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Android Open Source Apache

Popular Android ROM Accused of GPL Violation 197

Posted by Soulskill
from the small-details-like-compliance dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A petition has recently been started to get the developer of the popular Android 'MIUI' ROM, Chinese based Xiaomi, to comply with the GPL. While Android itself is licensed under the Apache 2.0 License, and therefore does not actually require derivative works to be FOSS, the Linux kernel itself is GPL-licensed and needs to remain open. Unless Xiaomi intends to develop a replacement for the Linux kernel, they need to make their modifications public."
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Popular Android ROM Accused of GPL Violation

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:02PM (#42050153)

    not just their modifications, but all the gpl sources. they only need to make this available to their own customers.

    • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:13PM (#42050265) Homepage

      It depends on how they distribute the sources. If they accompany the binaries with the source code, then you're right. However, if they offer the sources for download or by any method not accompanying the binaries, they have to offer the source to any third party regardless of whether they're a customer or not. That's because the Linux kernel is under the GPL v2 [gnu.org] with no option to use a later version, and section 3b of the GPL v2 specifically says the offer has to be good for any third party. 3a covers distribution only when the source accompanies the binaries, and 3c isn't available because it's only allowed for non-commercial distribution which this isn't.

      • I'm curious as to how many of you are using the XiaoMi phones

        As far as I know the XiaoMi only sells their phones in PRC - and even inside PRC their phones are in short supply

        Not saying that they shouldn't release their MIUI code .... but if one does not have XiaoMi phones, MIUI won't do any good at all

        • by stiggle (649614)

          If you use a different phone with same/similar components, you can reuse the code to write the device drivers.
          Thats part of the point of the GPL - you don't have to re-invent the same code over and over.

    • Unless Xiaomi intends to develop a replacement for the Linux kernel, they need to make their modifications public."

      No. It doesnt matter what they intend. They still have to make their modifications public regardless.

      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        No. It doesnt matter what they intend. They still have to make their modifications public regardless.

        Not if they write a new kernel and don't use any source from the previous one. Of course, they would still have to release source for the kernels they have already distributed.

        • by Arker (91948)

          It doesnt matter what they intend. They have shipped modified kernels and they must release those, period.

          Of course, they would still have to release source for the kernels they have already distributed.

          Exactly what I was saying. The ones they have shipped, the ones they are now shipping, and the ones they will ship in the future. If they 'intend' to do something different later, that changes nothing and matters not at all.

          • by Pieroxy (222434)

            Usually, when a company (or a person) violates the GPL they are asked to either release the source code or remove all GPL code from their product. So for instance if they decided to drop their proprietary implementation tomorrow in favor of something else nobody would follow up on the GPL violation.

            Granted, it's not to the letter what is in the GPL, but that's how these things usually pan out.

        • My understanding is that it not generally the case.

          The key thing to remember is that the GPL is a license to copy a copyrighted work. If a copier fails to comply with the GPL they have no valid license to copy and have therefore committed copyright infringement. They are liable for damages for that infringement and they can be served with an injunction to stop the infringing copying (and in theory I beleive criminal penalties could also apply in some jurisdictions) but afaict they cannot be forced to releas

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      Then the simple question becomes; did they make modifications to the kernel?

    • by asdf7890 (1518587)

      they only need to make this available to their own customers

      But they also can't stop their customers making the GPL covered code available elsewhere once they have access to it, so releasing to their customers is effectively releasing to the world.

  • Popular? (Score:4, Funny)

    by the_humeister (922869) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:14PM (#42050277)

    More popular than Cyanogenmod? As popular? Less popular? I've never heard of this thing. Must be popular in China.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It is a fork of Cynogenmod, with better skins and themes. I dont think they have any kernel modifications to share.

    • Re:Popular? (Score:5, Informative)

      by CritterNYC (190163) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:44PM (#42050509) Homepage
      It's a Cyanogenmod fork designed to look like iOS. It's been in violation of the GPL since its very first release. MIUI users always try and minimize the fact that it's basically illegal software.
    • Re:Popular? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:49PM (#42050543) Homepage

      Xiaomi was launched last year to great applause in China. It was lauded as an original Chinese innovation in smartphones, the company was great, CEO smart, etc. I almost bought one myself, but decided I couldn't live without a physical keyboard (HTC Desire Z). They're coming out with a new phone soon [engadget.com].

      It's not that they are being selfish by refusing to share. It simply has never occurred to anyone at the company that there might be rules to follow and a community to participate in. To Chinese, IP is just something that may be freely copied by anyone, slightly modified, and released as your own (when it is no longer OK to copy it, naturally). Ten feet from where I am sitting right now, a man is watching videos of packaging machines in operation and drawing the mechanisms on a CAD program. He is in the R&D department.

      • by vivtho (834049)
        Please correct me if I'm wrong, but as long as he's only replicating the operation of the machine and not its internal working, isn't he just reverse-engineering the machine? AFAIK reverse-engineering is legitimate in the eyes of the law.
        • by msauve (701917)
          "reverse-engineering is legitimate in the eyes of the law."

          Not if the device uses something which is patented. That holds, even if the "new" one is developed completely independently.
          • Re:Popular? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Luckyo (1726890) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @12:40AM (#42051345)

            Strange, patenting software is only legally allowed in what, three countries in the world? China is most certainly not one of them. Why should they care about it any more then a US woman cares about getting stoned for adultery?

            • The GPL isn't enforced via patents, it's enforced via copyright.

              So you can copy software concepts in most countries if you want - but if you copy someone else's actual source code, that's illegal by default. They have to make the code available under an open license before you are allowed to copy/distribute it.

        • by Baloroth (2370816)

          DNS-and-BIND specified the mechanisms, which I assume means the internal workings. It might not even be illegal in the US to do that anyways (IANAL, I don't know, but seems like unless it is patented you can copy it), mind you, it just illustrates that some Chinese consider that "research".

        • Who cares about the legal niceties? To him, and the company, he is engaged in legitimate research and development. While there is always something to be learned from your competitors, in China the balance is way out of whack. At the end of the day, ask him if he spent his time ripping off a foreign company's hard work or developing new, fresh Chinese indigenously produced technology. Go ahead, guess what his answer will be.
      • by tobiasly (524456)

        Ten feet from where I am sitting right now, a man is watching videos of packaging machines in operation and drawing the mechanisms on a CAD program. He is in the R&D department.

        Using a fully licensed copy of AutoCAD, no doubt.

      • by Raenex (947668)

        Ten feet from where I am sitting right now, a man is watching videos of packaging machines in operation and drawing the mechanisms on a CAD program. He is in the R&D department.

        Research and development generally involves looking at what others have done before you. What comes out of it depends on how much you want to innovate or tweak for your own needs.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      I would say pretty damn popular. It's not as popular as Cyanogenmod, but it works on a wide range of devices and is probably second place in terms of custom roms for android supporting many devices

  • Petitioning China? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FSWKU (551325) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:21PM (#42050337)
    You go ahead and sign that online petition to "force" a Chinese company to play fair. Hope you have better success than the hundreds of other companies from whom Chinese businesses have taken what they liked and given nothing back...
    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      For that matter, it probably isn't even illegal in China (do they have a copyright agreement with the US? Seems unlikely), which looks to be the only place they make phones with it pre-loaded, so unless the FOSS people want to block people outside China from downloading it (which I, personally, would find deeply ironic), I don't think they even have any legal grounding whatsoever.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Copyrights? Patents? License?

    LOL

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:36PM (#42050447)
    From the linked article: -

    Android Community Demands MIUI ROM Comply With FOSS Licenses

    Question: Who exactly is the Android Community? Is it Google? Is it the folks at XDA? This statement is just confusing and vague!

    Unless Xiaomi intends to develop a replacement for the Linux kernel, they need to make their modifications public."

    What can the authors of the above statement really do? Sue the Xiaomi folks? Impose sanctions on China if it fails to toe the line?

    Good luck with that!

    • by idontgno (624372)

      I think the righteous indignation and enhanced NEEERRRRRD RRRRAAAGE of dozens* of Android hackers will bring Xiaomi right around.

      *"dozens" == more than 23. That's probably a safe guess.

  • Cyanogen fork (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aaron552 (1621603) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:41PM (#42050487) Homepage
    IIRC, it's a fork of Cyanogenmod, and (the non-Android part of) CM is also GPL, so they'd have to also distribute the modifications to CM. This, I think, is the larger infringement that people are annoyed about?
  • If they haven't made kernel modifications, they don't have to release their source code, just host a mirror of the original source.

    It's also China and since when was copyright followed in China?
    • by msauve (701917)
      "If they haven't made kernel modifications, they don't have to release their source code, just host a mirror of the original source."

      If they haven't made kernel modifications, in exactly what way isn't "their source" the "original source," and what is the distinction you're drawing?
  • Android mod world (modded roms, cyanogen forks, custom kernels, etc) has tons of examples like this. People who distributes compiled kernels and refuses to share their patches because that way they would "loose" their "exclusive l33t" kernel, since some other modder/coder may "steal" their job (which is basically some minor editing or patch merging on top of a real kernel...samsung kernel for example...plus 10 lines of code to make something happen).

  • Bullshit summary (Score:4, Informative)

    by truedfx (802492) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @03:28AM (#42052187)
    From the summary:

    Unless Xiaomi intends to develop a replacement for the Linux kernel, they need to make their modifications public.

    From the article:

    unless Xioami wants to develop a replacement for the Linux side of Android, they need to make their kernel modifications public.

    The article is correct. Xioami only needs to make their kernel modifications public. The fact that there happens to be a GPL program in Android (the kernel) doesn't mean all of Android is tainted by it. Showing whatever else they've modified is nice, but not required.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This article is bullshit. They have all their modifications accessible on their GitHub account: https://github.com/MiCode . This is way better than most Chinese companies using GPL.

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