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GP2X Linux Handheld Makers Don't Understand GPL 284

Posted by samzenpus
from the please-release-me dept.
Bjimba writes "Apparently, the developer community is having a lot of trouble convincing the makers of the GP2X Linux handheld to comply with the GPL by releasing source at the same time as binary firmware releases. This link leads to a synopsis of the issue, and yes, it's my own blog, but there's no ads."
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GP2X Linux Handheld Makers Don't Understand GPL

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  • by Mateito (746185) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @08:53PM (#14450517) Homepage
    Forbidden
    You don't have permission to access /2006/01/gp2x-needs-gpl-lesson.html on this server.

    Yep. There "is" no ads at all!
    • You don't have permission to access /2006/01/gp2x-needs-gpl-lesson.html on this server.

      I can read it. It's blogspot so it couldn't be slashdotted?
    • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @09:02PM (#14450567)
      Works here, TFA in full :

      I mentioned some time back that I was going to get myself a GP2X for Christmas. And so I did. Well, actually, under the Rules of Christmas at our house, my wife officially "got" it for me, just like I "got" her present for her. After seventeen years of marriage, shortcuts are allowed.

      First impressions: I love this little unit. Runs a Linux 2.4 kernel, plays movies with mplayer, already has MAME ported to it... Really, it has everything in a handheld game/media machine that a hacker-in-the-old-meaning could want. Except for one thing. The kernel source code.

      How could this be? This is Linux we're talking about! The open source poster child! (It most likely is GNU/Linux at that. I haven't poked around enough to see what other components surround the kernel. At the very least, bash is present.)

      Well, it seems that the company that created the GP2X, Gamepark Holdings, is a couple of guys in some office space in Seoul. Perhaps some of you who follow the popular blogs remember Cory Doctorow's posts on BoingBoing.net when the GP2X was announced. He noticed the dreaded acronym DRM on their website, and raised alarms. Later, it was explained by the only person at Gamepark Holdings who speaks English that they didn't really understand what they were saying.

      Apparently, they don't seem to understand the GPL, either. They (and their subcontractor Dignsys, who actually did the Linux port for the GP2X) have been approached repeatedly for release of their modified version of the Linux kernel. Reluctantly, they finally did so, releasing an early, out-of-date prerelease version of the source, which is useless to the developer community who would like to hunt down some of the current bugs. There are active discussions on the GP2X developer boards on the topic, as people try to find the best way to get Gamepark Holdings and Dignsys to comply with the GPL by releasing source concurrently with each new release of the GP2X kernel. Of course, as these sorts of threads tend to do, accusations have flown about all parties involved, most of it totally speculative.

      So, herein lies the problem. This handful of early adopters, mostly in Europe and the Americas, is searching for a way to convince Gamepark Holdings and Dignsys to do what the GPL requires of them, without taking down the companies. This is a niche product, and they could complain until the cows come home and never get timely releases of the source. Someone with a bit of PR clout must be brought into the picture. But who? Linus? RMS? Cory? Larry? CmdrTaco?

      After puzzling for a while (and yes, my puzzler was sore afterwards), I figured it was time to test the blogosphere. I decided to write a post about the situation as I saw it. This post. Now, I'll submit it to the tastemakers and see if anyone is interested.
      • by Oscaro (153645) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @03:39AM (#14452211) Homepage
        Really, it has everything in a handheld game/media machine that a hacker-in-the-old-meaning could want. Except for one thing. The kernel source code.

        Actually they didn't release the source code for other modified software either, including MPlayer and SDL (SDL is in the same state as the kernel, an early version, and MPlayer was never released).
    • He didn't say "there is no ads" (which is plainly ungrammatical), he said "there's no ads" (which is not ungrammatical). "'s" can stand for many things, including, at times, a plural copula/to be-like verb. It's just as example of informal language, just like "yep", or contracting in the first place.
    • He's wrong about one thing, too.

      After two minutes searching, I found the link to the file archives, in which there is gp2x Embedded Linux Source [gp2x.de]. I'm downloading now, so it may be the case I eat my words, but it looks like the peeps behind the kernel have released the source.

  • Violated? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mr.Dippy (613292) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @08:55PM (#14450536)
    Does that mean that the collective geekiness of slashdot can sue them if they don't comply? How does the GPL get enforced?

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

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @09:12PM (#14450629)

      "Does that mean that the collective geekiness of slashdot can sue them if they don't comply? How does the GPL get enforced?
      "

      It gets enforced the same way as any other copyright infringement. The copyright holder files a lawsuit against the infringer seeking specific damages. The GPL is relevant, but only in the sense that the infringer has *rejected* the license, and therefore all rights under copyright law are reserved to the author. The infringer has no right to distribute the material, once he rejects the terms of the GPL.

      Now if the party with standing to sue, chooses to take no action, then there will be no enforcement. It could be possible to serve a takedown order against electronic distribution, by a "good for the goose, good for the gander" reading of whatever copyright laws the media companies are using against consumers.

      Probably much easier than pursuing a GPL violation case, would be to order them to cease and desist use of the trademark. The blog post indicates a desire among the community to persuade these people to follow the license without having to "Take them down." That's obviously not how it works. If this company can't be made to fear being ordered to cease production, they aren't going to be motivated.

      If the FSF acted, they could probably get an order to stop distribution of the device in the US at least. Let the copyright holder file a motion for a temporary restraining order, stating the case against the distributor, the precise terms of the license, and the evidence that the license was violated. That's the first step. Do that. Don't expect a blog post to change anything!
    • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @09:17PM (#14450658)
      Well according to the GPL version 4, if you kill companies that violate the GPL, you will spend eternity in heaven with 72 virgins.

      Cynics have said that the virgins are male and it just feels like eternity, but they are probably shills in the service of Microsoft, the Great Satan of software.

      • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @12:38AM (#14451601)
        I swear there is some kind of virgin devaluation thing going on here, last I heard it was said that there were 7 virgins to be had for perishing in some jihad de jeur. Now its 72. Makes me wonder. Either the quality of the virigins is not what was expected and they are trying to make up for it in quantity, there is waning interest from the would-be jihadis and the ante has to go up (unlikely judging by the news), or the jihadis are being influenced by the Great Satan of the Internet and have concluded after watching some of the moving pictures present there that 7 naughty women is what every godless westerner gets without even having to read the Qur'an. Someone figure this out, it might be of a profound geopolitical significance.
    • by twitter (104583) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @10:48PM (#14451088) Homepage Journal
      How does the GPL get enforced?

      The GPL is enforced like any other copyright and derives it's power from the same copyright laws used by some people to strip you of the four software freedoms [gnu.org].

      From what I've read, contact is made with the suspected violator. Most violations are not intentional and everyone is made happy right away. If not, you have to do what other publishers do. This is how the FSF does it [fsf.org].

      The free software foundation has plenty of good advice. Just Google for "gpl violation site:fsf.org" You will be taken to:

      There would not be any confusion over the issue if there were not for a massive propaganda effort by people who prefer their power and wealth to your freedom [gnu.org].

    • In theory, the GPL, like any other software license, is enforced by the owner of the copyright in the code. In the U.S., this can take two forms:

      (1) A breach-of-contract claim for violating the license; and
      (2) A copyright infringement claim.

      The main problem that you have, in either case, is what the appropriate remedy is. For copyright infringement in the U.S. you can get: (1) an injuncting barring further infringement and either (2) actual damages or (3) statutory damages. (4) attorney's fees can als
  • by biocute (936687) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @08:55PM (#14450537) Homepage
    Never trust someone who writes GPL with a stylized L.

    A more important question is, what can the Open Source community do about it? Legally and Koreanly?
  • sigh.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by dr_labrat (15478) <spooner AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @08:58PM (#14450554) Homepage
    You will resp*ect*
    Mah Authora*taih*.
    gad dammit

    Another blog. another bloog.

  • by pilkul (667659) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @08:59PM (#14450563)
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't South Korea, like China, a place where lots of piracy goes on without being taken seriously? If so, we can't expect the reverse-copyright jujitsu of the GPL to be taken seriously in their legal system either.
    • by Tyrant Chang (69320) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @09:52PM (#14450813)
      I don't know about China but it seemed that at least in my experiences, the big companies in Korea are cognizant about GPL licensing issues and are pretty good at complying with the license.

      For example, when I was working there a year ago
      (1) Korea-equivalent of BSA would conduct random audits of software licenses. Actually one consulting company that my company hired had to stop working for couple days because apparently they didn't have proper number of licenses for Visual Studio. The company I worked for also ran in-house audits from time to time to detect not only licensed software but unauthorized software like MSN, mp3, etc.

      (2) The company actually had an entire group devote to GPL and there were several initiatives to educate engineers and product planners about various licenses including GPL (I attended several presentations on it) and I belive we also purchased (or acquired) several software that was supposed to detect presense of popular GPL software in our sources.

      (3) Engineers and markets usually talked and argued about including GPL stuff in the product we developed. We would usualy opt for commercial libraries because we usually didn't want to go through the hassle (we were big enough not to care about costs most of the time - if we had to think about cost, it probably meant that marketing guys weren't doing a good job in product planning)

      (4) Last group that I worked in actually forbade usage of linux because of GPL license and we spent couple mil buying commerical RTOS and was in the process of coverting linux to that OS.

      So, while I don't think Korean companies are up to standards of U.S. companies, I think it is a mischaracterization that all Asian countries don't care shit about IP stuff. Maybe private citizens might not care (there weren't too many cases of Korean-equivilant of RIAA suing people but Korea is a much less-litigious society) but I think most companies by far are pretty good about complying with GPL.

      For example: http://opensrc.sec.samsung.com/ [samsung.com] has the sources for linux used in this product: http://linuxdevices.com/articles/AT7933085076.html [linuxdevices.com] (pretty decent product, although concept-wise, it is a knock off of japanese products)

      The reason why Korean companies would care is that while chances are low they will be sued in Korea, they will be sued in U.S. and almost all companies need to sell their crap in U.S. to make money. So basically U.S. law becomes more-or-less de facto "international" law.
    • In South Korea, only old people take the GPL seriously !

  • This is the fault of Dignsys not Gamepark Holdings. GPH have created the hardware and Dignsys are porting linux but they're not even doing a good job of it. They just keep introducing more bugs with each firmware upgrade. I mean who interlaces an lcd screen?
    • No, it's the fault of the people distributing it. Since GPH is distributing the hardware, which contains the binaries, GPH is responsible for making available the sources that correspond to the binaries they are distributing.
      • No, it's the fault of the people distributing it. Since GPH is distributing the hardware, which contains the binaries, GPH is responsible for making available the sources that correspond to the binaries they are distributing.

        In this case, they probably do, but there is a case that falls through the cracks that I bet we are going to see before long, considering the increasing use of embedded Linux. That case is this:

        (1) Vendor A makes a hardware device that contains Linux. A sells this device to other

        • Under your argument, when I buy a PC with Windows preloaded in a store I would be under no license obligation to Microsoft. That's not the way software licenses work; maybe they should, but they don't.

          Theoretically, there could be a bug in the GPL that opens up such a loophole. If there were, it would be fixable in the same way that Microsoft ensures that end users are bound by their license terms even though there are intermediate vendors.
          • "Under your argument, when I buy a PC with Windows preloaded in a store I would be under no license obligation to Microsoft. That's not the way software licenses work; maybe they should, but they don't."

            GP is more or less right. Providing you dont click 'I agree' anywhere, you're under no license obligations to Microsoft. However, before you rush off to your warez site with your 0-day Vista isos, remember that all that really means is that you can't be sued for breach of contract for reverse engineering Win
        • You just found the achilles ankle of GPL. As long as gpl works off just a copyright licenses with no protections from EULA(like eula would be even enforceable). It can never get enforced, first sale rights triumps the GPL agreement or any other copyright license. Not only does your scenario show the flaws, check out this scenario. I buy a redhat cd, make a bunch of changes. Diff the binaries and make a patch. I can release the patch and not release the source changes i did since I'm not making copies
    • Who interlaces an LCD? Uh, Nintendo?

      I suggest you look very closely at your GBA next time you use it...
  • FTA: Someone with a bit of PR clout must be brought into the picture. But who? Linus? RMS? Cory? Larry? CmdrTaco?

    Hmm. Perhaps Slashdot? I have a feeling they are about to get an earful from a bunch of non high profile people. Call it a hunch.
  • by revery (456516) <charles@nOsPAM.cac2.net> on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @09:04PM (#14450585) Homepage
    from the blog:
    Later, it was explained by the only person at Gamepark Holdings who speaks English that they didn't really understand what they were saying. Apparently, they don't seem to understand the GPL, either.

    Well, they understood how to get up an English web site. And they understood how to design a device and market it and take people's money. I think they are like anyone else, in that they understand as well as they want to...

    It's cool that they chose Linux, but if they wanted to do keep from disclosing the source code, they should have chosen BSD.

  • by JPriest (547211) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @09:11PM (#14450623) Homepage
    For the other that have never heard of GP2X [gpx2.co.uk], they have a vid section here [gpx2.co.uk] with demos. Just don't rape their bandwidth :)
  • by pla (258480) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @09:15PM (#14450650) Journal
    Seriously, no trolling or flamebait here...

    A company released hardware that makes it easy and convenient to run all your favorite emulated copyright violations on portable hardware.

    Does anyone really think they gave a damn about the GPL as a philosophy rather than a means of getting a cheap OS, for which a port of most emulators already exists?


    I want one of these toys too, but don't mistake the manufacturer for "good guys" just because they chose Linux.
    • If as you're implying they don't care about other people's copyrights, why do they care about not releasing their code?
    • "A company released hardware that makes it easy and convenient to run all your favorite emulated copyright violations on portable hardware."

      It just makes it easy write homebrew applications and run them on it. It doesn't have DRM to prohibit this. Much like oh say a computer? Or maybe... a PocketPc? Or a Palm handheld?

      Just because it doesn't have DRM, the company is a bunch of evil people seeking to enable mass copyright violation? It plays videos and mp3s too without DRM! Oh no! Wait, now come to think of
      • by pla (258480)
        Much like oh say a computer? Or maybe... a PocketPc? Or a Palm handheld?

        While true, and as a geek I would even use a GP2X for more than gaming, spare me the insult of playing dumb. They MARKET the thing for its ability to run emulators, with a mention of "lots of native games" at some vague point in the undefined future.

        So yes, any PC can run MAME. Any modern handheld can run emulated original GB and GG games. But Palms don't come with GBulator preinstalled, and Dell doesn't sell boxes preconfigured
        • They market the device as a handheld media box which can do video/audio/text and gaming including emulation. And emulators are not illegal. If you have a stack of NES carts - is it illegal to use a ROM image?
          Do you think everyone just rips their own CDs for use in an iPod? Or uses iTunes? How do you think that breaks down percentage wise? Realistically, most young kids I've talked with are well versed in the art of burning CDs, ripping MP3s and sharing with their friends. I would certainly argue that the iP
    • > A company released hardware that makes it easy and convenient to run all your favorite
      > emulated copyright violations on portable hardware.

      If you aren't Nintendo or Sony and want to launch a new handheld, your initial titles are going to be the easy ones, i.e. ports of existing titles. A port of MAME gets you a buttload of stuff for people to play with. If it is to survive beyond being a toy for a few leet types more content will be needed.

      Sounds kinda interesting, but like the new Nokia gadget, n
    • Does anyone really think they gave a damn about the GPL as a philosophy rather than a means of getting a cheap OS, for which a port of most emulators already exists?

      First of all, directly and publically violating a well-known license is quite different from providing a general purpose system which can, as it happens, be used to violate licenses.

      Second, I want to know what the benefit to them is in holding back. It's a safe guess that their kernel tweaks are pretty specific to their hardware. It's not *tha
      • of course, if they have no kernel modifications, or their modifications are in modules outside the kernel, that are completely seperated, then there's really nothing to biatch about here.
        • No, they still violate the GPL:

          3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it,
          under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of
          Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

          a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable
          source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections
          1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software i
  • WMA? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Trip Ericson (864747) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @09:24PM (#14450690) Homepage
    This may seem offtopic, but does anyone know if this company has paid the proper royalties to be able to sell a device that plays MP3 and WMA out of the box? From a company that feels like it can do what it's doing with GPL-ed software, it wouldn't surprise me if they haven't.
    • Since it uses Mplayer is already GPL'ed, this is the "viral licensing" that people talk about. A piece of GPL'ed software that first might not have the right have the legal right to exist in binary form. The same reason Xvid is source only.

      There are a few programs and codecs people tend to overlook, same reason mplayer, css, divx isnt included in some linux (gpl'ed) distros, they respect the copyrights.
      • Re:WMA? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kjella (173770)
        "This may seem offtopic, but does anyone know if this company has paid the proper royalties to be able to sell a device that plays MP3 and WMA out of the box? From a company that feels like it can do what it's doing with GPL-ed software, it wouldn't surprise me if they haven't."

        Since it uses Mplayer is already GPL'ed, this is the "viral licensing" that people talk about. A piece of GPL'ed software that first might not have the right have the legal right to exist in binary form. The same reason Xvid is sourc
    • by BokLM (550487) *
      Do you have to pay a license to play MP3 and WMA ?
      I don't know for WMA, but I thought it was free for MP3, except for encoders ...
  • by penguin-collective (932038) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @09:32PM (#14450729)
    The copyright holders should a preliminary injunction halting the distribution of the device in the US. That will get their attention. I suspect that once they have been served, they will comply quickly.
  • by mattr (78516) <mattr.telebody@com> on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @09:59PM (#14450844) Homepage Journal
    Found a page, http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/enforcing-gpl.ko.htm l [gnu.org] which links to http://korea.gnu.org/ [gnu.org] and mentions this email address (embedded in a lot of hangul which I can't read).

    license-violation@gnu.org

    Anyway it looks like a translation of this page [gnu.org] which mentions the same email address, so why not just email them there in English?

  • Hackerslab (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mattr (78516) <mattr.telebody@com> on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @10:13PM (#14450919) Homepage Journal
    I posted above with gnu address for gpl violations. Also found an interesting looking site, HackersLab.org [hackerslab.org] at least the link to the Korean page looks like there are people who might listen to what you want to say. They are doing security and hacking of some time and maybe if there are bugs on this device it could be a security problem and that would also be up their alley? Good luck.

    Matt
    • by Slashcrap (869349)
      They are doing security and hacking of some time and maybe if there are bugs on this device it could be a security problem and that would also be up their alley?

      It's a handheld game console! Exactly what kind of security bugs are you expecting? I can just imagine the security advisory :

      Risk: Critically high with bells on

      Summary: Slashcrap Sec Labs have discovered a priviledge elevation flaw in the version of the Linux kernel distributed with the GP2X console.

      Attack vector: By manufacturing a specially craft
  • Is there some "best outcome" for the GPL/FSF that they are aiming for?

    E.g. does Stallman want to go to court, get the GPL upheld and get a recall of some hardware? Would that be the best thing?

    Or is the best thing to get the HW manufacturer to give up the source, promise to be good and so on?

    I'm hoping that Stallman and the FSF have some big plan in mind, so that things eventually wind up being better.
    • Is there some "best outcome" for the GPL/FSF that they are aiming for?

      Can't speak for the FSF and their agendas, but as the owner of a GP2X, I can tell you that, in my eyes, releasing the source would be the best outcome. Why? Because Dignsys makes Microsoft software look reliable. At least gung-ho amateurs have a CHANCE of making it better.
    • Historically, the FSF has always aimed for compliance [gnu.org] more than anything else. As Eben Moglen, chief counsel for the FSF and the main guy in charge of enforcing the GPL for FSF-copyright software writes:

      In approximately a decade of enforcing the GPL, I have never insisted on payment of damages to the Foundation for violation of the license, and I have rarely required public admission of wrongdoing. Our position has always been that compliance with the license, and security for future good behavior, are t

  • by Bodhammer (559311) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @11:44PM (#14451381)
    GPX2 suggestion site [gpx2.com]

    Don't be afraid to let them know how you feel!

  • ...that they've done anything out of the ordinary to the source code?
  • The FSF administers the copyrights for a whole host of GNU software, a large portion of any GNU/Linux distribution. There is likely GNU software in the GP2X. The FSF has a Free Software Licensing and Compliance Lab [fsf.org] that seems to be set up to help resolve the issue described.

  • It seems that everybody doesn't want the GPL anyway. Then why don't they simply use something legal, like NetBSD, instead of adapting Linux to the device and dealing with lots of legal trouble? This sort of thing seems to happen every year or so.
  • 1) During development it was called GPX2, the company ran a stupid naming the console competition the guy who suggested GP2x won... just stupid. 2) There is actually no WMA support due to the rights issue, despite what it says on the box, but they may get rights in the future. 3) The source has been released they just dont seem to be quick with releasing updated source with each firmware version, something which some people would like rectified. 4) Besides the fact my GP2X console is a pre-release versio
  • by mtdnelson (772896) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:37AM (#14452914) Homepage

    Well, I rang the UK distributor, and spoke to a very friendly and helpful lady there. I told them I was interested in the GP2X but was concerned about the availability of the source.

    She told me that she had just read the news herself. She said that 'Craig' - it sounds as though he is her colleague who deals with the manufacturer - was going to contact them himself. She said that she was sure he would put a post on the front page of their website http://www.gp2x.co.uk/ [gp2x.co.uk] when he had some news. It does look as though they keep the news up to date on their front page.

    So, if everyone gets their local distributor to help, maybe we can sort this out...

  • by Benanov (583592) <brian,kemp&member,fsf,org> on Thursday January 12, 2006 @09:50AM (#14453480) Journal
    It's not going to be just as easy for GamePark to distribute the source.

    The GP2X uses SD Media. SD media has zip zilch zero FLOSS drivers that read it because of the S. The security is very much unused in today's world and so most FLOSS systems can read SD because all SD implementations must support the old MMC specifications--so that's the workaround.

    The problem is that if the GP2X actually does use the security functions of SD media (which they most likely do in order to attract commercial developers), they may have contractual obligations to NOT distribute the source.

    They could get around it with binary modules (Linus' exception) but don't expect this one to be very easily solved by a simple source release.

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