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GNU is Not Unix PC Games (Games)

id and Valve May Be Violating GPL 399

Posted by Zonk
from the can't-we-all-just-get-along dept.
frooge writes "With the recent release of iD's catalog on Steam, it appears DOSBox is being used to run the old DOS games for greater compatibility. According to a post on the Halflife2.net forums, however, this distribution does not contain a copy of the GPL license that DOSBox is distributed under, which violates the license. According to the DOSBox developers, they were not notified that it was being used for this release."
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id and Valve May Be Violating GPL

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  • by BiggestPOS (139071) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @05:04PM (#20124697) Homepage
    I can get a copy of the source for Half-Life 2?
    • Re:Does this mean (Score:5, Informative)

      by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <elmuerte AT drunksnipers DOT com> on Sunday August 05, 2007 @05:13PM (#20124757) Homepage
      No. It means that they violate copyright law because they didn't conform to the GPL terms. If it's true, they are illegally distributing the software called: DOSbox.

      It doesn't mean any code of the old DOS iD games has to be released. Only modifications they might have made to DOSbox will have to be made public.

      It's due to the work of the DOSbox creators that VALVe and iD can sell their old software and people can enjoy it. Yet the DOSbox creators don't get any credit for their work. And that is a major shame.
      • Re:Does this mean (Score:5, Insightful)

        by porkThreeWays (895269) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @05:30PM (#20124911)
        This sort of thing isn't always on purpose. Some people think "open source" means they can use the code however they please. Programmers aren't always license experts. It seems so simple to us because we are around these terms on slashdot constantly, but there have been times where I made assumptions about close source code licenses that could have gotten me into the same trouble. The legal department doesn't review every single decision in an organization and its possible legal implications. It could have been a few guys that just didn't understand the GPL and it was missed because it wasn't the largest project in the company. Not defending them, but not everyone understands "open source" isn't the same as public domain.
        • Re:Does this mean (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @05:40PM (#20124993)

          This sort of thing isn't always on purpose. Some people think "open source" means they can use the code however they please.
          John Carmack understands perfectly what the GPL is all about, and surely nobody needs to be reminded what a huge contributer he is to open source and open standards. Certainly an oversight and public humiliation is not in order.
          • Re:Does this mean (Score:5, Insightful)

            by bluephone (200451) * <grey@burnte l e c t r o n s . o rg> on Sunday August 05, 2007 @06:03PM (#20125139) Homepage Journal
            You're right, and I'm 100% certain that John did all the packaging of the old games himself, by hand, using DEBUG on an 8086 and monochrome screen.

            In reality, this was a business deal between id and Valve, and id probably handed over the playable binaries, and Value handed them to a small group to prepare for distribution and installation over Steam. So rather than blaming id, or claiming Valve did this with evil intent, let us combine two very powerful pieces of wisdom, "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence," and Occam's razor. It is most easily assumed that when Valve handed off the data to be packaged, the worked had the best of intentions by using DOSbox, but was inadequately informed about it's proper use and redistribution.
            • Re:Does this mean (Score:5, Informative)

              by Hadlock (143607) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @06:43PM (#20125409) Homepage Journal
              Yeah, I went to his keynote Friday night; there were a lot of technical questions, and at the same time a lot of questions about steam, etc. At one point someone asked him about porting Doom to Steam and he flat out said "wow, that's pretty cool, I hadn't heard about that yet, but it seems neat".... He's very much on the research side of things and made it very clear that while he's still the posterboy for iD, he has very little control or even desire to muck about with marketing and corperate politics, though at the same time he also said that they were very proud of their decision to ultimately open source everything, and have made many design decisions in the past that have limited them because they wouldn't then be able to open source fully at a later point (he also pointed out that at some point in the future, iD tech 5 would become open source, too).
               
              +5, informative.
               
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by crazybasenji (1130955)
              "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence," and Occam's razor. Unfortunately, copyright infringement is often strict liability; in other words, no finding of intent is required.
          • Agreed...... the original post is irrelevant.....
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Crayon Kid (700279)

            [...]public humiliation is not in order.

            How about a slap on the wrist? Come on, given Carmack's contributions [wikipedia.org] to free software, it's an even more silly blunder. Especially nowadays that everybody's wound up about the GPL. He's gotta bear at least a token chide.

            How this plays out depends on id/Valve's reaction, I guess. A simple apology is all it takes for this to be forgotten in no time.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          This sort of thing isn't always on purpose. Some people think "open source" means they can use the code however they please

          It does. Perhaps you're referring to the GPL instead?
          • Re:Does this mean (Score:5, Informative)

            by mrchaotica (681592) * on Sunday August 05, 2007 @10:24PM (#20126643)

            Bullshit!

            "Open Source" can mean one of two things:

            • That you can see the source code. Nothing more, nothing less. This is the literal definition, and the one most normal people (as well as MS) subscribe to.
            • That it means the same thing as "Free Software" -- i.e., licensed in such a way to preserve freedom -- except that it may or may not be copyleft. This is the OSI definition.

            In neither case does it mean "public domain," which is what you're thinking of.

            • Re:Does this mean (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Raenex (947668) on Monday August 06, 2007 @11:13AM (#20130311)

              That you can see the source code. Nothing more, nothing less. This is the literal definition, and the one most normal people (as well as MS) subscribe to.
              Microsoft makes it a point to use the term "Shared Source". There is no "literal definition" for such an ill-defined term. You can accept OSI's definition, since they have done all the marketing of that term and it has a lot of mindshare, or you can accept that people interpret it differently, in which case nearly anything goes, including public domain.

              That it means the same thing as "Free Software" -- i.e., licensed in such a way to preserve freedom -- except that it may or may not be copyleft. This is the OSI definition.
              Now that is complete bullshit. The OSI definition of open source does not "preserve freedom". It fully supports licenses that let derived versions become closed source -- like the BSD license.

              In neither case does it mean "public domain,"
              Your 0/3. Public domain qualifies as "open source" as defined by the OSI. The OSI meaning of open source is an umbrella one, that includes the GPL, BSD, public domain, etc.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by wayward_bruce (988607)

          This sort of thing isn't always on purpose. Some people think "open source" means they can use the code however they please. Programmers aren't always license experts. It seems so simple to us because we are around these terms on slashdot constantly, but there have been times where I made assumptions about close source code licenses that could have gotten me into the same trouble. The legal department doesn't review every single decision in an organization and its possible legal implications. It could have

        • Re:Does this mean (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Dhalka226 (559740) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @06:59PM (#20125501)

          It seems so simple to us because we are around these terms on slashdot constantly

          It's not simple at all. Start a discussion here about under what circumstances you do or do not need to distribute source and you'll still get a 20 post long thread with people going back and forth about who's right and who's wrong, debating what the words used in the license mean, etc.

          And people here should be some of the "experts" on the license.

        • Re:Does this mean (Score:5, Insightful)

          by GalionTheElf (515869) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @08:00PM (#20125877) Homepage
          Can't believe this hasn't been pointed out yet but neither iD nor Valve are exactly garage enterprises. These are pretty big companies and you know, I find it really hard to believe that this never went past a lawyer. Programmers don't have to know anything at all about licenses and stuff like that because that's what the rest of the company is for.
          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            I can't believe I had to read down this far for this issue to come up. I wouldn't expect that a project done at a company the size of ID would let something like this slip by without anyone saying anything. Then again, maybe some of the developers did say something, and their managers just told them to shut up or find another job. Maybe this really was just some small project, that only a few people worked on. If they had all the source code for the games, and are just running everything on DOSBox, then
          • Re:Does this mean (Score:5, Informative)

            by SpectreHiro (961765) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @10:09PM (#20126563) Homepage

            Can't believe this hasn't been pointed out yet but neither iD nor Valve are exactly garage enterprises. These are pretty big companies and you know, I find it really hard to believe that this never went past a lawyer. Programmers don't have to know anything at all about licenses and stuff like that because that's what the rest of the company is for.

            I'd hardly call id or Valve pretty big companies. Valve currently lists 104 employees, and id only 34.

      • you're wrong, too (Score:4, Informative)

        by oohshiny (998054) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @07:06PM (#20125549)
        Only modifications they might have made to DOSbox will have to be made public.

        Please let's get away from this thinking that you can automatically patch up a GPL violation by releasing your modified source code later.

        When you violate the GPL, you immediately lose your license to the GPL'ed code and you are liable for your past and future license violations. You cannot make up for that past violation by coming into compliance, and you cannot restore your license to use the code under the GPL license by coming into compliance.

        What that liability entails is something that you can negotiate with the authors about, and if you don't reach an agreement, it's for the courts to decide. Theoretically, if the GPL violation is egregious enough, a court might well hand control over other corporate assets, including unrelated software, to the author of the GPL'ed software.

        Many GPL authors will be nice and permit you to remedy past GPL violations by coming into compliance, and they may also grant you permission to use the software under the GPL. But all of that is at their sole discretion.
        • Interesting! I'd like to think that this particular case was an inadvertent error that can and will be quickly remedied. There doesn't seem to be any indication that copy.txt and author.txt were omitted in an act of bad faith, although we'll find out soon enough.

          So, in a worst case scenario, if non-compliance were due to a technical glitch (say, copy.txt was corrupted), what are the legal ramifications? What if the technical glitch was corrected in a day? In an hour?

          Of course, much of this depends on the re
          • by tftp (111690)
            You cannot make up for that past violation by coming into compliance, and you cannot restore your license to use the code under the GPL license by coming into compliance.

            I think the GP post is unusually bloodthirsty. If what he says (and I quoted) is true, then if an intern at IBM accidentally omits the COPYING file from a minor patch then IBM better be closing its illegal GPL enterprise, quickly! Or maybe it can weasel out of that for a million billion dollars per developer wronged. I think that is a ver

        • Re:you're wrong, too (Score:4, Informative)

          by Vintermann (400722) on Monday August 06, 2007 @02:03AM (#20127465) Homepage
          "When you violate the GPL, you immediately lose your license to the GPL'ed code and you are liable for your past and future license violations. You cannot make up for that past violation by coming into compliance, and you cannot restore your license to use the code under the GPL license by coming into compliance."

          Right. Which is why companies caught by projects like gplviolations usually give a "voluntary donation" to a free software project in addition to moving into compliance.
      • Re:Does this mean (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cheater512 (783349) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Sunday August 05, 2007 @09:20PM (#20126309) Homepage
        Well the source for ID's older games is released anyway.

        I personally would prefer if lawsuits and stuff didnt come out.
        ID has been one of the first to port their games to Linux.
  • Outdated Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by TychoCelchuuu (835690) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @05:13PM (#20124759) Journal
    Valve/iD already updated the games with the required files. Old, incorrect news.
    • Re:Outdated Article (Score:5, Informative)

      by RDW (41497) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @05:17PM (#20124801)
      Yes, here's the link:

      http://www.halflife2.net/forums/showthread.php?t=1 28297&page=5 [halflife2.net]

      Looks more like an oversight than a deliberate violation.
  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @05:22PM (#20124839)
    GPL violations aside, there is no need to notify the developers if you intend to use code under GPL.

    The only time you'd need to contact the developers is if you want to get an alternative license. Quite often people will release code under GPL and also be prepared to release it under alternative licenses, perhaps for a fee.

    • by LainTouko (926420)
      It is the courteous thing to do though. So if people are interested in whether or not a company behaves in a courteous manner, it's still worth mentioning.
      • How many people contact Linus and the other thousand or so Linux contibutors when they load up Linux?

        I release some kernel code under GPL. This is used in many Linux-based products (cell phones etc). I probably only get to hear from 5% or so of the people that actually use it.

      • Putting a notice of the GPL in the distribution isn't good enough! I think it'd be more appropriate if the box bore a great red label: "WARNING: LARK'S VOMIT!!!"
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Jare (790431)
      That's the point - if you don't see the license files, the next step before crying foul is to ask the developers if they arranged a different license. Since the developers say they hadn't been contacted, it's safe to assume they didn't arrange a different license.
    • by babbling (952366) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @05:56PM (#20125085)
      Yes, and so the fact that they hadn't contacted the developers in this case was relevant since otherwise they could've been using dosbox under another license that the developers OK'ed.
  • Just to be clear (Score:5, Informative)

    by also-rr (980579) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @05:23PM (#20124851) Homepage
    Before anyone jumps on the summary for being incorrect - there is no need to notify a developer when you use or distribute GPL software. However if you want to distribute in violation of the license then there are only two ways:

    1. Get the developer to waive the license (hasn't happened according to summary, which was worth mentioning as it means the only option is (2))
    2. Pile a huge stack of cash in a vault to pay off copyright violation damages


    The third option, which isn't usually available when you screw up with non-free software, is to apologise really fast and comply with the GPL*. Although there are no guarantees free software developers are usually nice folks who can overlook a mistake.

    It is one reason why all the 'viral' fud about the GPL is so annoying (not that it applies to this case, as there is no derivative product, but it usually rears it's ugly head in these threads). All the GPL does is give you an Option Three which isn't usually available - you would be in court for damages instead of sitting across a table from a bunch of altrustic techies seeking a negotiated solution.

    *Historically stopping distribution and rewriting the offending module usually is an option too, depending on how antagonistic you were before admitting your mistake.
    • The third option, which isn't usually available when you screw up with non-free software, is to apologise really fast and comply with the GPL*. Although there are no guarantees free software developers are usually nice folks who can overlook a mistake.

      So, just to be clear: you do need to notify the developer once you have failed to comply with the GPL and then want to fix your mistake; by default, you simply lose all rights to the GPL'ed software if you fail to comply with the license, and only the copyrigh
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      'Option 3' has nothing to do with the GPL and everything to do with the typical attitude of open source programmers. You'll find the same attitude in programmers under BSD, MPL, and probably just about any other Open Source (officially sanctioned or not) license.

      The 'viral FUD' about the GPL isn't FUD simply because there ARE nice programmers, but because there are those who AREN'T. GPL is viral whether you like it or not. The ability to work out another arrangement does -not- change this in the slightes
  • by Time Doctor (79352) <zjs@zacharyjackslater.com> on Sunday August 05, 2007 @05:23PM (#20124855) Homepage Journal
    It hasn't even been a working week even before the people who gave us great things like the GPL'd quake 1/2/3 source got jumped on for slighting you trolls.
  • Since Valve has a pretty intense lockdown on their games with Steam (a lockdown that I'm not entirely opposed to, since it is so good), they can lock access to any affected games until users update.

    Said update should include a copy of the GPL.
  • There is much better windows doom ports that can fully run that game and ID even has there own win32 port of doom. Also the low screen res of that game will look real bad on new big screen LCD or CRT. Even the old win32 doom port at a max of 640x480 will look better.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by FreonTrip (694097)
      It would be too time-consuming to evaluate the third-party Doom / Hexen ports to determine which would work best for the overwhelming number of system configurations on which Steam will run, and most users would want as authentic an experience as possible. Evaluating newer ports for security problems, flaws in feature implementation, or bugs that only appear on some hardware configuration would also be time-consuming and expensive for a QA department. It would be simplest to make DOSbox cooperate with Ste
  • by Ed Black (973540) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @06:32PM (#20125325)
    Small oversight by (on id's part) a hugely prolific developer of GPL'd software. Easily corrected and pushed out to clients straight away.

    Attacking John Carmack for this precipitately is basically irrational. It also stinks of divisive trolling.

    The man's licensed (a great deal of) his own software under the GPL, for goodness' sake.

    • by oohshiny (998054)
      Small oversight by (on id's part) a hugely prolific developer of GPL'd software. Easily corrected and pushed out to clients straight away.

      id is a nice company, but the license is the license. You can't "easily correct" GPL violations: once you screw up, the GPL doesn't apply to you anymore, no matter what you do. The only way to fix that is to get permission from each and every copyright holder. Pointing that out isn't "divisive trolling", it's simply the facts about the GPL.
      • by grumbel (592662)
        ### You can't "easily correct" GPL violations: once you screw up, the GPL doesn't apply to you anymore, no matter what you do.

        Where the heck did you get that from?
        • The GPL isn't signed off on -- if you don't use it, you've broken Copyright law by distributing the software. You have no right to DOS Box, nor does ID software unless they abide by the GPL. They don't forfeit any rights -- they had none to begin with, that's the whole point of the GPL.

          Now will anyone sue them for it? That's the key. In this case if ID Software says "oops" and corrects the mistake, I seriously doubt the Copyright holder will get very upset with them, but the GP is right in that you have
          • by cdrguru (88047)
            Evidently for most intents and purposes copyright is a meaningless concept today. Piracy is a non-issue until someone sues and even then it isn't very meaningful.

            Not that I wish it to be this way, but reality is after all reality.
            • by fm6 (162816)

              Piracy is a non-issue until someone sues and even then it isn't very meaningful.
              Huh? [google.com]
          • by ShinmaWa (449201) on Monday August 06, 2007 @02:05AM (#20127475)
            You are correct, but that's a whole different point than the GPs. The GP said that if you violate the GPL, your bridges are burned forever and ever, amen. You can't make it right, you can't fix it. One simple mistake and you are done forever.

            However, there's absolutely NOTHING the GPL that says that at all. The GPL is pretty straightforward, really: If you abide by our terms, you can distribute. If you don't abide, you have no right to distribute. Valve/ID are now abiding by the terms**, so they can distribute. Case closed.

            Because of their Steam technology, they were even able to retroactively distribute the copy of the GPL to everyone they had already distributed the software to. That makes them fully compliant with every distribution they've done. Case beaten like a dead horse.

            ** (This is assuming that Valve/ID will honor requests for the source code, of which I've not heard a yea or nay on.)
    • by Medgur (172679)
      Rather than derision id should be given thanks for further showing the usefulness of GPL'd software!

      Previously id has shown how to encourage the longevity of your brand by releasing the code under a permissive license, and now id is providing an example of how to effectively utilize other's GPL'd software.

      And, as noted by other posters, this is old news. The oversight has already been corrected.
  • by FliesLikeABrick (943848) <ryan@u13.net> on Sunday August 05, 2007 @06:46PM (#20125431)
    Steam now has a reason to be ported to Linux. A lot of the new id games added to Steam play natively on Linux, there are others that use DOSbox, which conveniently works on Linux as well. If Valve ports Steam to Linux... it'd open the door for Linux users to easily buy and play these games, and I'm sure enough people would such that it makes business sense for them to do it.
  • by DimGeo (694000) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @07:41PM (#20125773) Homepage
    DosBox is not configured well, it runs 320x200 games in a kind of widescreen. I've been able to use DosBox to run DOS 320x200 games (some of them in the package) with the correct aspect ratio. Anyway. The real problem is that the DOS games come without their setup.exe files and are configured not to use wave blaster/general midi. Whatever, just grab gzdoom or something and everything's well again :). Anyway, The package's great, it has Hexen II and Quake 1,2,3 including the mission packs (Win32 versions all of them). Also, the Master Levels. Good stuff.
    • by DimGeo (694000)
      Hate to reply my own comments, but I forgot something. Check out the weird way TNT and Plutonia are handled in the package. The original DOS exe picks up Plutonia as the main IWAD and since the publishers chose for some reason to put both IWAD-s in the same directory, TNT is launched with -file tnt.wad. Anybody who's done some development in the area will tell you that's not a great idea, passing an IWAD as -file to another IWAD. Anyway, it works, that used to be the way sprite-containing PWADs worked - deu
    • and why is not at least win95 doom with a max of 640X480 screen res.
  • Correct me if i'm wrong but doesn't the GPL stipulate that you only need to give away source code when you MODIFY the original, there by copying left? merely distributing the original unmodified achieves nothing.
    • by keeboo (724305)
      No, GPL requires that if you _distribute_ the binary (no matter whether modified or not) you must provide the source code.
      Now if you modify the code then you distribute the resulting software, what happens is that the changes you made are also under the GPL.
  • by karmatic (776420) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @10:49PM (#20126767)
    Just downloaded the pack. It's using a modified, binary-only dosbox. They have added the license and thanks.txt back, however, it still is infringing.

    I copied dosbox.exe to a seperate directory, and it complained about missing SDL dlls. Using stock SDL dlls, it says "Failed to find steam". As such, they are distributing a modified binary-only version of a GPL application. Given the distribution has already happened, they are legally obligated to distribute the source code to the steam "stub" present in their dosbox application. Failing that, they are guilty of some serious copyright infringment, and statutory damages can be huge.

    I suspect it wouldn't look good in court having a very large, well-known software company stealing code from little guys, and using it as the foundation for a significant commercial project. This also makes it look willfull, as opposed to accidental infringement. Furthermore, given iD's technology licensing platform, which includes significant GPL distribution, they would have a hard time claiming ignorance.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Magnus Reftel (143)

      Given the distribution has already happened, they are legally obligated to distribute the source code to the steam "stub" present in their dosbox application. Failing that, they are guilty of some serious copyright infringment, and statutory damages can be huge.

      *sighs*

      No, they are not obligated to distribute the source. They violated a copyright license. Now they can be sued by the copyright owners.

      The owners might be content with Valve releasing the source for their modified version, and they might not.

    • Well spotted! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cheesey (70139)
      I had wondered about this. This warrants further investigation.

      Steam applications all include some copy protection code that involves communicating with the main Steam.exe program: this is most visible in games that weren't designed for Steam, such as Defcon or one of the Popcap games. Like them, Dosbox must have been modified to include this copy protection code.

      This is right at the heart of this licence discussion and I am very glad someone has spotted it. Will Valve licence Dosbox under a non-free licenc

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