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Android Open Source News

FSF Uses Android FUD To Push GPLv3 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the some-people-say dept.
jfruhlinger writes "We've already seen claims from Edward Naughton and Florian Mueller that most Android distributors are in violation of the GPL — claims that the open source community has, for the most part, rejected. Therefore it's disheartening to see that the FSF is using this line of reasoning to push the GPL v3 over the supposedly more troublesome GPL v2. The FSF's press release on the subject emphasizes 'worries' without bringing up a specific concrete case of infringement — a classic FUD technique."
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FSF Uses Android FUD To Push GPLv3

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  • FSF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 22, 2011 @01:31PM (#37168908)

    No, it just means that FSF can see past what most slashdotters can't, regarding Google and Android.

    But do mod me down, me and FSF dared to question Google on Slashdot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NoAkai (2036200)
      Thank you, this summary is horribly written. News, sure, but this isn't a personal opinion piece. That's what the comment field is for.
    • Re:FSF (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Aladrin (926209) on Monday August 22, 2011 @01:36PM (#37168966)

      More unsubstantiated arguments? I don't know if we've been trolled, or you were really trying to argue effectively, and failed utterly?

    • by bonch (38532) *

      It's getting quite tiresome how Slashdot's response to almost everything it disagrees with is to robotically label it "FUD," as if that somehow refutes the argument.

    • Dared to question google over code which they do not own, it should be noted.

  • Locked Bootloaders (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArcRiley (737114) <arcriley@ubuntu.com> on Monday August 22, 2011 @01:34PM (#37168938)

    If Android were GPLv3 licensed we wouldn't have a problem with companies locking down their bootloaders. We could use the energy we currently put into hacking root access on our own phones into improving the platform.

    I obviously agree with the FSF.

    • by jensend (71114) on Monday August 22, 2011 @01:54PM (#37169128)

      If Android were GPLv3 licensed not a single major manufacturer would have touched it and not a single major carrier would have offered such phones.

      Google knew all these folks are way too obsessed with playing the patent game and way too distrustful of having to release all their code to use a GPL3-licensed platform. That's why just about everything in Android is Apache licensed (like BSD but with minimal patent licensing language).

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Kamiza Ikioi (893310)

      And... how many companies would use that version? Parts of it absolutely have to be locked out, yet link and work, such as the radio. While not impossible to get into the radio, the FCC (I could be talking out of my arse here, so someone with more knowledge can confirm or deny this general memory of mine) doesn't want the entire population walking around with fully open phones, even if the companies would supply them. They would fail to get licensing.

      While not directly bootloader related (I sympathize wi

      • > While not impossible to get into the radio, the FCC (I could be talking out of my arse here, so someone with more knowledge can confirm or deny this general memory of mine) doesn't want the entire population walking around with fully open phones, even if the companies would supply them. They would fail to get licensing. If you're not sure what you're talking about, why are you making claims that defend bullshit policies? Factually, there are several software controlled radio products that run fully f
        • I never said I didn't know what I was talking about, I asked for those who are more knowledgeable to confirm or deny (hopefully with some citation).

          And I never said radio in general, but cellular radio. And if you think a completely open cellular radio is going to be A-OK with the federal government, you most likely have never heard of Kevin Mitnick [ttp].

          With a completely open cellular radio system with full root access via the OS, cloning, among other things, would be "extremely" easy to do. (It already is eas

      • by tepples (727027)

        Parts of it absolutely have to be locked out, yet link and work, such as the radio.

        Is there a reason that the radio can't run as a process in user space, or on a separate CPU with its own address space?

        • by Microlith (54737)

          The hardware vendors isolate for a couple of reasons:

          - Trade secrets
          - Performance (radios require an RTOS)

          And yes, virtually all high end devices have a separate CPU, RAM, and storage space for the baseband stack, accessible only via GPIO or USB interfaces.

      • by Todd Knarr (15451)

        The FCC doesn't really care whether the phone is fully open or not. All they care about is that the radio in the phone not operate outside the allowed parameters. The problem comes from the manufacturers wanting to use radio hardware that isn't limited to the permissible parameters, and limit it's operation using easily-changed software controls. If they used radio hardware that was itself limited to permissible parameters, there wouldn't be any problem with it being open. But that would make the hardware m

        • by hitmark (640295)

          Indeed. Wifi-b also has this issue as Europe have 2 extra channels that can not be used in US, and japan has 1 that is outside of both of these.

          So what happens is that they make devices that can work everywhere, but is limited based on the driver shipped in the box (or even the nationality settings of the os used). Question is: if a citizen of a European nation travels to USA and happens to use one of those illegal channels, will his device be confiscated?

      • I remember something from a few years ago about the FCC equivalent in Japan being much tougher than our beloved FCC. That have regulations requiring fixed frequencies that basically mean if you can change your broadcast frequency in software, and the software isn't locked tight, then you can't use it in Japan. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the European nations have pretty tough rules too.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      Android can't be GPL v3 licensed without relicensing the kernel, which won't happen. That's the part where you'd have to change the license if you want to prevent that from happening and as it stands it's compatible with the language of the GPL v2 that the Linux kernel uses.

      Not suggesting that I like the locked down phones or that it isn't injurious to the ecosystem, but that is how that is.

    • by Superken7 (893292)
      As others have suggested, I think that would also imply that they would need to stop using proprietary drivers, which would definitely push them away from using Android. Good thing about Android is that most of the high-level platform is Apache licensed, so they can be free to do whatever they want. Freedom includes locking phones down and delayed updates, unfortunately.
    • Could Android be licensed GPLv3? I thought it was primarily Linux based which is GPLv2, not just from choice, but necessity, in that all the contributors have only agreed to license their contributions as GPLv2, so a forward licensing can only be done with permission from all of them, which is impractical.

      So isn't Android stuck at GPLv2 for the linux core at least? Presumably they could dual license the bootloader locking custom code as GPLv2 and anything else? If I were Google I'd be using GPLv2 everywhere

    • The device maker don't actually matter - but Google does. And they don't want Android to be that open. Else they would actually release all code. Instead [computerworld.com]:

      The confidential source code improperly provided to Dr. Stevenson is highly proprietary source code that Google does not even share with its partners, such as Motorola," Google said

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Monday August 22, 2011 @01:43PM (#37169030) Journal
    (an earlier LWN link that may or may not work [lwn.net])

    Yeah, it's FUD but when you really consider it as FUD, who exactly is it targeting? I think, if I read this correctly, this is supposed to be an attempt at scaring device manufacturers away from using Android. But the core of the argument appears to be that if you distribute Android and you do not follow the GPLv2 then you will lose all your rights (as with most licenses). Once you've lost all your rights, according to the GPLv2, you have to go around to the original copyright owners and get them to okay that you can again have a GPLv2 license. Which would be nigh impossible with Linux. Okay so that seems logical. They then state that you can instantly regain your rights by simply falling in line with compliance when the source code is GPLv3 licensed. Okay, so that also sounds logical.

    We've already seen claims from Edward Naughton and Florian Mueller that most Android distributors are in violation of the GPL - claims that the open source community has, for the most part, rejected.

    I don't know how someone can speak for that demographic. I followed the link to find out who this spokesperson is and was brought to this in the linked article on that Slashdot article:

    Textbook FUD.

    And this is why people avoid GPL code. Whether Mueller is right or wrong (and he's pretty much always wrong) there is so much FUD spread over potential GPL violations all over the place that most corporations just don't want to even get within miles of the GPL for fear that some loser like Florian will try to peg crap on them.

    A Slashdot Anonymous Coward

    So the open source community is represented by an anonymous coward here on Slashdot?

    Have I ever bought a $10 piece of trash from China and found out that I could really use the source in order to make it work with my computer? Yes. Could I foresee some BS tablet maker producing a piece of trash tablet, hacking Android and releasing it sans source code only to have consumers wonder how in the hell Android is running on that device? Definitely. I wouldn't put that past anybody given there's supposedly one GPL violation a day [slashdot.org] and the fact of the matter is that licenses don't seem to mean jack shit in China (and that's their right as a sovereign nation).

    So the allegations here are that Edward Naughton and Florian Mueller (neither of whom I am defending, by the way) have spread FUD to strong arm people into migrating to GPLv3 so that device makers won't fear the repercussion of violating GPLv2 and then having to do impossible legwork to get back in good standing and regain a license?

    Regardless of how effective that is (I'm not a handset manufacturer nor do I know any straying from Android because of this) that is some pretty crazy thin ridiculous sorry FUD if I may say so myself. I worked for a Fortune 500 company for seven years and all I ever saw was a slow gradual movement toward GPL code until I think the only licenses we had were unfortunate contractual agreements from the past. Oh, and Windows. No one really cowered in fear and ran screaming when presented with the above "FUD" as the Anonymous Coward quote seems to imply.

    I don't get it, we pick apart any huge company's license here on Slashdot in the name of protecting the consumer but when someone does it to the GPL and finds some hilariously minute case -- then it's FUD?

    The FSF's press release on the subject emphasizes 'worries' without bringing up a specific concrete case of infringement — a classic FUD technique.

    I think it's worth pointing out that in order for this to be "proven" in a court of law, I think that would mean a GPLv2 license holder would have to sue a company that used Android,

    • by Shimbo (100005)

      So the allegations here are that Edward Naughton and Florian Mueller (neither of whom I am defending, by the way) have spread FUD to strong arm people into migrating to GPLv3 so that device makers won't fear the repercussion of violating GPLv2 and then having to do impossible legwork to get back in good standing and regain a license?

      No. They've spread FUD that Android resellers may be in default of the GPL and would have to do impossible legwork. The FSF press release has added fuel to the fire by saying that if Linux was GPL2 or later, that wouldn't be a problem, and that Android hardware makers should lobby Linux kernel developers to relicense their code.

      Personally, whilst it may be well meaning, I don't think it's helpful. It's just going to wind up the kernel devs, and give some mileage for trolls.

    • So the allegations here are that Edward Naughton and Florian Mueller (neither of whom I am defending, by the way) have spread FUD to strong arm people into migrating to GPLv3 so that device makers won't fear the repercussion of violating GPLv2 and then having to do impossible legwork to get back in good standing and regain a license?

      Totally coincidentally, The Hurd was recently released.

      Is it time to go after Linux at the FSF and Android is just an easy target? Is Linux now the enemy?

    • by iluvcapra (782887)

      the fact of the matter is that licenses don't seem to mean jack shit in China (and that's their right as a sovereign nation).

      Note that, when a country adopts a treaty, such as the WIPO Copyright Treaty (ratified by China in 2007), that treaty is incorporated into the basic law of that country -- that's why treaty ratification in the US is such a high bar, adopted treaties carry the same force as constitutional law, and the courts give treaties precedence over acts of congress or local laws or regulations.

      The China problem, as with so many problems in that country, is about the government's tolerance of corruption and lawlessness,

  • Before the FSF site went down temporarily, I read the original news article, (Android GPLv2 termination worries: one more reason to upgrade to GPLv3 [fsf.org] and sure enough, the last line currently says "Companies that sell products that use Android can help out by encouraging the developers of Linux to make the switch to GPLv3."

    Linux is licensed solely under GPLv2, not "GPLv2 or later", so switching is not a question of Linus deciding to change (which he wouldn't agree to anyway) - all the other contributors would have to agree as well.

    I emailed Brett Smith (copy in my journal [slashdot.org]) to point this out, as well as point out that the GPLv2 allows for distribution as long as you are CURRENTLY in compliance. There is no "you lose your rights forever" clause in the GPLv2 license.

    Lesson: Never assign your code to someone who says "trust me." Not even the FSF. And be wary of clauses that allow them to change the license at will to a future version that may not be to your liking, or that they may interpret to say something it doesn't say.

    • There is no "you lose your rights forever" clause in the GPLv2 license.

      What they were stating is that in order to regain your GPLv2 license you have to get approval from ALL copyright holders and in the case of something like the Linux kernel it would be nigh impossible to get this. Hence, while you are technically true, at the same time if you can't get approval from all license holders it is effectively the same thing.

      • What they were stating is that in order to regain your GPLv2 license you have to get approval from ALL copyright holders and in the case of something like the Linux kernel it would be nigh impossible to get this.

        That's not what the GPLv2 says [gnu.org]. It says very clearly what you must do to distribute.

        As long as you comply, you can distribute. When you don't comply, you can't. There is nothing about any requirement to obtain the permission of the authors - which would be a violation of clause 6 of the GPLv2, as it would impose additional conditions beyond the license itself. Just complying with the license is sufficient.

        Additionally, the recipients don't receive their license from the distributor, but from the original authors (clause #6). Even if the distributor is out of compliance, that does NOT affect recipients of the code.

        6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein. You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to this License.

        See that second bolded section - nobody can demand that someone who was once out of compliance, once they are back in compliance, seek the approval of ANY of the copyright holders before recommencing distribution. The article is pure FUD.

    • by dondelelcaro (81997) <don@donarmstrong.com> on Monday August 22, 2011 @01:59PM (#37169200) Homepage Journal

      There is no "you lose your rights forever" clause in the GPLv2 license.

      Section 4 is that very clause. If you "copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under" the GPLv2, your rights are "automatically terminate[d]." There is no mechanism to regain a license under the GPLv2. And if you think that you regain such a license under GPLv2 section 6, the end of section 4 takes care of that: "parties who have received [..] rights [..] from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long [as they] remain in full compliance.

      If this wasn't the case, the GPLv2 itself would have no force, because any past violation could be pasted over by merely being granted a new license from some other sublicensor. GPLv3 fixes this problem by adding reinstatement language to section 8.

      • by Svartalf (2997)

        In truth, if your license isn't re-instated by some action that actually is legal, you lose it forever, per contract law.

        However I think the valid interpretation (which is why people merely seek coming into compliance with the terms...) for the GPL/LGPLv2 for reinstatement is to re-obtain a new copy and fully comply with the terms. What bit Actiontec and Verizon so hard was that they were in breach of the agreement AND was unwilling to try to reinstate it themselves.

        • I think the valid interpretation (which is why people merely seek coming into compliance with the terms...) for the GPL/LGPLv2 for reinstatement is to re-obtain a new copy and fully comply with the terms.

          Coming into compliance really works because the copyright holders grant a new license to the violator after compliance is obtained; the copyright holder is not limited to the terms of the GPL in granting new licenses. That said, it is possible that a violator would attempt to claim that they re-obtained a n

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        If this wasn't the case, the GPLv2 itself would have no force, because any past violation could be pasted over by merely being granted a new license from some other sublicensor.

        Or do the smart thing and download a new copy from the same licensor and comply with the license. Both the intent and the text of the GPLv2 are to encourage distribution in compliance with the license.

        There is no language or mechanism in the GPLv2 for terminating rights in perpetuity. Get back into compliance, and you have, as

        • by Raenex (947668)

          Attempting to impose an additional condition such as "you lose your right to distribute permanently" is contrary to clause 6 of the same license, which says that you may not impose additional conditions outside the license on any recipient.

          Good grief, the license cannot be in violation with itself. The bit about imposing additional terms is for 3rd parties redistributing the software. The only rights you have are from the copyright holder and the license, and if the license says your rights are terminated, then they are terminated.

          It's just wishful fantasy to pretend that you can get them back by just copying it again, as your only right to copy in the first place was in the license you just violated, and that license says your rights are ter

          • by tomhudson (43916)
            And clause 6 says that EVERY COPY received grants the recipient a separate valid license. You can reinstate your rights simply by downloading a new copy and staying in compliance with the terms of the license that was granted with the new copy.

            Here is the actual text:

            6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Indeed, I doubt very much that Linus wants to go through the hassle of relicensing to GPLv3. I'm sure there are developers that would like to do that, but reimplementing the code from developers that can't or won't relicense it under the GPLv3 is enough of a poison pill to keep it from happening.

      I suppose they could change the requirements for new patches in, but I doubt that's worthwhile given that you'd have to find people to reimplement large swaths of the kernel. Granted I'm sure some of that ought to

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        If they go to that much trouble, there are better things to do than use GPLv3 with all it's anti-commercial stances. Maybe GPLv2 with some improvements, maybe BSD license, whatever. Just not the GPLv3 please. I want to see linux in hardware devices, I want to see more TiVos.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      I'm curious, though, because after reading the GPLv2 your interpretation seems correct (you don't loose your rights permanently.) However, the GNU page on "Why GPLv3 is better than v2" states that, in fact, you do. I cannot see how that is a valid interpretation of the license. It only says that if you violate the license, your rights are automatically terminated. No where does it state that this is permanent (at least as far as I could see). In fact, it appears that merely grabbing a new version of the sof

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        You're absolutely right - it simply isn't there, and attempting to impose such a "you lose your rights forever, even if you get back into compliance" on GPLv2 code [gnu.org] is a violation of clause #6 - "You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein."

        One of the reasons I'm reverting my code back to GPLv2 ONLY as opposed to GPLv3 is because of FUD like this. The action of the GPLv2 is well-understood, and its friendly to businesses that want to use code to impl

  • This is absurd (Score:2, Informative)

    by flymolo (28723)

    The GPLv2 may not be the right license for Android, but GPLv3 isn't either. There's no way cell phone manufacturers would distribute patent licenses with their code, especially with all the patent lawsuits happening now. Ignoring a one critical aspects of the use case for another makes this useless.

  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Monday August 22, 2011 @01:58PM (#37169178)
    According to TFA, the FSF gets what they consider credible reports of violations and false or misguided claims of violations. That suggests that they do look into the claims. The author then complains that the FSF won't talk about specific claims. The problem with that is the FSF doesn't normally run around talking in public about violations - they negotiate with the violators to get them to comply. Part of negotiation is not to piss off the other party by airing their dirty laundry. It does not surprise me at all that the FSF isn't giving some blogger a story.
    • There is a gpl-violations list.
      Taking the last week or so.
      There is a message copying a response from HTC about the inspire 4G, where they state that they are aware of GPL, and do intend to supply source, but in 90-120 days.

      Source for the HTC thunderbolt kernel (which is released) is an old version that will not work with the current radio firmware.
      The pocketbook e-reader seems to entirely have no source.
      The position for vendors of the many android phones you see as direct imports is basically simple - there

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      FSF is free to worry about violations of licenses on their own code. They don't own Linux however.

  • The article and the poster confuse "GPL violations in software developed for the Android platform" with "GPL violations in Android". The FSF press release doesn't say "GPL violations in Android".

    Indeed, the press release does promote GPLv3, but it's merely the author expressing an opinion. It's not spreading "FUD".

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