Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 15th Dec 2009 20:51 UTC
GNU, GPL, Open Source Yesterday, we reported that the Software Freedom Law Center had started a lawsuit against several companies who they claim violated the GPL. The subject of the violation was BusBox, and the SFLC claims it is operating on behalf of the authors of BusyBox. Original BusyBox author Bruce Perens, however, begs to differ.
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vivainio
Member since:
2008-12-26

It's one thing to rewrite a module to be cleaner code, more efficient, follow a better coding style, etc. - but to intentionally remove the previous author is of questionable ethic. The original author went through all the trouble of defining the behavior and logic, restating the same code with your own style/method doesn't make the original author's work any less important.


Well, the new code will still be derived work of the old code, so the original author still retains the copyright.

Basically, Perens can appeal to common decency in this, but I don't think he has legal basis for his complaint (not does he insist on having one). He's just saying that the lawsuit in question is a dirty trick (but that's what lawsuits usually are).

OTOH, if the offending distributors of Busybox failed to get something as simple as GPL compliance done right (which is basically about providing a tarball of the code they used to compile the thing), I'm surprised they managed to deliver a device in the first place.

Reply Parent Score: 4

Praxis Member since:
2009-09-17


OTOH, if the offending distributors of Busybox failed to get something as simple as GPL compliance done right (which is basically about providing a tarball of the code they used to compile the thing), I'm surprised they managed to deliver a device in the first place.


I'm betting they thought that since it was embedded stuff, no one would bother to dig inside and check. Hopefully this will teach future companies that they will be found out, so just release the code, its painless enough if you do it right from the beginning.

Reply Parent Score: 3

JoeBuck Member since:
2006-01-11

No, Bruce is not claiming that the lawsuit is a dirty trick. His whole argument is that he thinks he is a copyright holder in the current BusyBox and the current developers say that he is not.

Reply Parent Score: 3

vivainio Member since:
2008-12-26

His whole argument is that he thinks he is a copyright holder in the current BusyBox and the current developers say that he is not.


I didn't see that in Bruce's post.

Moreover, Bruce has been around the block for a while, and is well aware that disclaiming his copyright is impossible under the terms of GPL.

Reply Parent Score: 2

sakeniwefu Member since:
2008-02-26

If derived code is extended to mean code that was originally based on something someone once wrote even though it doesn't include any of the original code, then Wine, GNU, all the BSDs and even Linux are violating copyright.

Wine devs are in the best position as they can claim that they have not ever seen a line of Windows code(dubious as that would be) but their software is still obviously built after Windows and using windows as a reference.

As for others, all the original GNU and BSD devs had read and learnt from AT&T code as had Linus from Tanenbaum's. They also used that code as a base for their original systems linking to parts of it either directly or indirectly. The FSF claims that separate binaries are infringing too if they can only work with help from GPL code, so it should work the other way as well.

Basically if that reasoning were to be upheld in Court, most open source software would be infringing on someone's copyright.

Reply Parent Score: 3

cycoj Member since:
2007-11-04

If derived code is extended to mean code that was originally based on something someone once wrote even though it doesn't include any of the original code, then Wine, GNU, all the BSDs and even Linux are violating copyright.
Wine devs are in the best position as they can claim that they have not ever seen a line of Windows code(dubious as that would be)

dubious? why? AFAIK Wine developers are very careful that noone who has actually seen Windows code can make contributions. If code looks fishy then they don't accept it. Exactly because it would get them in a lot of legal trouble. There was even the thing about ReactOS, with someone accusing them of having used or seen Windows code and they did a full audit to make sure that wasn't the case.

but their software is still obviously built after Windows and using windows as a reference.

As for others, all the original GNU and BSD devs had read and learnt from AT&T code as had Linus from Tanenbaum's. They also used that code as a base for their original systems linking to parts of it either directly or indirectly. The FSF claims that separate binaries are infringing too if they can only work with help from GPL code, so it should work the other way as well.

Firstly quite a bit of code people looked at was/is public domain. Secondly a lot of the programming in Linux BSD ... was actually done according to standards (POSIX anyone) so looking at the standard not the original code. Thirdly if you only take a small part of a program, especially if you even cite the original implementation, that probably falls under fair use.

Basically if that reasoning were to be upheld in Court, most open source software would be infringing on someone's copyright.


IMO you're incorrect. Thing about a book, if you took e.g. Harry Potter and rewrote the whole book changing all the formulations, but not the story you would quite certainly be infringing copyright and probably be sued.

Reply Parent Score: 1