[svlug] HP's Quickplay - Where's the Source?

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Dec 31 16:08:26 PST 2004


Quoting Serban Giuroiu (gyzmobro at yahoo.com):

> Doesn't that mean, at least for the kernel and other open-source
> utilities used to run Quickplay, source code should be available?

No violation of the kernel developers' (or other GPLed codebases') 
copyrights could have occurred unless HP _linked_ its proprietary 
code with those GPLed codebases, and distributed the resulting
derivative work.  (Merely being on the same media with GPLed code in
no way creates a derivative work, as that term is used in copyright law,
and constitutes what GPLv2, itself, in clause 3, calls "mere
aggregation".)  If you have reason to believe that they _did_ create and
distribute such a derivative work, it would be a very good idea (and
rather neighbourly) for you to let them know that they have a legal
problem.  

That is, they would then be committing the tort of copyright violation.
You'd be doing them a favour letting them know so they could fix that
situation.  However, the notion that being in that (uncomfortable)
situation somehow obliges the infringer to "make source code available"
is a common misconception:  All the injured parties can get, if they
sue, is court-ordered cessation of the infringing activity, and (in some
cases) monetary damages.

Note that _you_ as a software user would not have standing to bring suit
(unless you happen to have written the GPLed code in question), because
it's not your copyright being violated.

> It is conceivable that HP might have modified parts of the kernel
> anyway.

If you have reason to believe that they have distributed a work
derivative of the Linux kernel, then you certainly can and should ask
them for source code to that work (Quickplay, or whatever it is):
Because they undertook GPLv2 obligations when they decided to include
kernel code (_if_ they did in fact create such a work), their refusal to
furnish matching source code would (again) constitute copyright
violation against the kernel coders, who would then be entitled to sue,
etc.

I am speculating that you actually don't have reason to believe that,
since you've thus far mentioned nothing other than "Well, it runs on
Linux" (paraphrasing) -- but I could be wrong.   I hope this explanation
of licence/copyright mechanics helps you, in any event.

-- 
Cheers,                                      Hardware:  The part you kick.
Rick Moen                                    Software:  The part you boot.
rick at linuxmafia.com




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