GPL licensing issues surround Android
Here’s an Open Source-related story from our new Android blog, Eyes on Android – Android could be badly bitten by GPL licensing
A story on SlashGear suggests submerged issues about Android’s licensing are becoming ever less subterranean… Google challenges Lodsys but Android faces legal firestorm over source sluggishness
Basically, it says that not all Android parties have been playing the Open Source game by the Open Source rules. The website makes the point that some Android OEMs may be keen to have ‘Open Source’ kudos without fully bothering about their side of the bargain…
SlashGear’s Chris Davies writes:
Google’s own legal budget is unlikely to be helped by news that just about every Android OEM has fallen foul of the GPL v.2 license, by failing to release the source code their devices rely upon. More than just the genial formality that many dismiss it as, FOSSPatents reports, in not coughing up the code those manufacturers have legally voided their position as distributors of the underlying Linux software Android is based upon.
“4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance” GPL v.2 license
To correct that, each manufacturer would need to renegotiate licensing with the original rights holders, an eye-watering task when you consider the number of contributors involved. In the meantime, each one is free to stage a legal complaint and seek the sort of injunction we’ve seen applied against Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Europe.
SlashGear goes on to say that the Tablet side of Android is another point of issue, with Google itself being tardy in releasing the source code for Honeycomb releases.
“Unfortunately, no matter how many patents Google acquires through its $12.5bn acquisition of Motorola, the collective actions of it and its manufacturing partners have opened up another potentially huge avenue of lawsuits,” concludes Davies.
Note, however, that others are much more sceptical over this Android-GPL issue. TechEye.net, for example poo-poohs the story. Nick Farrell writes:
Bradley Kuhn, who is the executive director of the SFC [Software Freedom Conservancy], said that while he was deeply dismayed that Google, Motorola and others haven’t seen fit to share a lot of the Android code in a meaningful way with the community, this failure to share software is an affront to what the software freedom movement seeks to accomplish.
However, as he sees it, there are no GPL nor LGPL violations present. If someone has evidence to the contrary, they should send it to those who do GPL enforcement.