Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 6th Apr 2007 13:14 UTC, submitted by detonator
OpenBSD "I, Michael Buesch, am one of the maintainers of the GPL'd Linux wireless LAN driver for the Broadcom chip (bcm43xx). The Copyright holders of bcm43xx (which includes me) want to talk to you, OpenBSD bcw developers, about possible GPL license and therefore copyright violations in your bcw driver. We believe that you might have directly copied code out of bcm43xx (licensed under GPL v2), without our explicit permission, into bcw (licensed under BSD license)." The entire thread can be found here.
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RE[3]: best thing to do
by gsyoungblood on Fri 6th Apr 2007 17:35 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: best thing to do"
gsyoungblood
Member since:
2007-01-09

I read part of the thread, until Theo's ranting and whining got the better of me and I just tuned out.

I did read far enough to see where there were not only variables copied, but it also appear very specific functions were copied that were not part of the specification, but part of the linux driver itself.

Further, I believe there were even comments copied verbatim.

Unlike the SCO incident, the linux bcm43xx driver guys have actually shown what they think is direct copying. Yet, in their message, they made it clear they SUSPECTED it was literal copied.

The original message looked very well thought out and attempted to be neutral and non-confrontational as much as possible. There weren't any threats, veiled or otherwise. They left the door WIDE OPEN for a sane response to come back and either confirm yes it was copied, or no it wasn't literal copying because of a. b. and c. In fact, either type of reply would probably have ended the issue or laid the framework for a solution agreeable to both sides.

Did Theo and the OpenBSD people react appropriately, or dare I say it, sanely? No. The OpenBSD guys got caught and called out, and they didn't like it. Instead, they do what many guilty people when caught: distract from the real issue and redirect blame. By changing the argument from copying to making much ado about the public communication, they have distracted from the real issue and attempted to point the fingers back at the bcm43xx people. In my opinion, this level of distraction seems to imply that _someone_, and I don't know who, knew there was something fishy about this code.

As I read it, many of those included on the CC list had a reasonable expectation to be there. They worked on some aspect of the project on one side or the other. It looked like reasonable lists were copied, so of course the message went to a wider audience.

Assume that the GPL violation was true. There has been a public commit of GPL code under a BSD license in a completely different project, and short of the driver it self, an unrelated project. This was done in full view of the world as part of the open process.

At this point outside observers can see new code under a BSD license, without knowing the origins. Perhaps even Broadcom themselves. If this matter were handled completely in private, then those outside observers that saw the code enter in public view might not gain the benefit of knowing the disputed origins of the code involved. Furthermore, less scrupulous might attempt to check out previous revisions (before this came to light) in an attempt to use the "BSD" version of this code and claim it was an honest mistake.

Making this public in the manner it was done seems perfectly reasonable given the circumstances, and it makes it much more difficult for someone to later claim they didn't know the code was not supposed to be released under the BSD license at the time. Nevermind that these are open projects where issues generally will be ironed out in open forums.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[4]: best thing to do
by fsckit on Fri 6th Apr 2007 17:57 in reply to "RE[3]: best thing to do"
fsckit Member since:
2006-09-24

One other thing that I'd like to bring up. How exactly do you define release? This driver has never been a part of an OpenBSD release, doesn't even work, and is under development. Granted it was put into a public CVS repository, but in my mind that does not constitute a release. The CVS repo is where the devs do development. It just so happens to be publicly accessible as a nice benefit to users.

Reply Parent Score: 3

h times nue equals e Member since:
2006-01-21

It may not be an official release, but according to my layman knowledge (inserting IANAL and all the other disclaimers here ... done) incorporating code samples into code that goes to a public accessible CVS server should qualify as distribtion.

And the GPL is crystal clear about distributing derived works.

In the light of [1]

Q: Is making and using multiple copies within one organization or company "distribution"?
A: No, in that case the organization is just making the copies for itself. As a consequence, a company or other organization can develop a modified version and install that version through its own facilities, without giving the staff permission to release that modified version to outsiders.

However, when the organization transfers copies to other organizations or individuals, that is distribution. In particular, providing copies to contractors for use off-site is distribution.


and to a lesser extend [2] and [3], I would guess, that an internal revision control system for the (Open)BSD project without access to the general public would have prevented this situation, if it really has arrived by accident.

EDIT: I don't suggest, that using an NDA to exploit the secnario in [3] should be a viable path for a FOSS project. But it is one method, if sealing of the CVS /SVN server from the public is not feasable / practicable either.

But such a construction would be very awkward for an open source project, as in the FOSS community development and distribution go hand in hand.
Feel free to correct me, if I'm wrong! Thanks in advance

[1]http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl-faq.html#InternalDistribu...
[2]http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl-faq.html#TOCDoesTheGPLAll...
[3]http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl-faq.html#DevelopChangesUn...

Edited 2007-04-06 18:42

Reply Parent Score: 5