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Remix OS in Violation of GPL and Apache Licenses ( 180

An anonymous reader writes: You may have heard recently of the Remix OS, a fork of Android that targets desktop computing. The operating system, which was created by former Google employees and features a traditional desktop layout in addition to the ability to run Android apps, was previewed on Ars Technica a few weeks ago, but it was not actually released for end-users to download until earlier this week. Now that Remix OS has been released, The Linux Homefront Project is reporting that the Android-based operating system, for which source code is not readily available, violates both the GPL and the Apache License. The RemixOS installer includes a "Remix OS USB Tool" that is really a re-branded copy of popular disk imaging tool UNetbootin, which falls under the GPL. Additionally, browsing through the install image files reveals that the operating system is based on the Apache Licensed Android-x86 project. From the article: "Output is absolutely clear – no differences! No authors, no changed files, no trademarks, just copy-paste development." Is this a blatant disregard for the GPL and Apache licenses by an optimistic startup, or were the authors too eager to release that they forgot to provide access to the repo?
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Remix OS in Violation of GPL and Apache Licenses

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    You're not required to distribute source code when using an Apache license.

    Running a diff on the license notices isn't sufficient evidence to claim that there is a violation in the Apache license.

    $ diff -u NOTICE-remixos.html NOTICE-andx86.html

  • Hanlon's Razor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @01:26PM (#51323513)

    Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    • Re:Hanlon's Razor (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2016 @01:30PM (#51323555)


      Just reading the comments makes it clear they have the Unetbootin developers' blessing, and the Android-x86 developers are fine with it too.

      This is a minor screw-up, I suspect. Not quite a non-story but not deserving this kind of rant.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 )

      Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.

      If you are so criminally stupid as to not realize by now what those licenses mean, you need to be treated as a malicious entity.

      Sorry, but 'stupidity' in this case is utterly indefensible. If you have the skillset to put this together, you sure as hell can't claim you didn't know about the licensing.

      • "Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from rms ravings claiming the gpl is not a restrictive license."

        There - fixed that for you.

        The Apache license has fewer requirements than the GPL. That's why it's called a permissive license.

        • by jthill ( 303417 )

          You can only offer the GPL on code for which you hold copyright. The conditions you're stipulating in the GPL, the restrictions, are on the distribution of your software. Others can still distribute their own software on any terms they like, they just can't distribute your software except on terms you like. They can't add pennies to the vault and then treat the vault as if it were their own.

          The GPL doesn't impose restrictions, not unless you regard being granted less than the maximum conceivable license as

          • It's not about "some right to expect." It's simply a fact - the GPL license is far more restrictive than the MIT license. No matter how much you want to believe otherwise, the GPL is restrictive. It's also pretty toxic as far as a business model is concerned. Now, that is the author's right, but FreeBSD (via OSX) is the #2 desktop - linux never will be. FreeBSD is also the #2 gaming system OS (Sony Playstation) - linux will never be.

            And as far as smartphones are concerned - if there eventually turns out to

            • by jthill ( 303417 )

              Google? Red Hat? IBM? Oracle, even? All deal in major linux-based platforms for big bucks. I don't think your characterizations and hypotheticals even pass the laugh test.

              • Red Hat is small potatoes compared to the others you named. All the others make more profit than redhat makes in revenue. And in case you haven't noticed, IBM has partnered with Apple (you know, the guys who use FreeBSD code instead of linux because of the GPL). And Oracle has partnered with Microsoft on Azure.

                And of course, Apple makes more profit than all the ones you named combined ... and uses FreeBSD code for Darwin, not linux.

                • by jthill ( 303417 )

                  Well, sure, if we very, very carefully, look only where you want us to look, it looks like you've got a case for something here.

                  Unfortunately for your argument, OS X is not BSD licensed. OS X is Cocoa. You can't name anything anyone regards as an OS X application that doesn't need Cocoa, and Cocoa is locked up tighter than Fort Meade. If you open an OS X programming guide, take an OS X programming class, attend an OS X developer's conference or seminar, use the interface of any OS X application or tool, i

                  • I never said OSX was BSD licensed. I said that OSX was based on FreeBSD. And it is. Open up a terminal window and you'll see FreeBSD is pretty much all there for you to use.

                    IBM sales have slumped each quarter for 3-1/2 years. Not good, so it's not like linux is helping them sell their services. Hardware sales now represent less than 8% of revenues, and software sales continue their decline, as IBM gets away from the hardware and software business to continue to concentrate on the more profitable services d

      • Re:Hanlon's Razor (Score:4, Informative)

        by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @02:14PM (#51323895) Homepage

        "Sorry, but 'stupidity' in this case is utterly indefensible."

        The indefensible stupidity is you prattling on when there is literally nothing being done wrong here. If you had actually done any reading you would know that the creator of Unetbootin has come out and said what was done is exactly as he asked, and the Android-x86 project is similarly on board.

        • That's nice, and I agree it's probably premature to freak out over this too much, a certain amount of good faith among developers helps keep the whole open source community more vibrant and welcoming.

          It's worth drawing attention to though, because there's literally thousands of other contributors to the precursor projects. If someone contributed two lines of code to the kernel twenty years ago, and those two lines are still in use in Remix OS, then their copyright is being violated by distributing binaries

          • by unrtst ( 777550 )

            If someone contributed two lines of code to the kernel twenty years ago, and those two lines are still in use in Remix OS, then their copyright is being violated by distributing binaries in violation of the GPL.

            How are they in violation of the GPL? You state these things as if you know what you're talking about, but I strongly suspect you have a weak understanding of the GPL. Re-distributing unmodified binaries is different from modified binaries, which are both different than modified source. In all cases, there is no requirement to make the source freely available via a public repository.

            ... so the Remix OS folks should get into full compliance as quickly as possible.

            And where is it that they are out of compliance?

            • Isn't the point that at least some of the binaries *are* modified, i.e. can't be perfectly recreated from publicly available source code? I admit I didn't RTFA though, and if the binaries are in fact all perfectly recreateable from source then yes, they're probably in line with the GPL2 (though I think GPL3 is a bit more demanding in that regard)

            • by adolf ( 21054 )

              Redistributing any binary covered by the GPL requires source code to be made available.

              Not necessarily online. And not necessarily for free (as in beer).

            • I was the lead developer of the Kongoni Distribution, and the FSF requested I actually mirror the upstream slackware source tree as part of my repository so that the sources for the binaries I distributed unmodified would be available with them. I had already been providing source packages for every package that was custom-built or modified, but they specifically requested I also provide the original sources for the unmodified binaries (as opposed to just linking back to slackware's repo as I had previously

              • You can just link back to another repo for the source, but it's your responsibility to see that it's working if you do, and to provide a replacement download source if it isn't. If you mirror the source on your own servers, you can control it yourself, and stay in compliance no matter what slackware does. It isn't actually required, but it seems to me to be a prudent thing to do.

                • That was pretty much the essence of the request.
                  There was another factor in my case though. Kongoni was FSF certified as fully free. Slackware is not. By mirroring - I could remove the sources for non-free pieces included with slackware.

            • Distributing unmodified binaries under the GPL doesn't change much. If done on a casual basis, you can pass on a copy of a written offer for the source. For serious distribution of modified or unmodified binaries, you have to provide the source or a written offer to provide it, under the GPLv2. GPLv3 makes it legal to torrent binaries without sources, and allows the distributor to have the binaries and sources downloadable from the same place, with no additional fee for the source.

          • If someone contributed two lines of code to the kernel twenty years ago, and those two lines are still in use in Remix OS, then their copyright is being violated by distributing binaries in violation of the GPL.

            What requirement of the GPL is being violated here? Is the RemixOS kernel a derivative project to which the source is unavailable?

            • I don't know, I haven't even bothered to RTFA. But it sounds like not all of the distributed binaries can be perfectly recreated from publicly available source code - and at least for GPLed modules the modified source code must be made available to anyone who can legally get their hands on the binaries.

              • So for kernel contributors how is it that "their copyright is being violated by distributing binaries in violation of the GPL"? Nobody has even established that there is any violation at all.
    • by pegr ( 46683 )

      Sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.

  • by ciascu ( 1345429 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @01:39PM (#51323631) Journal

    It's a little unclear what is official response, what is somebody else's response (e.g. "For the record, I am not a member..." doesn't suggest an authoritative source) and what is actually required. In fairness to them, the major objection in the article is over UNetBootIn - Geza Kovacs (the upstream author) has kindly posted in the comments section: "They seem to have simply followed my instructions for customization [...] so I don't mind."

    Lack of responsiveness would obviously be an issue, and one that's easy to confirm, so maybe a big statement in the article saying "I made formal contact directly a week ago and heard nothing back" would have been a good first step to answer "Is this a blatant disregard for the GPL and Apache licenses by an optimistic startup, or were the authors too eager to release that they forgot to provide access to the repo?"

    • by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

      Apache does not require release of source AND does not have the advertising clause of the "older" BSD licenses, so I'm not sure what about this project might be violating the Apache license. Overall Apache is pretty permissive and it's hard to violate except by providing source code but claiming said source code as your own (e.g. removing copyright notices and replacing them) - strangely, releasing a binary-only Apache component with no advertising (e.g. every Android device on the market except for Nexus

      • Both are accused in TFA. So, yeah. One part is Apache and didn't list changed files as required, the other is GPL and source code has been refused.

  • Whoopsie.....someone's glad he already gave away his Remix Mini

  • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @02:13PM (#51323885)

    IANAL but, if there are no changes then it isn't a violation. Similarly as others have noted the Apache license doesn't require the same license be used for derivative works.

    Seems like the author isn't really familiar with how open source licensing works and shouldn't be posting sensationalist articles.

    • by ADRA ( 37398 )

      That's all fine and dandy as long as you provide access to the source, even if that's a link to another provider's version of the source. This implies literally 0 changes to the source, and of course the source linkage must be included in the body of the distribution to my understanding.

  • by Kryptonut ( 1006779 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @02:24PM (#51324009)

    Apache software doesn't require the source to be released. Author thinks all open source software should be released to the masses. People asked for their source code, Jide said no, because they weren't partners and explained that Remix OS itself is not open source.

    They even had the author of UNetBootin post in the comments section of the story saying he was fine with what Jide had done. Android-x86 project also seem to be on board from what I can gather.

    So what's the problem, other than Jide not doing what the author thinks they should do?

    • You also need the blessing of everyone who has ever contributed so much as a single line that's still in the kernel or other modules, not just the immediate upstream projects. And that's pretty much impossible, since contribution sources weren't well documented in the early days. Without that you'd better be in full compliance with the license that code was contributed under or you're violating the contributors copyright.

      • Without that you'd better be in full compliance with the license...

        Threats work better when they arent vague hand waving.

        • Okay, how about "either have a license to distribute the product you're selling, or risk getting sued for copyright infringement by the many people whose work you're stealing". Because if you're not in compliance with the GPL, then you have no license to distribute a project built with other people's GPLed code, and are committing bald-faced copyright infringement, which carries pretty draconian legal penalties. (well, at least assuming you haven't negotiated independent licenses with 100% of the contribut

  • by rastos1 ( 601318 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @03:19PM (#51324363) Homepage

    From the article: "Output is absolutely clear â" no differences! No authors, no changed files, no trademarks, just copy-paste development." Is this a blatant disregard for the GPL and Apache licenses

    In true /. tradition I did not read TFA. However based on the quoted part ... isn't GPL requiring to publish source code only if they publish a modification of GPL-ed software?

    • Well, the other thing to consider is that you don't have to publish the GPL source code at all: you need to make it available if somebody asks for it. Has anyone asked for it?

  • The blog post is really terribly written. It is full of negative emotions which distract from the point the author wants to convey.

    The very first screenshot contains a window of "Unetbootin" in Russian and a version of Remix OS USB Tool in English. That makes is very difficult to compare the applications, which is a means to support the authors thesis. Unfortunately, such an article can only have the opposite effect of advertising for Remix OS.

    I hope somebody will have a calm look at this and make a write u

  • They should have allowed us to download it already. You have to purchase a device. Or, you can "apply" for a "license," but only if you're not an end user.

    These guys are really not being helpful.

    • They don't have to distribute it in any convenient form. They do have to provide source or a written offer for any parts under GPLv2 (like the kernel).

It is contrary to reasoning to say that there is a vacuum or space in which there is absolutely nothing. -- Descartes