Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
GNU is Not Unix

Dealing With a GPL Violation? 204

Posted by kdawson
from the enforcing-it dept.
Sortova writes "For many years now I've been maintaining OpenNMS, a free and open source network management framework published under the GPL. A couple of years ago it came to our attention that a company called Cittio was using OpenNMS as part of their proprietary and commercial network management application. I talked with Jamie Lerner, the Cittio founder, and he assured me that Cittio was abiding by the GPL. However, we were recently contacted by a potential client who was also considering Cittio's Watchtower, and it appears that they are not disclosing that they are using GPL'd code or at least not in the clear and concise fashion required by the GPL, including the offer of source code for all of the code they are including and any changes being made to that code. Since the copyright for OpenNMS is held by a number of commercial companies, the Software Freedom Law Center is not able to help us defend or even investigate a potential violation. I was curious if anyone here on Slashdot had experienced anything similar or has any advice?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Dealing With a GPL Violation?

Comments Filter:
  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @12:42AM (#22631988) Homepage Journal
    For a start you claim:

    When I brought up the fact that parts of Watchtower are based on OpenNMS, the client replied "I could not find one ounce of mention on their website to OpenNMS or any other Open Source code that is running on this product. That really irritates me."
    So what's all this then? [cittio.com]

    You also make the claim:

    I should also mention that this client is in final negotiations with Cittio (they dropped their initial price considerably) so we're not talking a first contact cold call here - they are ready to close this deal without a single detail concerning their use of open source.
    Yes, and? They are not required to make any such disclosures. The GPL requires them to provide the source code or an offer to provide the source code when they distribute the software. As they haven't distributed any software yet, they are not required to provide any source code or offers to provide the source code.

    FAIL.

    • by LingNoi (1066278) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:11AM (#22632152)
      Not only that, they only have to provide the source code to the person they're redistributing to under the same license if they changed anything, that doesn't include you, because you're not their customer.

      If there's something they've changed in your project then purchase a copy and put the changed code in your version, since any modified GPL code must be re-distributed as GPL code.
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        Thats only true if they give the source code with the distribution of the program at the same time. If you use the "offer to get the source code", it is open and extended to anyone for some reason. Or least that is how the FSF interprets it. IF they distributed the offer to get the code, as states in section 3b of the GPLv2, they have to extent that to any third party.
        • by LingNoi (1066278)
          Developer -> Company -> User -> Whoever [Third Party]

          -> = Distribution/Re-Distribution

          It doesn't mean it's a free for all on asking for the source from the company, it means whoever you give to code to it has to say GPL, even if you're a third party such as "whoever" above.
          • by sumdumass (711423)
            If a company decided to go with option b under clause three to maintain their compliance with the GPL's requirement for distributing the source code, then that company would have to extend that offer "to any third party" as it states. That would mean "company distributing" ---> "anyone" who asks for it even if they weren't their customer.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by JoelKatz (46478)
              This is not the FSF's position, nor is it sane. What the GPL intends, and what makes sense, is that you cannot be refused the source code simply because you aren't the person the offer was originally extended to. That is, the offer must be transferable.

              The distribution could include a "coupon" for the source code, so long as the coupon is transferable. That wouldn't mean they'd have to give anyone the source code just because they asked for it.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by sumdumass (711423)
                Wow.. What FSF are you thinking of?

                I found this on their site in the faqs about licensing page you can go look too.

                What does "written offer valid for any third party" mean in GPLv2? Does that mean everyone in the world can get the source to any GPL'ed program no matter what? [fsf.org]

                If you choose to provide source through a written offer, then anybody who requests the source from you is entitled to receive it.

                If you commercially distribute binaries not accom
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by JoelKatz (46478)
                  I guess my recollection was in error. The FSF does take a nonsensical position about this. I'll add this to the long list of nonsensical positions the FSF takes.

                  The clearest way to see that this is nonsense is to ask yourself this question -- without a copy of the written offer and without having directly distributed to how, how could the distributor possibly know exactly what source code to give you?

                  It only makes sense if they can be required to show you a copy of the written offer.

                  Thanks for the correctio
      • If there's something they've changed in your project then purchase a copy and put the changed code in your version, since any modified GPL code must be re-distributed as GPL code.

        Incorrect - please don't perpetuate the myth that the GPL 'infects' other code and causes it be relicensed as GPL against the author's will - it doesn't. And you will be violating the copyright of the infringer, which makes you no better than them.

        You are sort of right: the GNU GPL does say that "any modified GPL code must b

      • by imp (7585)
        Close.

        If they ship the actual source code with each product they ship you are correct, although customers are allowed to redistribute the code under the terms of the GPL. this can be tedious to have 100% compliance with, however, since you have to do it even for patches you send out. ANY time you ship a binary, you also have to ship the source.

        If they are accompanying the software with a written offer, it must be valid for ANY THIRD PARTY to obtain the source code.

        What has often been claimed is that you c
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rsax (603351)
      From the linked site [cittio.com]

      "postgresql-8.0.2.tar.gz ... GNU General Public License (GPL)"

      Wrong license. As mentioned on the PostgreSQL site [postgresql.org] page, the project uses the BSD license.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        It looks like an honest oversight. It is an important distinction, but anybody that's going to use the code or binaries really ought to be looking at the license included in the distribution rather than what a third party says the license is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cbhacking (979169)
      Very true. A simple Google search for OpenNMS on cittio.com [google.com] comes up with two pages (one linked in the parent). Each lists, with licenses, the open source projects they use. At the bottom of both pages they have "Contact us" info, one of them (not the one linked above) even has a mailto: link for questions about their open source components.

      I'm a little surprised they don't provide links to the projects directly - either by project site or downloadable tarball - but it doesn't exactly look like they're hidi
      • by LingNoi (1066278) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:38AM (#22632316)
        You're not their customer so they don't have to give you anything.

        Only Cittio's customers (the ones receiving the product) could ask for the source code, because they're redistributing to them, not you. Cittio's customers could then re-distribute that GPL code however they wished.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cbhacking (979169)
          I'm aware of that. I'm just surprised that they bothered to list a bunch of OSS projects they use, but not link to them. I wouldn't expect a commercial entity to redistribute their modifications to non-customers, but I just found it curious. If nothing else, I'm surprised they don't link to the (descriptions of the) licenses themselves.

          On a vaguely related note, if it turns out that this company is purely on the straight and level with regard to the GPL and other OSS licenses, I'd like to mention that I'm v
        • by mysidia (191772) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @06:21AM (#22633642)

          This is not entirely true.

          For commercial distribution, the source has to either be included with every copy of the binary, OR the GPL requires a written offer which to any third party, including third parties who are not their customers.

          If they chose option (b) for distribution of their source code, then they do have to give something to non-customers, in order to avoid violating the GPL.

          That way their customers can re-distribute the binaries and pass along the offer to others.

          See the GNU General Public license version 2 section 3.b: b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

          • by Knuckles (8964)
            The operative words in the paragraph you quoted are "accompany it [the binary]". Thus, AFAIK (and as the GP stated), they only need to give this offer to people to whom they give the binary. But you are right that this offer needs to extend to third parties (it just doesn't need to be shown to them).
            • by sumdumass (711423)
              You have that wrong. Section three says you can satisfy your obligations to distribute the source code under the GPL when you distribute a binary version (object code or executable) of the covered works by doing one of three things.

              A: would be to pack the binerary and source together and give them out at the same time.
              B: would be making an offer extended to any third party for at least three years to get the source.
              C: would be to forwards the offer given to you to get the code assuming you didn't change any
              • by Knuckles (8964)
                Yes, and we were talking about 3 b), which states

                3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following: [...]

                b) Accompany it with a written offer , valid for at least three years, to give any third party , for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding so

    • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @02:08AM (#22632496) Homepage Journal
      You got your concern on the front page of Slashdot. That means that the company will make sure they're doing everything right, because all of their customers are going to ask them about it now.

      That said, it's not at all clear that you had anything to complain about. If SFLC won't help you for the reason you gave, that means you don't have any standing in the matter. You can't sue anyone about it. So, there's not much use in complaining.

      IMO, you should make real sure that you at least own the copyright of your own work before you contribute any more.

      Bruce

      • by QuantumG (50515) *
        Dunno why you're replying to me instead of the OP but seeing as you are, I don't think he has no legal standing.. if he has been contributing code and not signing it over, then he owns the copyright on the work, period. The SFLC might not be interested because there are other contributors to the work and they'd have to get everyone together to have a strong case, but I don't think the OP even bothered to contact the SFLC.. everything he's said has the ring of a complete lack of research.. especially seeing
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Bruce Perens (3872) *

          Dunno why you're replying to me instead of the OP

          It's slashdot strategy. If late to a discussion, a reply to a high-ranked post will apppear higher than a reply to the article. But yes, it's really a reply to the article.

          if he has been contributing code and not signing it over, then he owns the copyright on the work, period.

          SFLC appears to have treated him as if he did not have a very significant portion of the program under his own copyright. I know that they have represented other authors who did not ow

          • by QuantumG (50515) *
            Well, FSF have advised me in the past that any copyright is defensible, no matter how small it is in comparison to the rest of the work. Of course, if I asked them to defend me they would ask if I can assign them the entire copyright for the entire work and when I said no they'd bow out. That's just *their* policy, and one the SFLC has inherited it seems (which means it really was Eben Moglen's policy), but it doesn't mean you *can't* sue. I expect it is a cost saving measure. If you don't have copyrigh
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Sortova (922179)
        The history of OpenNMS is pretty long and convoluted. It was started by a company called Oculan, and I was an employee of theirs when they decided to stop publishing their code under the GPL. I wanted to keep the project alive, and thus I took over maintaining the code in 2002. So all of the original "1.0" code is copyright Oculan (and that IP is now owned by Raritan) while almost all of the other changes are copyright "The OpenNMS Group". Both companies are commercial entities, although OpenNMS is never li
      • Bruce,
                  I have a great deal of respect for you, but why piggyback on the top post? Your name alone gets most of your comments modded up; there is no need to resort to such confusing tactics. You spoke the the submitter but replied to someone else.
    • by AccUser (191555)
      OK, so there is a page right there on their website that lists all the open source products that they use in their offering. How do I get to that page from their web-site? I googled, and whilst I can find that page, there doesn't seem to be a page that links to that page from in their web-site. I'm not saying that it is not there, it is just that I cannot find it, and I guess the OP couldn't either. The customer certainly didn't.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Sortova (922179)
      I never claimed to be unaware of Cittio's use of OpenNMS. If you read my post my claim is that potential Cittio "clients", not me, are being kept in the dark about what open source software is being used as part of Watchtower. It is not up to the end user to suddenly find out that the code they are purchasing is based on open source work. The GPL clearly states "you must show them these terms so they know their rights." This is, apparently, not being done.
      • by Curien (267780)
        Potential customers don't have any rights under the GPL, so no notification is necessary. Only actual customers have rights under the GPL. Until you talk to an actual customer, you're wasting your time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ranger Rick (197) *

      "So what's all this then? [cittio.com]"

      Well, that link says they're running OpenNMS 1.0.2, which, given the questions Cittio employees have asked on the OpenNMS mailing lists in the past, seems very unlikely (although technically possible). If they *are* using 1.0.2, they very likely *have* made modifications, 'cause that code has plenty of bugs that have been fixed in later OpenNMS releases. ;)

      One thing that Tarus didn't really mention is that we (The OpenNMS Group) have had a few folks come to us wanting quote

      • by QuantumG (50515) *
        Go find an actual customer and get remote access to the machine they have installed the software on. Look for copies of your software and whether that software is in compliance. Once you have the information, draft an email requesting compliance and outlining how the company is not in compliance and send it to the SFLC with a kind request for them to look it over before sending it to the company.

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @12:43AM (#22631990) Journal
    If you want legal advice, get a lawyer.
    • Additionally (Score:3, Insightful)

      by einhverfr (238914)
      In addition to getting a lawyer, you also want to get other OpenNMS copyright holders (particularly the commercial companies) in the loop. This helps increase the leverage and the resources available to fight. And they will bring in more lawyers, in all liklihood.
  • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @12:49AM (#22632024) Homepage

    The SFLC's Legal Issues Primer for Open Source and Free Software Projects [softwarefreedom.org] covers this. You probably want to give it a read.

    Still, if it's really important, ask a lawyer, don't ask Slashdot.

  • by icepick72 (834363) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @12:52AM (#22632034)
    I understand the joy of coding and excitement of creating your own applications for free, but I can never understand how programmers stand to watch their creations being usurped for commercial purposes. Whether it's abiding by the GPL or not, somebody else is making money from your creation. You would think the original programmer would have the wherewithal to market their own creation instead of leaving it for someone else. Even if you don't take the money for yourself, donate it back to the FSF or to another worthwhile cause. Maybe it's a case of lack of resources to start your product running. Maybe we need a group that can fill this niche for open source products. Maybe they already exist. If so I'd like to see discussion about it.
    • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @12:56AM (#22632062) Homepage Journal
      Cause selling a solution is just as much, if not more, work than creating one?

      And it is something that is done by sales people, not programmers?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mOdQuArK! (87332)
        Also, most solutions aren't going to be "perfect" for everyone, and if you're a demonstrably good programmer, you can contract your services at fairly healthy price levels to provide all sorts of custom solutions to the people who really like your open source software, but just want "a few tweaks".
      • The real crazy thing about GPL is that copyright, and thus GPL, only protects the rights of the author. I've written many k lines of code reelased under GPL and the copyright holders have the rights to this code, including releasing it under other licenses.

        This code would be far less valuable if it had not been tested by hundreds of people throughout the world, some of which have spend hundreds of hours on testing. These people have made a huge investment and contribution, yet they have no rights.

        Product de

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Improv (2467)
      So long as they're not making it proprietary, what's the problem? We can both destroy markets and help the world by opening our source, and that's pretty awesome. If someone happens to make some money (maybe consulting, whatever), so be it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        So long as they're not making it proprietary, what's the problem? We can both destroy markets and help the world by opening our source, and that's pretty awesome. If someone happens to make some money (maybe consulting, whatever), so be it.

        Why is destroying markets a good goal? I think a better choice of words would be "revolutionize" or "reinvigorate." OSS doesn't destroy a market - it just makes it more competitive. See this post [slashdot.org].

        • by Improv (2467)
          The "software-in-a-box" market is based on artificial scarcity, and we don't need it. We will probably always need folk like sysadmins (which companies tend to hire directly) and consultants (sometimes direct, sometimes using big companies like IBM) to fine-tune things to our needs, but the traditional software company will hopefully die within the next 20 years.

          Of course, there are many ways to conceptualise these markets, and the difference between our conceptualisations is where the difference sits.
          • by Angostura (703910)

            The "software-in-a-box" market is based on artificial scarcity


            Interesting assertion, but I would like to see your working. In which commodity is the artificial scarcity?
            • by Improv (2467)
              In my framework, the artificial scarcity, "stock software", is artificially scarce. An IP-rule-based-economy ignores the marginal cost of distribution being zero and tries to keep there being a market for stock software that resembles physical objects, which is unnecessary and which the open source movement aims to undermine. At the very least, when the distribution/unit production cost is zero, it makes sense to consider it a highly nontraditional "market", perhaps having development costs supported by pub
    • by GrahamCox (741991) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:16AM (#22632182) Homepage
      You would think the original programmer would have the wherewithal to market their own creation instead of leaving it for someone else

      Why would you think that? People are usually good at some things, not at others. I think it's very likely that a person good at programming and software design wouldn't necessarily be good at (or even interested in) running a business, accounting, marketing, all the legal stuff, etc. It's also very hard to find people to come in with you who are, based only on your software/coding expertise. I speak from experience.
      • by cbhacking (979169)
        Considering how many programmers have trouble just covering all the tasks that go into producing a polished product (I'm terrible at user interfaces, for an extremely broad example - I'm far more comfortable with back-end code), I'd be amazed if even 10% of programmers who try to develop and market their own product get anywhere. I suppose there must be exceptions - Irfanview is a great program that AFAIK is backed by only one person (it's distributed for free and source isn't available, however; this proba
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by fr0st0 (1250426)
        I agree [GrahamCox]. Also, the ultimate underlying motivation of the programmers and the GPL, CCL, etc. is to increase information. Open and Free programmers are like anyone else in that they do what they do for a multitude of reasons (social, relative notoriety, etc. [see the first few chapters of 'Wealth of Networks']) but at the end of the day it all serves to expand the knowledge horizon of everyone, indirectly or directly. That combination of selfishness(in that more information benefits you) and
    • by wolf87 (989346) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:22AM (#22632212)
      I recently developed a small package of statistical tools & made it available under lesser GPL. I made the decision to open-source it for several reasons. First, I wanted to make it easily available to other researchers wrestling with the same problem I was. Second, I wanted to see if anyone could take what I had done and extend it into a better set of tools. Third, having it freely available, code and all, helps to get my name out there and build my reputation. There are plenty of reasons to put out applications without making money from it.
    • by jmv (93421)
      So by this reasoning, Linus should be crying night and day because people and companies are making billions from using/selling Linux?
    • You must have been absent all of those days in kindergarten when they emphasized *sharing*

      Typical situation:
      * programmer needs X (to "scratch own itch")
      * programmer makes X and realized that, wow, other people might want to use it or contribute to it
      * programmer releases source
      * FIN

      A few things might happen:
      * people contribute to X and make it better, for friggin FREE!
      * companies use X - programmer helped out other human beings
      * depending
    • by pclminion (145572)

      Whether it's abiding by the GPL or not, somebody else is making money from your creation.

      This is a stupid, juvenile concern. If it offended me that others would use my code, I would not release it. The only purpose of releasing code under GPL or any other communist license is personal gratification and egotism.

    • by asc99c (938635)
      I think you are muddling things up here. There is a lot more to making money than having an idea and a lot more to having a sellable product than just having a product. Just looking at the Cittio website, their own product is based on dozens of open source components, most of which are fairly major pieces of work. Cittio has taken the extra step of building them all together and putting on nice front ends that allows someone to do a task easily. They have made something that people are willing to pay mo
    • by babbling (952366)
      The thing is that if someone is selling your GPLed thingy, or support for it:
      1. You can do it too, and anything they add comes back to you.
      2. You're more qualified than they are to sell/support it, since you wrote it.
    • by bug1 (96678)
      Its not the "commercial purposes" that are the cause of the problem, its the ethics of _some_ of the people who apply those commercial purposes, companies who violate the GPL will probably violate any other license as well, so its enforcment that is the problem, not the license.

      The theory behind Software Freedom is that everyone (except copyright holders) is equal, commercial users have to compete with each other, and copyleft is supposed to be about encouraging the software to develop, not necessarily the
    • There are a few really simple tools that I've written and posted on-line under the GPL. In my case, I wrote a program (well, a few scripts, actually) to solve a problem that I found interesting. I'm busy enough as it is, so I don't particularly want to take the time that it would take to market and sell the code myself, but I would like to see it used by others who can benefit from it. Furthermore, I use a lot of open source software myself, so in my mind at least, I see that I owe something back to the
  • First issue: are you SURE they're in violation? This could be as simple as calling their support line and asking how you can get the source code (this assumes you've confirmed that GPLed code is included). If you can't get to the support people without being a customer, search their website for any indications and/or try and get a demo.

    Once you're reasonably sure they're in violation, consult a lawyer who knows IP law, preferably one familiar with the GPL in particular. Even on Slashdot, I'm not going to try giving you advice beyond that. It's not cheap, but there's a decent chance of getting legal expenses awarded in court.
    • Oh, and document EVERYTHING. Every email, every phone call (you may need to tell the other party if you record the call, I don't know the law in your area), every letter, every step of your research. I'm guessing a single subpoena would get all the evidence you need, but no point taking risks when money is at stake (as it will be if this goes to court).
      • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:09AM (#22632146) Homepage Journal
        He's already screwed himself by posting to Slashdot. If he is lucky Cittio will just ignore him. If he's not, they'll probably sue him for libel. His only defense then will be to show that he is right, and that will be pretty hard to do after Cittio have cleaned up any discrepancies they might have had in their distribution.. which they are sure to do before calling the lawyers.
        • they'll probably sue him for libel. His only defense then will be to show that he is right, and that will be pretty hard to do after Cittio have cleaned up any discrepancies they might have had in their distribution

          Several problems with your statement:

          1. In the U.S.A. (where both Cittio and OpenNMS Group are based), it is not "truth is the ONLY defense", but rather "truth is ALWAYS a defense." There are many other defenses. Intent matters, and in some cases, it must also be shown that the intent wa

  • 1. Write GPL software
    2. Discover GPL software license has been violated
    3. Post all over slashdot asking legal advice
    4. Whine about why no lawyer will touch your case with a barge pole
    5. ????
    6. Profit

    If you're in a situation that might need a lawyer, contact one. Asking for help on /. is going to do your case more harm than good.
  • by jamesh (87723) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:48AM (#22632376)
    The instructions for what to do if you think you have found a gpl violation are here [fsf.org]. There is no mention of posting to slashdot on that page. There is a mention of checking your facts first... some companies get a bit cross (eg they'll take you to court) if you write anything bad about their product which isn't completely true. (i'm not saying it isn't, i'm just saying you don't appear to have done your homework yet).
  • When you place something into a public commons, other people will take advantage of it without contributing back. That's the nature of reality. There's even an economic term for this: the tragedy of the commons. The core of the FSF's philosophy is that software should not be owned, but that it should be a public common. By using the GPL you are implicitly agreeing with this. That is fine, so long as you know what you are getting into. But to get all pissy after the fact that someone is taking advantage of w
    • I think you've misread the tragedy of the commons. It's when a few or even many user begins to take slightly more than their share that you get "the tragedy of the commons". It's what the GPL is designed to avoid, and is precisely why the GPL is often more effective in protecting the commons than the BSD or Apache licenses. There is no "giving back" requirement in the original story of the commons, although "giving back" can extend the lifetime of the cocmmons by quite a lot, even making it permanent and av
  • ...out on the web. Nothing in the GPL says that a licensee has to freely offer the code to absolutely anyone free of charge, to anyone that asks, in the manner the asker chooses. It says that they have to offer the code, in a manner of their choosing to anyone that asks.

    In a commercial hardware product, that means that the company can insist on only distributing the code by sending it to you as a bunch of floppy disks, for all the GPL cares.

    Now, once someone has the code, that person can then re-distribute the GPLed code however they feel.

    One example: My Toshiba HD DVD Player [toshiba.com] (don't laugh, it was a present,) contains GPL code. Toshiba doesn't make this fact obvious. It's buried in the manual for the product. Toshiba doesn't make the code available on their website, because they're not required to. To quote the GPL 2.0 that my Toshiba uses:

    b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three
            years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your
            cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete
            machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be
            distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium
            customarily used for software interchange...


    The internet isn't the only medium customarily used for software interchange. And they are allowed to charge a reasonable fee for duplication and distribution. (See GPL section 1.) If they really felt ornery, they would be perfectly within their rights to charge you for the physical cost of a bunch of floppies, and the time (at minimum wage, or even higher,) some flunky had to spend copying onto those floppies.

    • I think the time for floppies has passed. They are no longer customarily used to distribute software. But they could buy a hard drive and put the code on it and charge you for it.
    • It's a good point. When GPL 2 was written, the Internet wasn't as mature as it is now, and the main method of physically transporting data would have been floppies. That's been superceded by CDs and now by the 'net, so it would take someone who was genuinely obstructive to break out the HD 1.44s and send out code in that way. Hmm, I really should bin that box of floppies one day...
    • In a commercial hardware product, that means that the company can insist on only distributing the code by sending it to you as a bunch of floppy disks, for all the GPL cares.

      This goes against the spirit of the GPL.... To take your example to the extreme, suppose that they made the code available via 3of9 barcode in printed format? stone tablet (mailed to you via overnight delivery at your expense)? 8" floppy disks? download via modem @ 300bps at $19.95/minute? Maybe stone tablets aren't machine readable but

      • Not trying to be a smart-arse, but BIOS updates and SATA drivers still have to be installed with a floppy.
        • Not really. You can use USB fobs too, or a bootable CD. For that matter, I can update my BIOS directly from Windoze these days. You may not have been trying to be a smart arse, but you *are* incorrect.
        • Not trying to be a smart-arse, but BIOS updates and SATA drivers still have to be installed with a floppy.

          No they don't. I've installed Windows XP (i386 and amd64) and updated the BIOS on my AN9 32X [uabit.com]/Barracuda 7200.10 [newegg.com] without even having a floppy drive in the system. Award has had a WinFlash [google.com] program for years, and even Dell has Windows executables for BIOS updates now (which reboot into a DOS-like mode to do the actual update). Drivers for mass storage devices can be slipstreamed right into your install CD. RAID Slipstreamer [msfn.org] is probably the easiest method, if your device is supported.

      • by mcvos (645701)

        This goes against the spirit of the GPL.... To take your example to the extreme, suppose that they made the code available via 3of9 barcode in printed format? stone tablet (mailed to you via overnight delivery at your expense)? 8" floppy disks? download via modem @ 300bps at $19.95/minute? Maybe stone tablets aren't machine readable but the rest are.

        Quoting the same bit from GPL 2.0 again:

        "Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange..."

        Are bar codes customary for software interchange? 8" floppies? 300bps modem? Is $19.95/minute really your cost of physically performing source distribution?

        How many computers have floppy disks these days? Mine doesn't. When was the last time you saw anyone exchange code on a floppy disk?

        Neither does my new one, but my old PC still have a floppy drive, and very recently floppies were still being used for software distribution. A company still doing it now would be living in the past if you ask me, but if it's acceptable to its customers, what do you care? If you're a customer and don't

    • Nothing in the GPL says that a licensee has to freely offer the code to absolutely anyone free of charge, to anyone that asks, in the manner the asker chooses. It says that they have to offer the code, in a manner of their choosing to anyone that asks.

      That's still not correct. It says that at minimum, they have to offer the code, in a manner that's customarily used for distributing software, to anyone to whom they have already distributed the binaries.

      On today's Internet that means they could hide the so

  • I've found out that filing a ticket on the company's public issue tracker (so that their other customers can see it, too) helps.

    Also, writing a polite email which details exactly how they are breaking the GPL and which steps they should take to correct the issue, might help a lot. It's sometimes just simple misunderstanding of the GPL. Sometimes on the part of the author, sometimes on the part of the user - but in any case, the act of detailing the alleged breach of license will clarify the issue.
    • You want this on paper as well, to keep a legally verifiable copy, and say that you sent it via email and paper. Even if it is not from a lawyer, a copy on paper shows you took it a lot more seriously than just a random email.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Jedi Alec (258881)
      Also, writing a polite email which details exactly how they are breaking the GPL and which steps they should take to correct the issue, might help a lot. It's sometimes just simple misunderstanding of the GPL. Sometimes on the part of the author, sometimes on the part of the user - but in any case, the act of detailing the alleged breach of license will clarify the issue.

      Why go straight on the offensive? By detailing their offenses, you're pretty much saying you're already convinced they're in the wrong, wh
  • The guy writes:

    From the client "Oh, Watchtower told us that they used some open source apps but did not mention as to what they used". When I brought up the fact that parts of Watchtower are based on OpenNMS, the client replied "I could not find one ounce of mention on their website to OpenNMS or any other Open Source code that is running on this product. That really irritates me." I should also mention that this client is in final negotiations with Cittio (they dropped their initial price considerably) s

  • > Since the copyright for OpenNMS is held by a number of commercial companies, the Software
    > Freedom Law Center is not able to help us defend or even investigate a potential
    > violation.

    Work with the other companies to establish a not-for-profit corporation and donate the copyrights to it.

If a subordinate asks you a pertinent question, look at him as if he had lost his senses. When he looks down, paraphrase the question back at him.

Working...