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Sigma Designs Accused of Copyright Infringement 417

Posted by michael
from the vengeance-is-mine-saith-the-horde dept.
Cygnus v1 writes "The XVID team has ceased development of the XVID video codec for the time being because they say that Sigma Designs' REALmagic MPEG-4 Video Codec software includes their code and has claimed it as Sigma Designs' own work. The current XVID homepage includes some binary-level comparisons." Update: 08/23 03:14 GMT by T : Apparently the folks at Sigma have seen that no good is likely to come from this; an anonymous reader submits a link to this release on Yahoo! which says "complete source code will be available for download starting August 23, free of charge, through Sigma's website."
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Sigma Designs Accused of Copyright Infringement

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  • Why stop coding? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DigitalCH (582593)
    Why did they stop coding though? So what someone is stealing your stuff... Sue them.. ignore them... but don't stop...
    • Re:Why stop coding? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ethereal (13958)

      The only reason that I could think of would be if they thought Sigma was dependent enough on their code that stopping coding would leave Sigma high and dry. But that's a pretty roundabout way to get back at somebody. I'm going to guess that there are other legal machinations going on right now that they haven't mentioned that contributed to the decision to stop (publicly) coding at the moment.

      If these guys are real hackers, they have their own private copy that they're still working on. Whenever this is resolved, expect a huge jump in Xvid functionality :)


    • So what someone is stealing your stuff.

      Then why bother putting your code under any kind of license at all?

      The XVID guys used the GPL for a reason, and they should expect others to abide by it.
    • Re:Why stop coding? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Uh, so someone doesn't have a free lunch off your code? These folks released the code under the GPL, not BSD, license. If code was taken, it should be called on.

      Ignoring them won't help (not sure why you suggested that--if MS used GPL code, say, the kernal, instead of developing their own idea, you'd say ignore them?). You mention sue them--sorry, but copyright infringment usually falls into civil, not criminal (there are exceptions, e.g. DMCA, the other one Ashcroft is using that Clinton signed into law in '97) court. Civil court cases are darn expensive. And if you lose, you're liable for the other parties legal bill.

      btw, project development stopped; that's not necessarily all coding.

      It's probably the best solution for them.
      • by Sancho (17056)
        Ignoring them won't help (not sure why you suggested that--if MS used GPL code, say, the kernal, instead of developing their own idea, you'd say ignore them?).

        Actually, I would say yes. They have way too much money to try to sue them. It's a lost cause for just about anyone unless their lawyer is willing to work pro bono.

        You mention sue them--sorry, but copyright infringment usually falls into civil, not criminal (there are exceptions, e.g. DMCA, the other one Ashcroft is using that Clinton signed into law in '97) court. Civil court cases are darn expensive. And if you lose, you're liable for the other parties legal bill.

        Not in the US. In fact, nearly every statement you made doesn't apply to the US. Filing criminal charges falls into criminal. Filing a lawsuit almost always falls into civil. Also, in the US you are not, by default, liable for the other parties legal fees. This is one of the problems some people have with the system here. Civil court cases are indeed expensive, but if the loser was required to pay the winner's legal fees, you'd see a lot more lawyers willing to work on a loan, particularly when they're sure they can win given enough time.
    • Re:Why stop coding? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by fixxx (228080)
      Because it`s their only weapon, they do not have the resources to sue a big corp.
      The only way to pressure them is to (hopefully temporary) stop development of xvid. By ignoring & continueing development you would give them a free ride.
      "Hey now we can use GPL source from other projects too, they don`t sue anyway ! And those code monkeys keep improving it for free ;p "
    • Re:Why stop coding? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by klparrot (549422)
      I'm not sure why they stopped coding, but I can understand (possibly) why they stopped distributing the codec. If you look at the project website, you'll see that they advise you to contact Sigma Designs, who will be legally required to give you a copy. This puts more pressure on Sigma Designs, and if they refuse to give out copies of the codec, it provides the XVID team even more ammunition to use against Sigma Designs in a lawsuit.
    • by LinuxGeek (6139)
      Why stop releasing new code? Did you think about this question before asking?

      Sigma Boss: We got a letter from some Xvid guy that says we are using their code; are we?

      Sigma coder: Uhh, no. Hell no! I am the genius behind our priducts.

      Sigma Boss: Those damn freeloaders, well, make them happy and do what we can to shut them up.

      Sigma coder: Secretly recompile with loop unrooling and restructure project files.

      Xvid group then stops publishing codec updates. ...Time passes...

      Sigma Boss: Those Xvid guys stopped complaining, good work. Now about those product updates, when will the B-frame updates be finished?

      Sigma coder: Well, that is taking a lot more time than we originally scheduled, but should be ready Real Soon Now.

      Sigma coder: Busily prepares his resume.

      The real point is that Sigma will have to put-up or shut-up. Sigma Designs is a publicly traded company that will have to answer to shareholders and courts if they have been stealing code. This move will expose the truth about what really went on fairly quickly.

  • press release text (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:04PM (#4121537)
    XVID TEAM REQUESTS SIGMA DESIGNS' TO HALT COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

    ERLANGEN, GERMANY -- August 22nd, 2002 -- The XVID development team, author of the popular XVID MPEG-4 video codec, claims that Sigma Designs' REALmagic MPEG-4 Video Codec is an illegal copy of the XVID software and publicly requests the company to stop violating their software license and copyrights.

    XVID is a leading open source MPEG-4 video research project: software distributed by XVID is covered by a Free Software license, the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL). The XVID team announced that Sigma Designs' REALmagic MPEG-4 Video Codec includes wide portions of XVIDcodec software. By not offering a corresponding source code distribution and by claiming sole authorship on the product, Sigma Designs' Inc. is violating the GNU General Public License and the copyrights of the XVID authors.

    XVID learned about the license violation in early July, soon after the initial release of the REALmagic software (version 1.0). Sigma Designs' were immediately contacted, and replied confirming the violation and promising to replace all violating code.

    Version 1.1 of the REALmagic software was released on the 9th of August. After examining the new version, XVID developers concluded that the violating code was not replaced, but disguised by programming and compiling tricks. Sigma Designs' were again contacted and asked to remove the REALmagic download link from their website. Thus far, they have not shown any sign of cooperation.

    In a statement to the XVID development team, project founder Michael Militzer showed his disappointment regarding Sigma Designs' behaviour: "We have been quite reasonable and have given Sigma Designs' ample opportunity to resolve this issue. Apparently none of our demands have been taken seriously. Nearly two months after the initial release of the REALmagic MPEG-4 Video Codec, Sigma Designs' is still knowingly infringing the GNU General Public License."

    Militzer believes this infringement might be of high general interest: "This is an unfortunate event, not only for us but for the whole Free Software movement. Therefore we hope to receive wide support from the Free Software community in our efforts to convince Sigma Designs' to respect the terms of the GPL."

    Evidence supporting the claim has been published on the XVID website.

    http://www.xvid.org/v1_0_comparison.pdf
    http:// www.xvid.org/v1_1_comparison.pdf

    About XVID (http://www.xvid.org/)
    XVID is a leading open source MPEG-4 video research project, founded by the German student Michael Militzer in August 2001 to continue the efforts of DivXNetworks' former OpenDivX project. Today, the XVID project consists of users and developers from all over the world. XVID publishes all its software under the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL).

    About Sigma Designs Inc. (http://www.sigmadesigns.com/)
    Sigma Designs' headquarters are located in Milpitas, California. The company specializes in MPEG based video hardware for encoding and decoding. Recently Sigma Designs' introduced the Xcard, the first consumer hardware MPEG-4 decoder in the form of a personal computer add-on card.

    About GNU GPL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html)
    The GNU General Public License is the most frequently used software license for Free Software development and is supported by the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Software distributed under the GNU GPL grants everyone modification and redistribution rights, on the condition that derived or redistributed software carries the same license.

    Contacts

    For contacting the XVID team please use the e-mail addresses contact@xvid.org or contact@xvid.de

    Please address your request to one of the following persons:

    Daniel Smith (USA)
    Michael Militzer (Germany and international)
    Christoph Lampert (Germany and international)
    Edouard Gomez (France)
    • by Nailer (69468)

      MILPITAS, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 22, 2002--Sigma Designs, Inc. (Nasdaq:SIGM - News), a leader in IP video streaming solutions, today announced the release of the source code behind its free MPEG-4 video CODEC that works as a plug-in under Windows and encodes digitized video content into fully compatible ISO MPEG-4 video files. The complete source code will be available for download starting August 23, free of charge, through Sigma's website (www.sigmadesigns.com), to support developers wishing to enhance the MPEG-4 encoding.

      "We are pleased to provide the development community with an open source MPEG-4 CODEC, and anticipate that this will accelerate technical improvements and enhance the proliferation of MPEG-4 content," stated Ken Lowe, Sigma Designs' vice president of business development.

      About Sigma Designs, Inc.

      Sigma Designs specializes in silicon-based MPEG decoding for streaming video, progressive DVD playback, and advanced digital set-top boxes. The company's award-winning REALmagic Video Streaming Technology is used in both commercial and consumer applications providing highly integrated solutions for high-quality decoding of MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4. Headquartered in Milpitas, Calif., the company also has sales offices in China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. For more information, please visit the company's web site at www.sigmadesigns.com/.
      • What really sucks is that this press release implies that Sigma created the software, and is now giving it away.

        There is no notice that they are using previously GPLed code, or where it came from.

        So they're still misleading their shareholders and the public.

        Then again, if you look at the history if DivX;-), you'll see references to a hacked Microsoft codec, too, and that quite likely was not GPL =)
  • by StevenMaurer (115071) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:07PM (#4121565) Homepage
    ...all I can say is that I'm not one bit surprised. Many companies are morally flawed somehow, but not all of them revel in it quite so obviously.
    • Be a huge friend. Email the XVid folks and offer your testimony on the character of said company.
      • by StevenMaurer (115071) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:05PM (#4122116) Homepage
        It wouldn't work. This is a case of civil copyright infringement, not the penalty phase of a felony conviction.

        What the XVid folks really need is some sugar-daddy corporation (FSF, IBM, anyone?) to fund their legal costs going after SD.

        But before they do even that, I'd suggest the XVid people just tell Sigma Designs that if they don't conform to the GNU Public License, they'll start contacting their distributors to tell them about the situation - and that they're selling products in violation of someone's copyright.

        Believe me when I say that Sigma Designs will fold like a house of cards if they do that. At one time they had such a bad reputation with distributors, they had a terrible time just getting their products out on the shelves. Assuming little has changed (and this episode convinces me it hasn't) it wouldn't take much to have them get dropped completely. And that would hurt them where it hurts the most - in the pocketbook.
    • by JoeShmoe (90109) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:20PM (#4122251)
      I agree. My first experience with Sigma Designs was consulting for a company and finding out they were purchasing MPEG-1 decoder cards for $200 a pop to play training videos.

      This was in 1998. Well after software-based codecs were freely available (Microsoft shipped ActiveMovie with MPEG-1 playback support back when it released Internet Explorer 3.0 somewhere around 1995? 96?)

      I did a demo for the deparment head showing two systems side-by-side, one with Signa's REALMagic card and their codec, and the other with Windows Media Player installed. Ironically, the guy picked the software based solution as the "higher quality" solution and said it was worth the extra $200.

      Needless to say, when the labels were revealed, they immediately cancelled the pending order for 6000 REALMagic cards, a savings of $300,000.

      Sigma Designs seems like a bunch of snakeoil salesmen to me.

      - JoeShmoe

      .
  • Sue them (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RailGunner (554645) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:07PM (#4121569) Journal
    This is a good opportunity to show just how enforcable the GPL is. If Sigma is using GPL'd code, and not giving proper credit and opening the source, then civil action should be taken.

    This sucks.. I've had people claim my code as their own and it just deflates your morale. Looks like it deflated XVID to the point where they pulled a Cartman*.

    *"Screw you guys, I'm going home."

    • And Where is the money for this lawsuit going to be coming from?
      • Re:Sue them (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dark Paladin (116525) <jhummel@NosPam.johnhummel.net> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:36PM (#4121850) Homepage
        Us.

        There should be a donation system to finance a lawsuit for the GPL - perhaps with the EFF or the Free Software Foundation being the collector.

        We are the GPL. We are the ones who use it, live it breath it - and if we are truly a community that believes that the sharing of ideas is more powerful then the hording of them, then we must be the ones to pay for its support.
      • Depending on how big and solvent Sigma is and how straightforward the case then it should be possible to get a lawyer to work on it for a share of the award. The XVID folks are almost certainly going to be able to get damages (if they win).

        Lawyers are more than happy to work for a percentage on cases that have the potential for large damages.

        • I expect that the FSF will be able to arrange for Lawrence Lessig or some of his colleagues to work on this case for free. There _are_ lawyers out there who believe in Free Software.
        • Depending on how big and solvent Sigma is and how straightforward the case then it should be possible to get a lawyer to work on it for a share of the award. ...stuff deleted... Lawyers are more than happy to work for a percentage on cases that have the potential for large damages.


          They're a public company, so I'm guessing no matter how 'big' or 'solvent', they'll have sufficient insurance to make a lawyer at least interested, especially if it is fairly cut and dried. IANAL, but I would guess it'd get settled fairly quickly if filed. Again, being public, these days, there's a lot of scrutiny.. they'd either have to disclose quickly or the once yawning press might go heavy covering it. If so, their stock could drop faster than Martha can make an omelet.. or a judge might just permit an injunction against any distribution until the case goes to trial, again, if he thinks it's fairly cut and dried. Again, IANAL, but I'd like to see this one go forward. (Interestingly, it seems the only way to truly get them back to a closed product would be hire new folks and require it be developed in a clean room. Simply saying they'll take out the GPL code shouldn't suffice. That'd get REAL costly, possibly nudging them to open their source and follow GPL as it was intended.)

  • GPL Powerless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Skuto (171945)
    This is why I avoid using the GPL as much as possible for my own work: if someone infringes upon it, they can just ignore your complaints and take an 'so sue me' attitude.

    If you're a small developer and they're as resonably sized company, the prospect of shelling out bucks to stop them from copying something you don't make money off anyway is no good.

    Being closed source doesn't protect your work from being copied, but it's at least a lot harder to rip it off and stick your name on it.

    --
    GCP
    • Re:GPL Powerless (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gorilla (36491) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:10PM (#4121603)
      if someone infringes upon it, they can just ignore your complaints and take an 'so sue me' attitude.

      They can do this for any license, including one where you only release binaries (I've seen at least one instance where the only difference between two programs is that one had the startup messages patched to display a different message).

    • Re:GPL Powerless (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Bonker (243350) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:22PM (#4121726)
      Tell that to Avery Lee [virtualdub.org] who got his code stolen. The FSF was very helpful in forcing the individuals who stole it to comply with GNU terms.

      Being that Xvid is a larger project than Virtual Dub, I would be highly surprised to not see the FSF step in at some point.
    • Re:GPL Powerless (Score:5, Informative)

      by kuroth (11147) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:38PM (#4121861)
      The best legal advice I ever recieved was from my father. It was, simply "I don't need a lawyer. I'm right." It's a philosophy that's been working for him for decades as a small business owner. It's worked equally well for me, also as a small business owner, for six years.

      If someone plagarizes your work, sue them. The only information the judge is going to need is a copy of their source, and yours. Are they the same? Judgement for plaintiff.

      Finding a couple of pro-bono expert witnesses in this case should be a snap, if that's even necessary. Hell, ask Stallman, he's always looking for a pulpit.

      Over the years, I've had three or four clients who didn't want to pay for work I had performed. A couple of them even said "We're ready to be the 800 pound gorilla on this matter." (That's a direct quote from one, BTW).

      Ok, you be an 800 pound gorilla. I have all my notes, all the specifications, all the correspondence related to the project ready to go. I have notes on every phone call, every meeting, every conversation. It costs me $40 to file, and all I have is time. If you want to tie up your $150 an hour lawyers for six months fighting an angry badger about a $20K project, go right ahead.

      Funny, the check always shows up after that.

      Don't let people push you around because you're a small operation, or because they think having more money guarantees them victory through intimidation.

      K.

      • Or don't (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Fencepost (107992)
        Hell, ask Stallman, he's always looking for a pulpit.

        Or don't ask Stallman, because he's always looking for a pulpit. Find someone whose credentials are as good, but who's less likely to offend the judge by getting preachy.

      • Maybe if someone who had experience could write a quick howto on howto file a case against someone. I'm no laywer, and I have no idea what forms to fill out, where to file, whats required of me in terms of paperwork/evidence.

        If people knew what it took, 40 dollars and some time would be worth it. I think the "800 pound Gorilla" idea has people thinking it would cost too much time and money.
    • If the infringement is willful, which the XVID case almost certainly is, the infringer can be liable for up to $100,000 in statutory damages per infringement even if there are no actual damages. That actually happened to Keith Henson, who got stuck with $75K of statutory damages for posting a couple of pages of Scientology crap on a newsgroup. This XVID thing on the other hand is what statutory damages were intended and make sense for.

      So suing Sigma Designs is not necessarily a futile effort, though of course it will take some resources and I don't know if it will happen. As for me, when I use the GPL on something interesting, I generally assign it to the FSF, so the FSF can then take action if necessary against infringers.

  • I'm not surprised (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:08PM (#4121579) Homepage
    If this is true, it doesn't surprise me at all. It was only ever going to be a matter of time before a corp violated the GPL. I mean, there's a huge amount of free code out there - if you're looking at what would be for your project 6 months work right in front of you, ready to use, the temptation just to "accidentally" include it must be tremendous.

    It's easy to think, who would ever know? Comparing binary compiles is a good way of testing, but it's not 100% proof. It's damn close, but would a judge know that?

    Most interesting of all, will the FSF actually do what it always said it'd do, and protect this GPLd software? And will the GPL stand up in court? IANAL, but I don't see any reason why it shouldn't. This sort of thing needs to be dealt with swiftly however, lest other companies get the idea that it's OK.

    • Re:I'm not surprised (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rick the Red (307103) <Rick.The.Red@CUR ... minus physicist> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:21PM (#4121716) Journal
      Unfortunately, the FSF has no legal standing to bring suit because they are not the copyright holders. I hate to say it, but in this case the bully just chased XVID off the playground, and kept their ball. If the XVID guys won't stand up to the bullies, the bullies win.

      • Legal standing be damned. The FSF can provide lawyers, money, and witnesses that will ensure XVID can fight back. And that's the kind of thing the FSF are good at and have done before, the VirtualDub case being the most famous.

        So, yeah, the bully is in the playground, but the XVID has a big brother he can call on.

    • Re:I'm not surprised (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LMCBoy (185365)
      Has the FSF stated that it will defend any GPL'd code in court? IIRC, they said they would defend any software for which they hold the copyright, although they would probably provide legal assistance to others (and it is certainly in their interest to do so). Can anyone correct or confirm this?
    • Most interesting of all, will the FSF actually do what it always said it'd do, and protect this GPLd software?
      The FSF never said that. They said that they'll protect GPLed software on which they own the copyright. On any other code, they have no legal standing to do anything even if they wanted to. That's why the FSF asks for copyright assignment [gnu.org] from contributors.
    • Comparing binaries is a good start. It should be reason enough for a grand Jury to decide its worth a trial. At which time the lawyers should be able to demand source code to see the truth.

      Here's to hoping they smack these hoes with the DMCA.
  • Any Questions? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SloWave (52801) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:10PM (#4121604) Journal
    SIGMA DESIGNS TO HOLD SECOND QUARTER CONFERENCE CALL

    MILPITAS, CA, (August 12, 2002) - Sigma Designs (NASDAQ: SIGM), a leader in digital decoder solutions, announced today that the Company will be discussing second quarter results during a conference call on Tuesday, August 27, 2002, at 4:45 p.m. Eastern time. The dial-in number is (612) 332-0226. A question and answer period will take place at the end of the discussion. The earnings release will cross the wire at the close of market on the same day.

    The call will be webcast live from www.vcall.com. An audio replay of the call will be available shortly thereafter the same day and will remain on-line for 30 days. For further information, please see the link to this site on our website at www.sigmadesigns.com or email investor relations at IR@sdesigns.com.

    • Re:Any Questions? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Otterley (29945)
      No sense wasting your time; I can all but guarantee you the conversation will go something like this:

      Q: "Does Sigma Designs have any comment on the recent accusation from the XVID team that their MPEG-4 codec infringes on XVID's copyright?"

      A: "We're not aware of any court filings pertaining to the matter, so no, we have no comment."
    • I'd love for this confrence to get slashdotted, unfortunately I think most of the people would be of the attitude that was so prevalent when the last group of OS advocates walked in on a private meeting ;)

      Even so, I think it would be good for /. to post this info again a few hours before the meeting.
  • by SirSlud (67381) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:10PM (#4121610) Homepage
    It's pretty damning.

    Makes you wonder how often companies silently steal code .. any famous examples from the past that never received widespread attention? I'm asking about GPL'd source specifically. I'm aware there is tons of BSD licence'd code in commercial projects, but the licence, being Bill Gates' wet dream, allows for this, right?
    • but the licence, being Bill Gates' wet dream, allows for this, right?

      IF you include the original license along with your software. I was looking at some page (IIRC linked off the zlib website) showing products using zlib. Often (mostly on commercial Windows apps) there is an additional note: (copyright notice removed). They don't explain exactly what this means, but I suspect removing such a notice violates the license.

      ISTR back when W2K was released there were allegations that it used OpenBSD's TCP/IP stack without attribution. I can't remember how that ever turned out, though.
      • but the licence, being Bill Gates' wet dream, allows for this, right?

        Well, the BSD license says that the license/attribution notice must stay with the code and its derivatives, but since you don't necessarily have a right to look at BSD-derived code, and there's nothing about using preprocessor directives to eliminate the comments from the binary, there's no way to know.

        ISTR back when W2K was released there were
        allegations that it used OpenBSD's TCP/IP
        stack without attribution. I can't remember
        how that ever turned out, though.

        A friend and I were discussing this a while back - he recalls seeing some files working at MS that were BSD-licensed code, and IIRC the license notice wasn't actually stripped out, but it had been taken out of context and slapped down at the bottom of the file, in a not-likely-to-be-read place. He was of the opinion that it was a sleazy but legal move. No idea whether it was the OpenBSD TCP/IP stack.
      • ISTR back when W2K was released there were allegations that it used OpenBSD's TCP/IP stack without attribution.

        What happened is that microsoft used some ported bsd utilities, such as ftp and telnet, which spit out the copyright message on startup. Somehow somebody got confused and thought that this meant that the TCP stack was from BSD, when it's a complete custom job.

    • I've disassembled my own C code and even written a tiny bit of asm code, so I'm no stranger, to this topic but I don't feel qualified looking at the asm dumps to answer this crucial question:

      How likely is it for the two dumps to have that much similarity by chance, or by convergence?

      This is the 'base rates' problem. Taking an example from My Cousin Vinny, you can say "wow, that's amazing, those two car tires make exactly the same tracks" but it's meaningless if most cars have the same tires anyway. Could this be another such situation? If you compared two programs compiled on the same platform, you're bound to find identical code somewhere, and it becomes more likely the smaller the regions you look at. Comparing huge asm dumps is not likely to be compelling to a jury who knows nothing about asm, and comparing small asm dumps lacks statistical weight.

      To really support their case, these guys need to get research data on the statistical similarity or dissimilarity of two programs written to do similar things.
    • by Myria (562655) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:21PM (#4122265)
      In the early days of the original PlayStation, Sony and SN Systems took GCC and modified it to become a compiler for PlayStation. However, SN Systems made a number of additional modifications, such as by adding dongle-based copy protection to protect "their" work. This crap finally stopped a few years later when game developers complained and Richard Stallman got involved. This incident is rarely heard about because PSX game development was under NDA. However, an NDA that covers GCC is illegal, because it would restrict the rights of the next user to copy GCC (thus automatically revoking Sony's right to copy GCC). The PlayStation 2 compiler is now distributed with clear notice that the GCC and binutils portions are under GPL and not covered by the NDA. They also come with source code. They are in fact the same source tree for professional developers as the GCC used in PS2 Linux. myria
  • I think... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mhore (582354)
    that any fair court would (provided XVID had the funds for a legal battle....doubtful...) see that there is obviously something bad going on here. I think (as others have mentioned) that this would be a good time to really test the GPL in court. Is the FSF interested?

    Look at those comparisons between the two DLLs... the assembly is identical between the two. It'd be a damn coinkadink that two independent code bases would be compiled into an identical DLL.

    Mike.

    • Re:I think... (Score:3, Informative)

      It'd be a damn coinkadink that two independent code bases would be compiled into an identical DLL.

      I'd say it's certainly possible but what XVID has demostrated has me in awe. That's damn near impossible.

      As long as they can demostrate large and complex blocks of assembly which are identicle then you're right: there's almost no way that could happen with two independant code blocks.

      However, it is possible, just not to this extent. An exmaple would be if two blocks of code independantly implemented quick sort or Euler's algorithm. In that case I would expect those two peices of assembly (provided that they were compiled with the same compiler) to most likely be identicle beacause those are algorithms that are so popular and refined that almost every developer implements them in the same way.

      But in this case XVID has certainly demonstrated the large and complex blocks of identicle assembly to prove that they were ripped off. And not only that but that the pieces of identicle code occur at almost the same offsets in the dll!! That's a very good indication that Sigma has extended on, or simply modified, XVID's original code base.

      I sure hope they can somehow find the resources to sue Sigma's pants off. I will certainly make a donation if they go that route.

      --
      Garett
  • by Jeffv323 (317436)
    ... that XVID is DIVX backwards?
  • Tempting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by be-fan (61476) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:29PM (#4121777)
    I was tempted to do a sarcastic post about Sigma being a genuine American company bringing real dollars into the US economy, but decided that it had been done already :) Still, I'd like to vent about what I perceive as a giant hipocracy on the part of corporate America. They define "stealing" to include making backup copies, but feel perfectly free to actually infringe on other people's copyrights.
    • Re:Tempting (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Software (179033)
      Call me guilty of feeding the trolls, but to make generalizations like "giant hipocracy [sic] on the part of corporate America" is completely asinine. Individuals can be guilty of hypocrisy, as can groups with a defined mission, but "Corporate America" is neither of these. You might as well say that homo sapiens are hypocritical because some are opposed to murder and some are murderers. Grow up, learn the meaning of hypocrisy, or both.
      • And I'd remind you that, outside the technical definition of hypocracy, it is entirely legitimate to accuse a group of hypocracy. Groups have certain ideas, goals, and viewpoints. Belonging to a group associates an individual with those ideas, goals, and viewpoints. Unless the individual points out otherwise, it is often valid to attribute the afformentioned ideas, goals to him. Sometimes it can get you in trouble, such as attributing unsupportable claims on racial groups, but often it works. For example, if certain European companies where illegally dumping waste in rivers, at the same time when the EU was making a big deal about environmental protection, that would be hypocritical of the given European country. Note, that a country is neither an individual nor a group with a defined mission, but it is an entity with cleary defined bounderies, and can legitimately be accused of hypocracy.
    • Re:Tempting (Score:4, Funny)

      by MrHanky (141717) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:50PM (#4121973) Homepage Journal
      From WordNet (r) 1.7.1 (July 2002) [wn]:

      hipocracy
      n : rule by hippopotamus, a massive thick-skinned herbivorous animal living in or around rivers of tropical Africa.

      Sorry, couldn't resist. Yes, as you said, tempting. :-)
  • Unfortunately, since the string of dot-bombs I worked for are no more, I don't have any big chunks of change lying around, but I am willing to contribute $25 to a fund for the XVID team to sue the holy living crap out of Sigma. I suspect I'm not alone.

    Of course this presumes some sort of reputable arrangement so I know I'm not sending $25 to some wise-ass AC with a Paypal account, but if it comes to pass, let me know at eodell@sfront.net, and I'll pony up right away.

    Incidentally (and IANAL), while it is hard to sue for damages when you're not actually selling something, I'd be surprised if the XVID team weren't entitled to a substantial chunk of any profits Sigma has been making with their work.
    • I'd actually be surprised if they were entitled to a chunk of change beyond someone's $0.02. Think about it. The GPL is all about encouraging code sharing, not making a profit off someone's business plan that happens to involve reselling your code. Cases in point? Red Hat. IBM. Dell. All legit, all involved in the sale of GPL'd code. None forking huge handfuls of cash to Linus, Alan, or Joe programmer (with the obvious exception of Red Hat and Alan, but that's a job).

      I rather suspect this is a matter of principle and fairness. If Sigma was handing the modified code back to XVID I suspect they'd be happily merging it back into their tree and we wouldn't be having this discussion. We'll see how things pan out, but I for one hope that Sigma gets sued into compliance.
  • I see posts with a +5 insightful here that are just saying that they are evil and should be burned for violating the GPL. Ehmm... whatever happened to 'innocent until proven guilty' ? I thought we had courts for that. They say they have proof, and put in on their web. So it is true then because someone with software that has a GPL license says so ? c'mon people... I agree that it is news, but it is not a conviction.
    • And you, instead, should get "-1, RTFA"

      the proof is RIGHT ON THE FRONT PAGE [xvid.org]

      And while this isn't a court ruling, I think one would have a hard time finding a programmer worth his/her salt that would say that the evidence doesn't look incredibly incriminating.
    • Copyright infringement is a civil offense, thus "innocent until proven guilty" does not apply. Besides, the evidence the xvid people gives is quite enough for many people here to make a judgement.
    • From their press release:
      Sigma Designs' were immediately contacted, and replied confirming the violation and promising to replace all violating code.
      Dood, they admitted it. Qwitcherkarmawhoring.

      -- Bob

    • Ehmm... whatever happened to 'innocent until proven guilty'?
      This only applies if people tend to say things like "All rise" or "The Honorable <YOUR NAME HERE> presiding" whenenver you walk in a room. Otherwise, your average citizen* has every right to form an opinion of culpability based on the available evidence and respond accordingly (within the limits of the law). Lacking this, the whole concept of citizen activism would be pointless.

      All briefs may be filed via the clerk at The Court of Public Opinion.

      *May not apply in some countries. Please check the label on the back of your government for democracy content.

  • by Clipper (547339) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:36PM (#4121847) Homepage
    Here's some snippets from resumes recently submitted to Sigma Design's HR department [mailto]

    Qualifications:
    • Advanced knowledge of the C-c and C-v hotkeys in Windows
    Work Experience
  • Comment from the FSF (Score:5, Informative)

    by prizog (42097) <novalis-slashdot.novalis@org> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:37PM (#4121857) Homepage
    We at the FSF are saddened by this GPL violation. Because we do not hold copyright on Xvid, we can't act directly. We support the Xvid developers' effort to get full GPL compliance from Sigma. If you're interested in how we enforce the GPL when we hold copyright, please see our attorney Eben Moglen's essay, Enforcing the GPL [gnu.org].

  • This doesn't even seem to me to necessitate a test in court of the GPL. Unauthorized redistribution is a violation of copyright, regardless of the license (if any). If you want to force them to open their whole application's source, then I suppose it could be interpreted that way. Any lawyer worth his salt would probably go after the much more clear cut copyright infringement case, along with all the damages implied therein.
  • I gave the v1_1_comparison.pdf a cursory look (that awful smuddgy grey font in xpdf was killing my eyes) and there are certainly large amounts of code that look similar, and the code tree listings look similar. There are places where names have been changed and byte offsets are a tad difference, but that's no big deal. It looks like the Sigma code has removed a few lines here and there (for performance?) from the XVID code and added some very lengthy routines.

    My question is, why can't XVID enforce the GPL by taking the code they've decompiled, diff it, and keep what they want?
  • Dirty programmers (Score:3, Informative)

    by ToasterTester (95180) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @03:40PM (#4121884)
    I was involved in a product dispute like this and the way the lawyers explained it was the Clean Programmer vs. Dirty Programmer. If a programmer has seen the product in question and writes a similar program he is a Dirty Programmer. It can be in a different language if the programs are similar he copied the other program and violated copyright. Now if the programmer didn't ever see the program being copied and was working from descriptions being supplied he is a Clean programmer and no violation. Stupid, but there is no consistency in the laws.

    In our case a competitor heard we were working on a program with some features similar to theirs. So to try and create the Dirty Programmer situation our competitor sent copies of their program to our developers trying to get them to look at it. Lucky for us the developers went to management and they went to legal department. Legal collected all the copies of the program and had a hell of a chat with our competitor.
  • I don't have anything against the GPL license, it surely has it's own (maybe even big) place in the software universe.

    However, I don't think that even the majority of the software companies, used to deal with closed source, know what GPL means.

    BSD license is VERY clear and simple. LGPL is somewhat clear. GPL then...well... I have not yet seen a good and BRIEF explanation on for example : what in practise - makes the GPL spread to new code - when does your software become automagically governed by GPL? Where's the magic line. I think I can somewhat imagine myself where the magic line is but I am not able to express this in one simple sentence which would not leave any exceptions. Can you? If yes, please post it here. It would make it much easier for many.

    I can very much understand even the feelings of those who think "GPL is a virus" before someone can express it's meaning without sounding like a hippie, if you know what I mean :)

    • what in practise - makes the GPL spread to new code - when does your software become automagically governed by GPL?

      IANAL, but I believe the answer is: when your software is considered a derived work of GPL'ed code [gnu.org], according to the copyright law of the land.

      There is, as far as I can tell, no "bright line" between when this does and does not happen, nor can one be made to exist, short of "everything infringes" or, more practically, "nothing infringes".

      I've written about this principle in length on USENET's gnu.misc.discuss group [google.com] in the past, if you want to search for my posts from years ago.

      But the main thing to remember is: just because we're dealing with technology here doesn't mean we can expect to, or expect the law to, draw us a nice, technologically clean "line" between infringing copyright and not infringing it.

      So, the question being "does my program derived from GPL'ed code?", two things, at least, must be answered:

      1. What actually constitutes your program, which, in copyright terms, is the "work"?

      2. Does that work contain a substantial portion of someone else's GPL'ed code?

      As you should be able to infer from the above, these questions cannot be trivially answered by resorting to redefining "work" as "single linked executable", since a court might reasonable rule that the work actually consists of two or more executables (or binaries generally) cooperating so closely as to consistute a single work, making that collective work a derivation of GPL'ed software if any one of its components is.

      Anyway, since the GPL "protects" code no further than copyright law defines "derived work", it cannot definitely answer the question.

      Instead, all it can do is limit the degree to which copyright law's view of a "derived work" might extend beyond what the GPL intended to protect.

      Hence things like the "mere aggregation" clause.

  • Bit packing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by oneiric (603250)

    Looking at the copied code in the pdf files cited, a lot of it relates to bit packing, unpacking, and color transformations. Whilst this code may be copied, there are just so many ways to do these operations. Several of the examples include MMX instructions, but pipeline scheduling usually means there's a right way (speed-up) and a wrong way (slow down). If we were kind to Sigma Designs and assumed they wrote the routines independently then it wouldn't be surprising some of them were the same, ie only so many ways to do this stuff.

  • Is there... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by garf (12900)
    ...a lawyer in the house...
  • http://forums.divx.com/viewtopic.php?topic=40040&f orum=5 We've had our own problems with Sigma, but I'm suprised it came to this. Xvid is a great project and we will try to help them get back on track. Lets see what can be done.
  • I wonder if any of the DNA/protein search algorithms (BLAST comes to mind) could be used to compare disassemblies.

    Perhaps it would be worth collecting an archive of disassembled open source programs and then using it to compare against commercial products.

    We'd need a wide spectrum of open source code compiled in different versions of GCC and other compilers, then disassembled and archived in a DB. We'd also need a modified search algorithm, and from what little I know about bioinformatics, BLAST does for nucleotides what we need for opcodes.

    Anybody think this is feasable? Worthwhile? Intresting enough to work on?

    -Ryan
  • It's not a slam dunk (Score:4, Interesting)

    by btempleton (149110) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:24PM (#4122294) Homepage
    Did the authors register their copyright? They need to do that to get statutory damages. If they did, the statutory damages could be extremely high, and so you would have a case for Sigma to fear.

    If not, they should register it right away, while Sigma is still distributing the alleged infringement.

    If not registered, you can only get actual damages. And it's easy to see a court saying that actual damages -- which are financial, not personal -- are zero in a case like this. How much money did the team lose? You might do better arguing how much Sigma made from the infringing code but they would of course make the argument that the money came from their proprietary additions, not the GPLd code which of course anybody can get for free.

    To compel them to comply with GPL, you will have to get the court to agree with the implied licence. That's harder, though if they really have documents from Sigma admitting that they were aware of the GPL terms you might have a shot.

    Otherwise, I don't think anybody has had a court rule that you would be bound by the GPL contract if you used GPLd code. They would rule you violated copyright, but will they rule more?

    Think about it. If I put a licence in my code saying "Use this code without my permission and you must give me your whole corporation" no court would consider that enforceable.

    Will they consider it enforceable if the licence says "use this code without my permission and you must give away all the source code to everything you bundled with it"? Also in doubt.

    Could be. Could not be.
    • "Will they consider it enforceable if the licence says "use this code without my permission and you must give away all the source code to everything you bundled with it"? Also in doubt."

      That's not what they are saying. All they are laying claim to is the DLL file which contains the stolen GPLed code.

      If you take my code, compile it, and sell it, that doesn't make it yours.
  • From the post:
    The current XVID homepage includes some binary-level comparisons.
    From the homepage:
    XVID: 10010101101000100101000101111010010001001010001010 010101001010

    Sigma: 10010101101000100101000101111010010001001010001010 010101001010
    If you ask me, that's pretty damning evidence of binary-level code stealing!
  • unanswered question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tom (822) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:53PM (#4122564) Homepage Journal
    why have they ceased development? that's the part of the article I don't get. I guess they're pissed, but why stop working on the thing, is there a specific reason I missed?
    • by fishbowl (7759) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @05:20PM (#4122815)


      "why have they ceased development?"

      If you were painting someone's house, and you
      found out for certain that they had no intention
      of ever paying you, would you keep painting the
      house? Or would you take your ladder, your paint,
      and your brush, and go elsewhere?

      What if you were painting the house, and you found
      out that not only were you not going to get paid,
      but that the person was going to then take your ladder,
      your paint, your brush, your truck, and call the police
      to have you arrested for trespassing?

      Would you stay and finish the job?

      How would you feel about this story if the Sigma folks
      had finished their product, and then turned around
      and accused XVID of stealing THEIR work? Who's to
      say they STILL won't try that?

  • by Eric Damron (553630) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @09:18PM (#4124039)
    Well this is not the first or the last time a company seeking a quick buck through the theft of IP will occur.

    The XVID people suggested that we email Sigma Designs requesting the source code. This is a good idea as it will hammer down the point that they are in violation of the GNU license agreement. It doesn't take long. I drafted the email below in under ten minutes:

    To whom it may concern.

    After comparing the disassembled code of Sigma Designs REALmagic MPEG-4 Video Codec V1.0:rmp4.dll and XVID MPEG-4 Video Codec 01-May-2002:xvid.dll, there can be no doubt that the two libraries came from the same code base.

    As you know, XVID was released under the GNU license and such being the case, your software developed, released and based on intellectual property covered by the GNU license must also be released under the same license.

    The license under which XVID was released expressly requires that the source code based on XVID which is developed and released in binary form by any party other than the original copyright holder be made available.

    Whereas you are selling a product which is indisputably derived from the XVID code base, I hereby request that you provide a means whereby I may obtain the modified source code.

    Ignoring this email or refusing to comply will constitute a violation of the GNU licensing agreement that you willingly entered into when you modified the XVID code.

    Please be advised that violating this licensing agreement will almost assuredly result in costly litigation and judgment against you.

    Thank you.

    Eric L. Damron

The University of California Statistics Department; where mean is normal, and deviation standard.

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