back to article GPL legal battle: Vizio told by judge it will have to answer breach-of-contract claims

The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) has won a significant legal victory in its ongoing effort to force Vizio to publish the source code of its SmartCast TV software, which is said to contain GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 copyleft-licensed components. SFC sued Vizio, claiming it was in breach of contract by failing to obey the terms of …

  1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

    Ah for the good old days...

    When tv's were just tv's, phones were just phones, refrigerators were just refrigerators, toasters didn't talk, washing machines & dryers didn't whine about your inability to properly sort by colour & material, men were men, women were women, small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real furry critters from Alpha Centauri, and my supply of dried frog pills didn't cost a proverbial arm & leg...

    *Whistful sigh*

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ShadowSystems - Re: Ah for the good old days...

      Yep! In those days we were the only intelligent entities in the house.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: @ShadowSystems - Ah for the good old days...

        You didn't have a cat then?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Arthur the cat - Re: @ShadowSystems - Ah for the good old days...

          Of course I did, and I still do. The maximum I ever had was 9 cats but none of them was able to understand simple commands as to fetch the ball! They just stared at me wondering what the heck is wrong with me. :)

          1. tiggity Silver badge

            Re: @Arthur the cat - @ShadowSystems - Ah for the good old days...

            They would understand it, but not care!

            I have had a couple of cats over the years that would do fetch and return ball games, but most are not bothered.

            They respond to things they are interested in - e.g. ours recognise potentially cat feeding related words such as breakfast, lunch, handfeed, chicken etc. and if they hear that word will rush from wherever they were lurking in the house and seek out the human who said the word

      2. msobkow Silver badge

        Re: @ShadowSystems - Ah for the good old days...

        But what about your pet rock? Surely that was more intelligent than half the humans in the household. :P

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @msobkow - Re: @ShadowSystems - Ah for the good old days...

          Please don't remind me of my pet rock! I've been trying for decades to forget it.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Ah for the good old days...

      Are you sure you don't want some nice fresh toast? I can make those in a jiffy for you! Or maybe you're a toasted waffle man.

    3. msobkow Silver badge

      Re: Ah for the good old days...

      Meh. As a programmer, I have no fond memories of days before technology. My childhood rather sucked, because I wasn't athletic, and if you weren't rich enough to get into cars and you weren't an athlete, you were a nobody at school.

      Besides, phones that are "just phones" are still available. They're called "land lines." Perhaps you've heard of them in history class... :)

      1. Zarno
        Megaphone

        Re: Ah for the good old days...

        'Besides, phones that are "just phones" are still available. They're called "land lines." Perhaps you've heard of them in history class...'

        It's becoming increasingly hard to get a "true" landline these days.

        Most new infra has them piggyback on cable TV infrastructure, using an ATA/POTS adapter inside a cable modem, with VOIP doing the backend.

        The other ones use a cellular modem and ATA/POTS adapter combo, which may or may not use VOIP vs LTE voice.

        The monthly cost for a copper pair line is also rather bonkers, upwards of $75 for basic service in some locations. I know of one line where it's still $0.25 a call connection fee to call out, then extra for long distance, and charged by the minute for outgoing too... But incoming calls are free.

        I do like an analog line though, they don't tend to go out when there's a power cut. Unless the central office has a cut, or it's fiber to the cabinet on the corner, then only copper to you...

        Icon because it may just be cheaper to yell it from the rooftops.

  2. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    GPL: Compliance Web Page

    Although the GPL _does_ mention hard media (on request), one of the simplest ways to comply is a simple GPL compliance download page. Then, if a user asks for hard copy you can burn a CD or DVD with the requested source, or even send a USB drive or SD card if it's faster/cheaper. Chances are this will not happen often and is WAY cheaper than non-GPL alternatives or (worse) violating GPL. I've set this up a couple of times, just explain it to everyone concerned and set it up on github or something and point to Linux distros and upstream sites and if you modify something, put the source in a tarball and put it on your site.

    Not sure why Vizio had not done this. Pretty much all companies that have been successful with open source will have something like this. I pattern lot of what I do off of what Linksys did back in the day. I was able to build images with what they provided, and could modify things if I wanted, so it works when done properly.

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: GPL: Compliance Web Page

      Linksys gained a lot of sales because people liked the ability to replace their firmware with alternatives.

      They lost none by providing that capability.

      These days I'm on Asus routers, and they also collaborate with the creators of alternate firmware. It's not a threat, it's an additional market, and the sharing of technology goes both ways.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: GPL: Compliance Web Page

        > Linksys gained a lot of sales because people liked the ability to replace their firmware with alternatives.

        > They lost none by providing that capability.

        That's all fine and dandy until the company's revenue stream from selling user data exceeds the revenue from selling more hardware, at which point they don't want people to be able to modify the software on the device and cut off their invisible money hose.

        They could simply not sell user data, but then they'd have to sell the hardware at a far higher price than the competition, because all the competition also subsidise the hardware using sales of user data.

        1. Charlie van Becelaere

          Re: GPL: Compliance Web Page

          >They could simply not sell user data, but then they'd have to sell the hardware at a far higher price than the competition, because all the competition also subsidise the hardware using sales of user data.<

          Which is precisely why none of my TVs are "smart." I'm sure I'll have to give in at some point when that's all that's on offer, but so far mine are all still dumb screens.

          1. Ozan

            Re: GPL: Compliance Web Page

            And with Pi, you can easily turn your TV smart. That's what I do at home. Pi was indeed wonderful addition to our life.

            1. dinsdale54

              Re: GPL: Compliance Web Page

              You can also use your Pi to turn your TV dumb which was my preference.

              https://pi-hole.net/

              My Samsung TV generates more blocked requests than anything else in my home.

        2. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Big Brother

          User Data

          It's not just the data. Telescreen manufacturers (such as LG, Sammy, Apple, Amazon etc.) sell the users themselves.

          Modern advertising is surveillance-feedback manipulation-as-a-service. It is a kind of state-feedback control system* around each individual user (with an individually adjustable control gain that is set just low enough for the victimsviewers not to notice that they are being actively manipulated) and the nice thing about a telescreen for this is that it is interactive, so makes for a nice low-latency system so the control gains could be turned up further if desired.

          Some telescreens even include a camera that *could* be used for gaze tracking and facial sentiment estimation. (hopefully, this is illegal, but technically it is completely feasible and I'm sure it is par for the course in regimes such as the PRC)

          Such a goldmine is the user data, that the telescreen itself can be sold at a loss. The manufacturers *definitely* don't want anyone installing their own firmware if they sell the hardware at a loss. Their customers want that even less, because it allows people who don't want to be surveilled to evade surveillance.

          Is it wrong to pirate a Netflix show if you pay for a Netflix subscription? Of course it is. Because by doing so, you are depriving Netflix of their surveillance data. They don't make their money from the subscription fees, they make their money from being able to read and influence your thoughts. (and proving to their real customers that they are doing so)

          * Applications of Feedback Control in Online Advertising

    2. msobkow Silver badge

      Re: GPL: Compliance Web Page

      Vizio is named after a Microsoft product.

      I wouldn't expect anything BUT scummy behavior with that lineage.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: GPL: Compliance Web Page

        What do you expect from a company with a name that means "vice" "defect" "fault" in Italian?

  3. computing

    The article says the SmartCast TV software app depends on the Linux kernel. The kernel is is GPL 2 licensed. The app also uses additional components which the article notes are "GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 copyleft-licensed components". There is no mention of GPL 3.

    From what I know, GPL 2 does not prevent Tivoization -- where a system blocks its owners running modified software. GPL 3 was created to combat Tivoization. Vizio have been compelled to release (incomplete) source already. So Vizio evidently created a derivative work based on GPL-licensed software (e.g., kernel modifications). So I understand the SFC compelling Vizio to release the complete source code (make it compilable).

    "Kuhn said the SFC brought the case against Vizio to build alternative firmware for Vizio TVs and to exercise the right to repair and improve one's own devices."

    But can the SFC compel Vizio to let users **run** modified software? Everything about this situation seems GPL 2 only.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      GPL2 is also vague. It defines "complete source code" as including the scripts to build and install the software, and that these have to be provided in a machine readable form.

      Poorly Defined Terms

      But no where does GPL2 say that those scripts should be executable, or that they should result in a running program on specific hardware. It also doesn't explain what a "script" is; to most of us it's a bash script, possibly python, a makefile, or similar. But an executable binary that does the same steps, or one of the steps, definitely is not within most people's ideas of what a script is.

      It's also perfectly possible to have a complete set of scripts that build the software, but not install it. The installation might be manual (i.e. a human has to copy the image to a chip burning machine, and the chip then has to be soldered down afterwards). They might even have to use a custom machine-specific binary executable to help with this. In this case, it's entirely reasonable that there is no machine executable script for installation, and there can't ever be one that results in a runnable program; a script cannot by itself solder a chip to a board. There can be a readme as a list of instructions for a human to execute to install the software.

      Make Up Your Own Device Configuration

      GPL2 also leaves room for the following situation. There's bound to be a configuration file specifying device addresses, certain memory locations, etc. This might helpfully get supplied as "set these appropriate to your run-time environment", which makes it hard to figure out what they should be on a specific retail device (no datasheet published). So yes, you can build the software alright, but never know what settings are required for a specific device. And here too GPL2 is inadequate; no where does it say anything about the hardware on which it should be run. The original authors of GPL2 had in mind standards compliant source code compilable on almost any unix-like OS, not specific hardware.

      What's also bad news for the vendor is that such configurations can easily change between production runs - i.e. the next uses a slightly different SOC that requires a different configuration - and they may not have records of which SOC was used in a device of any given serial number.

      And if one thinks this unlikely, think again; even Apple are constantly churning their choice of components between batches of iPhones, Macs, etc, that outwardly are all supposed to be "identical". At one point they didn't know themselves what had gone into any one specific device, which is why firmware updates to fix issues can have patchy success rates.

      In that circumstance the best a vendor could do is supply a whole bunch of configuration files, and tell the recipient distributee that they'll have to munge them together as best they can, see what works...

      Now a Contract?

      It's this kind of problem that puts companies off using Linux, and why FreeBSD is an attractive alternative. If GPL2 is now also going to get interpretted as a contract, that's simply making Linux less and less attractive, because it is so unclear as to what really does constitute "complete source code", and "installation". Companies might now find they are contractually obliged to facilitate installation on hardware never designed to support post-manufacture installation.

      It's also ironic; the Wikipedia article on the GPLs says that they were designed as licenses, not contracts. But now they are being interpreted as contracts.

      Here in the UK, a contract is only enforcable with the exchange of money; no money, no contract. That's why you see bust companies being bought for £1 - to seal the deal. So there is a contract if you've bought a TV, but if you've just downloaded an executable for free there is no contract.

      This Specific Case

      I think the SFC is being casual in its statements in referring to "GPL", and not specific versions. There's a world of difference between 2 and 3. I know the case involves software under both licenses (it's not just the kernel source they're after), but technically speaking there is no such thing as "GPL".

      GPL2 does not grant a right of repair; it doesn't say that the re-built executable must installable on specific hardware. It does not say there has to be a USB socket from which an image can be run or burned to on-board flash, or other similar mechanism. However, a side effect of this case might be that the GPL2 is a contract that, in effect, does mandate facilitating third party image installation on the hardware.

      Of course, if GPL2 source code is underpinning a product, allowing third-party image installation is actually the polite thing a manufacturer should do anyway. But this case is moving the goal posts in a direction where otherwise blameless manufacturers may now have a deployed fleet of hardware that now is not compliant, and can't be.

      So, my worry is that this case will make it even more difficult for manufacturers to be certain that they have a issue-free pathway to GPL2 compliance, even if they're intending on being compliant. If as a result of this case we start seeing device manufacturers move over to, say, FreeBSD, then the ability for people to mod their own devices is actually going to decline, not increase.

      And so, what does this mean for the Android mobile phone market? Are we set to see a situation whereby manufacturers are obliged to facilitate third party image compilation, installation, with the expectation of ending up with a working phone? Could be a good thing. Could also be a bad thing, as it means that the third party might not actually be the phone owner. There are good reasons why people might not want a device that anyone can reimage without manufacturer support...

      Ambiguity

      The SFC said: "Had Vizio produced the source code for the Linux kernel, for the other SmartCast programs at issue, and for the library linking programs, as used on Vizio Smart TVs, a community of software developers would have had the opportunity to modify them to protect user privacy or improve accessibility,"

      I hope that in this case, "library linking programs" means software to manage lists of TV programs, and not the source code for ld or whatever the object code linker that is used.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Stop

        but, no contract means no licence, therefore it becomes a straightforward copyright piracy case, just like if you distributed the Oracle database server in your product without a distribution licence.

      2. Fred Daggy Bronze badge
        Coat

        Point of order guv. Money need not change hands for a contract to be valid. Just "consideration". This should be an object that the parties agree on, or an action. Or refraining from an action.

        Can even just get to the point where one party draws up a deed. Because this is a significant action, can take the place of money.

        See also "Peppercorn rent"

        So, actions of one party, with intent, could be construed as accepting a contract. If the party "I want this code" downloads, modifies and DISTRIBUTES this code, other parties "I also want that code, that you are obliged to give me as per your accepting the original contract to downoad the code in the first place" would have a some sort of argument before a judge.

        I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, just something that seeped in to my brain between refreshments at the Studen Union pub, many, many moons ago.

    2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      True, but the most important thing that has happened here, ignoring the fact that it may come to nothing as GPL2 does nothing against tivoisation, is that this case proves that the GPL is more than just a copyright license that "gets it wrong" as Vizio suggested, but also that its is a contract.

      Thus from now on, GPL defense will be easier as both copyright and contract law apply. Vizio were trying to wiggle out of compliance by saying that the GPL is a copyright license, which means it (as they claimed) was invalid as it added extra restrictions and conditions. But now, the fact that this is the contract side is set as a precedent.

      Thus Vizio may not be breaking copyright law, but they are breaking the terms of contract set out i the GPL.

      Thus even if this doesn't amount to much with the TV, the GPL suddenly got a bigger pair of balls.

  4. Auntie Dix
    Stop

    There Oughta Be a Law

    A toaster shouldn't boot. It shouldn't be running an OS.

    Same for a TV.

    New "OS" TVs (our only choice, these days) should offer a hardware switch with the default option of "Basic TV: No OS, No Ads, No Crapware, No Internet."

    I'll keep my old TVs and converter boxes, for as long as possible.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: There Oughta Be a Law

      Wilst I agree things like toasters and fridges shouldn't need/have an operating system, it's harder to justify that nowadays with TVs.

      Let's assume we're only talking about over-the-air transmission. That's pretty much digital now. So you'll need software to decode it and convert it to a format usable to run the physical display. Then you've got your EPG which we'll assume is transmitted on the same carrier as the program. That'll need decoding and presenting to the user.

      Doing all of that without an OS, whilst not easy, isn't impossible.

      Add in internet streaming, live pause/reward, EPG delivery via internet, etc and if you're not using an existing OS you'll probably end up writting one. (And writing one badly)

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: There Oughta Be a Law

        Just we need to decouple the screen from the computer behind it. People should be able to match the screen they like with the receiving/decoding device they like. And be able to suppress any data gathering.

        1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

          Re: There Oughta Be a Law

          In theory, that's great. But displays already have tiny computers in them to run (The latest Apple display is an extreme exampe of this having an almost complete iPad inside it) The CPU power to add home streaming, etc aren't that expensive (in hardware terms). So you get a lot of feature tick-boxes for little cost and viola - you have a smart TV. Add in the option to earn more money by spying on the user, and what's not to like (for the manufacturer!)

        2. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: There Oughta Be a Law

          > People should be able to match the screen they like with the receiving/decoding device they like.

          They can.

          Just because a TV incorporates 'smart' features doesn't mean your are obligated to use them.

          I use my 2016 as a 'dumb' display. One HDMI port is connected to my computer for when I want to display stuff on a bigger screen (e.g. a Youtube Video or other streaming source that I prefer to access via a 'full' desktop computer), and another HDMI port is plugged into a $100 media player appliance (Kodi-based) that can play video from my NAS or via other streaming services that I have Kodi plugins for. When various tech changes with respect to video codecs and whatnot, I replace the $100 media player with a newer $100 player that supports the newer, fancier features (h.265, HDR, etc.) rather than replacing the entire TV.

          Apart from picture settings/capability (HDR for example), I don't use any of the built-in smart features, it's not connected to the internet or any other network, just HDMI input sources.

          Although I do use the built-in FTA tuner for the rare (about 3 hours in the last 6 months) times there's something on FTA I want to watch,

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: There Oughta Be a Law

            > Just because a TV incorporates 'smart' features doesn't mean your are obligated to use them.

            Tell that to the owners of the TVs which refuse to turn on unless they're plugged in to the internet.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: There Oughta Be a Law

              "Tell that to the owners of the TVs which refuse to turn on unless they're plugged in to the internet."

              Which are they, please?

              1. AVR

                Re: There Oughta Be a Law

                Recent Sony TVs IIRC.

                1. usbac

                  Re: There Oughta Be a Law

                  Well, Sony is off of my list permanently due to the rootkit thing anyway. Sony was such a great company once upon a time.

                  It seems like once they started having American executives in the company, they started getting very scummy (I say this as an American). It seems like "How To Be a Complete Scumbag" is a required course in all US business schools?

            2. eldakka Silver badge

              Re: There Oughta Be a Law

              > Tell that to the owners of the TVs which refuse to turn on unless they're plugged in to the internet.

              Citation needed.

              Also, if there was such a consumer targeted TV, then buy one of the other bazillion models that don't have that requirement?

            3. usbac

              Re: There Oughta Be a Law

              In my house, such a TV would go back to the store where I purchased it. Why would anyone keep a TV like that?

              1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

                Re: There Oughta Be a Law

                Indeed. Described as 'Not fit for purpose'

              2. Warm Braw Silver badge

                Re: There Oughta Be a Law

                Why would anyone keep a TV like that?

                Because, increasingly, the price of TVs is subsidised by the bundled and promoted apps and and by data-sharing revenue.

                People buy on price and the vast majority of people don't seem to care about the other side of the equation. The inevitable logic of that is that the handful of manufacturers that dominate TV production will drive down the monetization road as far as possible in pursuit of low headline prices: having consumer choice about that is a temporary luxury.

          2. Tim99 Silver badge

            Re: There Oughta Be a Law

            OK, I’m happy with my cheap Hisense TV that Is not connected to the internet; and my Apple TV set-top box connected by HDMI. For viewing, recording and playing back live TV, I can recommend a Silicon Dust HDHomerun multi-head tuner - It needs a computer to record (a Raspberry Pi 4 will do). I now use catch-up to watch most things. The recording software that I use, ChannelsDVR, can run comskip so I don’t see adverts. Sound is a couple of Apple HomePod minis. Done and dusted for £600. If I could have been bothered, I could have used 2 Raspberry Pi’s for the computing, FOSS software, and a sound bar/generic speakers.

      2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: There Oughta Be a Law

        > That's pretty much digital now. So you'll need software to decode it and convert it to a format usable to run the physical display

        Still doesn't need to communicate over a network (over the internet I'm saying), nor does much of the work need to be done by software, it can be done by ASICS.

        This is how my older than 2012 sony freeview recorder does it. Yes it has an EPG etc and software to burn discs but much of the work especially with decoding is done by dedicated decoder chips. The OS basically just responds to the remote.

        My TV however, slow and outdated it may be (so slow and old that iplayer and netflix are not even worth starting on it anymore) it still connects to the wifi and still pulls down adverts and still uploads strange things.

    2. John Sager

      Re: There Oughta Be a Law

      It's probably not feasible these days. The receiver, decoder and screen driver chips all assume a CPU running a driver. It may be possible to run an event loop with no OS, but even a basic RTOS would give a lot more flexibility. I wonder how far back you have to go before the TV used a CPU to coordinate stuff. 70s?

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: There Oughta Be a Law

        I think that the probable indicator is whether a TV had a moderately capable remote control.

        I've certainly owned TV's bought in the '80s where the channel selector wa still pretty much mechanical, with latching buttons for each of the channels, thumbwheel tuners, and physical potentiometers for volume, brightness and colour.

        But I would say that probably any TV with non-latching push button adjusters, on-screen menus for tuning and picture controls, and remote controls which allowd all of the settings to be changed probably either had a microprocessor, or maybe an embedded microcontroller in the chipset.

        But this does not mean that there was much of an OS. The controlling software was probably in real ROM, probably not even EEPROM. This means that to all intents and purposes, these TVs could be regarded as hardware.

        I think that the real advent of TVs becoming computers in a screen started with flat-panel TVs, especially when digital TV became a thing. Because of the evolving DTV standards, it made every sense to make the TV a 'soft' device which could accept firmware updates, and there were probably multiple processors in the TV. The final clincher was when TVs became network connected devices.

        Although it is almost certain that you can find exceptions, I would say that this first stared in the early 2000s.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: There Oughta Be a Law

      I just never use any smart feature on my "smart" TV.

      I just want to watch TV, not endlessly have to fiddle with it like every damn "smart" device in existence that really exists only to try and extract more money from me.

  5. man_iii

    Buy monitors not TVs ?

    I dunno but bought an LG monitor and connected my digibox to it just fine. No OS nothing.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Buy monitors not TVs ? @man_iii

      Probably not the case. There is probably an embedded microcontroller or an SOC in there somewhere. Remember, HDMI, especially with HDCP is a digital communication protocol.

      Does it have on-screen menus? If so, it almost certainly has some form of digital controller.

      So there will be an OS, but it is very likely that it is an extremely simple, event driven thing, but it will be an OS none the less.

      And, of course, there is the digibox possibly gathering information on you...

      1. trindflo Bronze badge

        Re: Buy monitors not TVs ? @man_iii

        Monitors are even more likely to have a CPU and an OS to provide extra features for computer use. The only thing a monitor doesn't (usually) get is a tuner.

        Looking up the cheapest LG Monitor at: https://www.lg.com/us/monitors

        They are bragging about "FreeSync", a feature that lets the monitor delay the monitor sync rate to match the graphics card and "lowered input lag due to taking computational load off the PC or console and moving that load to the monitor": https://www.benq.com/en-us/knowledge-center/knowledge/freesync-vs-freesync-2.html

        That monitor does quite a bit of processing.

        If you unplug the power to your monitor then plug it back in, the delay before you see a picture is the OS in the monitor booting. The display itself is ready to work instantly.

      2. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
        Holmes

        Digital protocols

        Digital protocols do not require a microcontroller to render them; it just makes it a bit easier.

        It could conceivably be done in discrete hardware (not that I would, but it is certainly feasible).

        I have designed video systems where the only reason for the processing was to switch sources, destination and select the appropriate decoder.

        All that said, the low cost of modern electronics (current supply woes notwithstanding) means it is pretty simple to add all that in (mostly) general purpose hardware.

  6. Rob Willett

    FTA

    >> "Some of our consumer devices contain 'open source' software, and any failure to comply with the terms of one or more of these open source licenses could negatively affect our business," the company's latest 10-Q filing [PDF] stated.

    IANAL nor an accountant, but I would suggest that they comply with the terms of the license and therefore avoid a negative impact on their business. Radical I know but there you go.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Rob Willett - So they know they're breaking the law

      Wouldn't this be wilful infringement ?

  7. Zanzibar Rastapopulous

    GPL contagion..

    Sooo.... A single GPL inclusion in any part means that the entire device source code must be available in a form that allows the entire device firmware to be reproduced?

    Is that what they're saying?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: GPL contagion..

      Nope. There's plenty of precedent about what the GPL and LGPL mean.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: GPL contagion..

        However, the SFC use the words "relies on" and implies "mere aggregation" is now within "the scope of the license". Which would seem to indicate they are wishing to move the boundaries....

        A superficial reading would seem to indicate that Google will now need to release the source to Google Play Services to comply with SFC's revised GPL2.

      2. Zanzibar Rastapopulous

        Re: GPL contagion..

        > "Nope. There's plenty of precedent about what the GPL and LGPL mean."

        Nonetheless that's how the article reads.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3rd party GPL beneficiary?!?

    Citing Versata Software, Inc. v. Ameriprise Fin (2014), which recognized the GPL imposes an "extra element" – a contractual obligation – beyond what's required by copyright law, the judge in her order [PDF] wrote, "There is an extra element to SFC’s claims because SFC is asserting, as a third-party beneficiary of the GPL Agreements, that it is entitled to receive source code under the terms of those agreements."

    That's interesting: I've always understood the GPL to mean (roughly) that if I used some GPL code in my own app and then distributed that app I would have to provide all the the source code (my own as well as whatever GPL'd bits I borrowed) to the people I distributed it to.

    This Versata v Amerise ruling seems to be suggesting that anyone, whether they received my app or not, can demand a copy of the source. What if I've lost the source and stop distributing: does the fact that there are existing copies out there mean I'm still liable?

  9. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    "Today, unless a copyright holder is attached to those requests (or someone who can make a lot of noise in the press), many companies simply ignore the requests they receive for source code. This frustrates the very thing that the GPL is designed to address."

    Allow me to introduce you to ASCAP and MPAA. Be prepared to grab your ankles should you violate some copyright terms.

    There are a number of law firms at the ready to step infor their 30% if needed.

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