work, the actual PDF viewer.
  • 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.
    • by thedarknite ( 1031380 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:44AM (#30349638) Homepage
      Further to your comment, I pulled down the source code from Palm ( 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dovgr ( 935487 )
      If you look at the Artifex license page ( 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...
  • by Cprossu ( 736997 ) <{cprossu2} {at} {}> on Monday December 07, 2009 @02:27AM (#30349846)

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

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lisaparratt ( 752068 )

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

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mjwx ( 966435 )

      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.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!