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GNU is Not Unix

Sigma Designs/XVid Update 98

Posted by michael
from the twelve-step-program dept.
Reagen Ward and many other people have written in with updates to the Sigma Designs/XVid situation, reported a few days ago. Sigma has replied in email and a press release that they intend to make the source code available, however, they seem to be paying lip service at best to the terms of the GNU Public License. Grant Gross from Newsforge has been pursuing the story and in a story yesterday and another today lays out the current situation.
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Sigma Designs/XVid Update

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  • While it's reprehensible that a programmer there (at SD) apparently copy/pasted some GPL code in, Sigma made the codec a free product, and of course the existence of the Sigma codec in no way diminishes the availability or quality of the xvid codec (which, I admit, is the same redundant argument used to shoot down the bizarre logic of GPL crusaders when they admonish the BSD license). I just don't get how they're the evil villains in this case: All they're trying to do is proliferate the MPEG-4 standard.


    On a sidenote: Anyone have any experience with the XCard? I'm thinking of building my own media convergence device, and this will be central for DVD playback. Any opinions?

    • Sigma Designs did not publish their source in accordance with the GPL, that's what they did wrong. /Janne
    • Source code (Score:2, Informative)

      by ergo98 (9391)
      They do appear to have made the source code available [sigmadesigns.com] anyways. Much ado about nothing. That'll teach them to allow their employees to have any interactions with GPL code in the future, as now their own code has been infected. :-) Okay, that was just a troll, but there is a kernel of truth in it.
      • Re:Source code (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jonathan_ingram (30440) on Saturday August 24, 2002 @03:18PM (#4134001) Homepage
        Yes, they have made the source code available. However, they nowhere state that it is a derivative work of XviD (although they state that it was 'inspired' by XviD) - they are claiming complete copyright over it.

        Why should you care?

        It's not a licencing issue - it's a copyright issue. If a have some GPL code, and I own the copyright, then I have the right to relicence the code any way I wish (including giving a company the right to use it in a closed source application - probably for a fee). If I have GPL code which I do *not* own the copyright for, then I have *no* rights to relicence.

        This is a similar situation to that facing Mozilla a few months ago - they wanted to relicence the code, but couldn't unless they could contact *every single copyright owner* to get consent (and in Mozilla's case this meant every contributor of a significant patch).

        Sigma Designs have taken someone elses code, and claimed copyright over it. This copyright claim (if it were correct) gives them the right to use the stolen code in closed source applications -- and it *is* being used in closed source and hardware applications.

        So it doesn't matter that Sigma have opened the source to the stolen code. That's the smaller evil.


      • They do appear to have made the source code available anyways. Much ado about nothing.


        I disagree. The only reason source code is now available is because they got caught. Releasing code now does not negate the fact that they attempted to steal code. I do, however, agree that it is a proper step towards remediation.


        That'll teach them to allow their employees to have any interactions with GPL code in the future, as now their own code has been infected. :-) Okay, that was just a troll, but there is a kernel of truth in it.


        Sure. But the "kernel of truth" is not limited to the GPL. Any code that is covered by any license could lead to a violation. It doesn't matter if its GPL, BSD, or proprietary.

        Lets not forget that this wasn't a case of a coder unconcously using a routine that he had seen in some GPL project he was working on elsewhere. This was a blatent attempt to steal code and hide the fact.

        In the end, it doesn't matter if the coder in question had stolen this code from a commercial library, code smuggled out of a competitor's project, or from a codebase covered by one of the numerous Open Source licenses (assuming the license doesn't allow for use of the code in this manner - and even the most liberal licenses still have SOME restriction, or it would simply be public domain).

        In short... don't be silly. :P
    • XCard Opinion (Score:2, Interesting)

      by T-Kir (597145)

      I got an XCard a few weeks ago courtesy of CDW (NewEgg didn't/don't sell them).

      I stuck it in a crappy Compaq K6-2/500, and it works OK. The system is attached to the TV, and will play Media mapped of our house file server.

      Opinion, the Media player software itself is complete shite... and you really ought to look at the kind of formats it cannot play. Plus I had some self encoded TV episodes using DivX 5, and they had a VBR MP3 audio stream, the XCard plays the audio, and the video is completely out of sync (speeding up, slowing down - as though it is using the VBR timings)... and the player crashes after 5 mins.

      I am now in the process of getting a fast computer that can sit behind the TV, with a standard (well I'll use one recommended with TVTool - an excellent program for video out) TV out video card, and a wireless keyboard/trackball combo (Globalink) that I got for the current setup.

      It would be preferable if the XCard can just output everything to the TV (i.e. windows display itself), because I have to have a monitor to control everything. So no the XCard doesn't fit my needs at all. And with all this legal shit, I wouldn't bother with it at all (due to the lack of formats it can't play), unless it addresses some of these fundamental concerns.

      • Re:XCard Opinion (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Sancho (17056) on Saturday August 24, 2002 @05:46PM (#4134450) Homepage
        Plus I had some self encoded TV episodes using DivX 5, and they had a VBR MP3 audio stream, the XCard plays the audio, and the video is completely out of sync (speeding up, slowing down - as though it is using the VBR timings)... and the player crashes after 5 mins.

        While all your other points on the card may or may not be valid (I'm not going to dispute them, in other words), I will take a moment to dispute this one. VBR MP3 audio streams in a DivX file is a complete and utter hack. Anyone who knows about the internals of AVI files will recognize this instantly. That it was made to work and play back correctly in Windows is actually due to a bug in the decoder itself, and should Microsoft ever fix this bug, all VBR MP3 audio interleaved in AVI files will suddenly either lose sync or perform exactly as the XCard.

        References:
        Can't find it on the new (redesigned) website, but here's the google cache.

        http://216.239.53.100/search?q=cache:bqcAKNs_G2cC: www.virtualdub.org/virtualdub_news_old.html+avery+ lee+nandub+hack&hl=en&ie=UTF-8 [216.239.53.100]
    • The issue is not just GPL violation but also copyright infringement. Check the code comparision PDF at XVid, then look through the source code on both sites. Sigma's entire MPEG-4 core, both encoder and decoder, is pretty much straight from XVid and then obfuscated by loop unrolling and variable renaming. There are no XVid copyright notices and only a few haphazard comments like "INSPIRED BY XVID VIDEO CODEC" scattered through the source.

      Now that they've published the source under GPL, they are (mostly) complying with the license requirements. But they are still promoting this as their own code, claiming that they developed it, when in reality it is only a few diffs away from the XVid sources. So don't apologize for just them.


    • While it's reprehensible that a programmer there (at SD) apparently copy/pasted some GPL code in...


      There will probably always be some debate over whether this is the simple truth or simply a coverup. But the point is moot. In any case, they are responsible for the actions of their employees. It doesn't matter who said what when... in the end, they violated a license - the GPL.


      I just don't get how they're the evil villains in this case: All they're trying to do is proliferate the MPEG-4 standard.


      If I was selling a piece of hardware or an application and, to facilitate the use of my product, offered a free copy of Windows XX what would happen? After all... giving away Windows isn't diminishing the availablity of Windows, or its quality. And considering Windows is already given away with the purchase of other products, I'm not really affecting the value of Windows either. And I'm helping proliferate Windows as a standard!

      We all know, as do a lot of small whitebox shops, Microsoft would nail me when they found out.

      Why? Because I am violating Microsoft's license. I am infringing on their copyright. Sigma Designs attempted to infringe on both the GPL license and the various project developer's copyright. And they got caught.

      The added twist to this is a GPL project is a community resource. Sigma Designs could have joined that community and in all likelyhood been welcomed. Instead they chose to steal. Not only from the xvid project... but the entire GPL community who's work repays all other community member's efforts on their own projects.

      Sigma Designs completely deserves any ire they receive from this situation.
      • If I was selling a piece of hardware or an application and, to facilitate the use of my product, offered a free copy of Windows XX what would happen? After all... giving away Windows isn't diminishing the availablity of Windows, or its quality. And considering Windows is already given away with the purchase of other products, I'm not really affecting the value of Windows either. And I'm helping proliferate Windows as a standard!

        But they are not comparable situations. On the one hand you have the GPL community that surrounds itself in a aura of moral superiority (one need only read the laboured, several thousand words justifying-the-cause GPL), while Microsoft is very straightforward: We make software, you pay for it. It's very honest and forthright, whereas people like Stallman are busy talking about whether things are free as in beer, etc.

        The GPL is a very selfish license. Note that I'm not saying that selfishness is bad (the whole idea of capitalism, a system I support, is based on selfishness), but it is something that, as a general premise, is not admitted to by most GPL advocates.


        • But they are not comparable situations. On the one hand you have the GPL community that surrounds itself in a aura of moral superiority (one need only read the laboured, several thousand words justifying-the-cause GPL), while Microsoft is very straightforward: We make software, you pay for it. It's very honest and forthright, whereas people like Stallman are busy talking about whether things are free as in beer, etc.


          So if I understand your argument... its OK to voilate the GPL license because you disagree with it? But because you admire, or otherwise agree with Microsoft's license, then everbody should be legally required to follow that one.


          The GPL is a very selfish license.


          Whether it is "selfish" or not is not the point. It is a license to be followed. If you wish to use GPL code, comply with the license. If you don't, move on.
  • by renehollan (138013) <rhollan@noSpaM.clearwire.net> on Saturday August 24, 2002 @02:42PM (#4133917) Homepage Journal
    I have a Sigma Designs Netstream 2000 card, complete with Linux kernel source drivers. But, the user-space library, while having a reasonably documented API, is available binary only, presumably because of CSS and Macrovision issues.

    The kernel drivers appear to be little more than marshelling/unmarshelling stubs to let the user space library communicate with the card. While register-level documentation is available, it isn't developer friendly, as there is no designers' guide that would help a non-hard-core video hardware embedded developer to write their own code: maybe it's just me, but I find the lack of context establishment in the register-only documentation limiting.

    People have found Sigma's proprieteray user-space code somewhat buggy, and the present situation makes it difficult for the community to write its own. While I can sympathize with Sigma Designs' predicament following the apparent mistake of a rogue programmer, one way they can "make it up" to the community would be to go beyond the minimal legal GPL requirements and release more source and documentation for their other fine products.

    • Wow - I feel your pain so much it isn't funny. We are currently working with the Sigma code for the 8471 mpeg decoder chip, and we have the exact same problems. It would help greatly if more attention was paid to the Sigma linux drivers.

      I understand if they arn't willing to relase Mcrovision or CSS code (which are both expensive and NDA burdened), but I would like to see some better programmer support. I think this would be in their best interest, since the market is getting ready for a glut of MPEG capable devices, and more often than not, those devices have a *NIX kernel.

    • My brother and I wrote a linux kernel driver for the em8400 chip, i.e. Netstream card, for convergence (see this link [convergence.de] and this one [linuxtv.org]). The driver implements the linux DVB API (described at linuxtv.org), but we can't publish anything because of NDA agreements with Sigma Designs. The card is very nice and has a very good MPEG decoder. I don't see why they don't want it published as open source.
      • ...but we can't publish anything because of NDA agreements with Sigma Designs

        That's really sad. Perhaps Sigma could be encouraged to be more open as a way of making up for thier GPL faux-pas. I very much want to leverage a GCT Allwell iDVD3036 as a thin client set-top box, as it uses a low-power processor, with an em8400 MPEG decoder, and a CyberPro graphics chip (with two CCIR601 ports -- one for the em8400 -- digital overlay, yay!), but the em8400 and CyberPro are poorly supported -- the latter with proprietary XV extention drivers for XFree, but buggy, not doing alpha-blending and overlay properly. As this is a personal pet project, I certainly can't afford the US$15k (I'm told) CyberPro SDK.

        Some here have noted that the "rogue programmer" excuse is lame on their part, but I can certainly attest to the very real risk of that happening. I once was involved in a project that deployed proprietary code on a GNU/Linux base, and made extensive use of GPL'd and open code (though our proprietary code was not extentions of any of that). With my encouragement, management hosted RMS to come and explain the "dos and don'ts" of mixing free and non-free code. Even so, programmers come and go, and cluefullness fades with time. Furthermore, while our build process was tuned to getting all the necessary binaries made, keeping track of sources to distribute (remember, there were hundreds of packages, mostly free, yet the non-free ones had to stay "very secret"), was very much an afterthought to the process and kludged in. I was forever afraid that someone would forget to tag what was free and what wasn't, or worse, get it wrong.

        Sadly, while I tried my best to make sure that sources got distributed to our customers, the nature of the product was such that we'd have a few big ones, and not lots of little ones. (Think seven-figure contracts.) Furthermore, each customer would have little incentive to freely distribute the free code they received -- if they had to pay us millions for the app, they'd be damned if someone else get bits for free. So, while we complied with the GPL, our extentions to much of the GPL code (particuarly the Red Hat Anaconda installer), remain unavailable to the public at large.

        The biggest problem, and one which Sigma does not face is that, while we'd put source on distribution CDs, our customers would get fully installed hardware, complete with maintenance contracts, and didn't care about installation CDs. If you make an installation and source CD, and install binaries on some hardware and just ship the hardware and not the CD, have you complied with the GPL? No, but making it clear that we either have to provide the CDs, or a transferrable written offer was a hard sell to management: "The customer does not WANT them". Convincing management that the requirement was one placed on us by the authors of the GPL code and not the customer took some doing, but I was persistent.

        I'm in a similar situation today (for another employer), where installation CDs will likely not get to customers, but I've taken care to ensure that installation installs sources as well as binaries (we can afford the disk space, fortunately... so far).

  • What a crock (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sydlexic (563791) on Saturday August 24, 2002 @02:42PM (#4133919)
    I'm so tired of hearing the 'evil loner' excuse from companies. Make someone responsible. Fire their asses or have someone resign. Show the world this crap won't be tolerated. Instead what we get is this lame excuse that we're not to blame because of some rogue employee. When employees fail, it's management's responsibility.
    • Making a person "guilty" would probably be more of a "crock" though. I would bet that Sigma was fully aware that they were using GPL code, including management, and that they thought they would simply not be caught because the code was not open source.
      I doubt that it was just one individual that happens to have based their encoder on an open source project. "Hey Bob, how's that encoder that ONLY YOU are working on?"
      "Oh, I uh... Got it finished last night. Yep, I started coding a transcoder for MPEG4, one of the most complex video compression formats ever created, just a few days ago and now have it finished."
      "Oh, okay cool. How about Lunch?"

      No.
      • Right !! After 30+ years in software ( and big system business ) - I have to see the first time a programmer is the source of the problems - it always has been the management ! Yes - the programmer can refuse to do whatever AND he/she will be fired in threee seconds - been there.. Hail the corporate world.. Sorry - this is the way the world works. Not in god mood - middle of fixing something the ( previous ) management didn't get right - do they ever ???

        have a nice day - tuomo
  • omg clueless. (Score:1, Redundant)

    by 7-Vodka (195504)
    Read their statements in the article linked by the story. It's hillarious. They start by advertising their product, then continue by saying how they love opensource and the linux operating system. ERM i thought the GPL was FREE SOFTWARE not opensource and... what does this video codec have to do with linux? As a matter of fact what kind of a freakin apology is this?!

    Oh the code theft was carried out by a lone programmer without our managers knowing about it. ROFL, so this guy cuts and pastes a years worth of work, then goes on a year's vacation and your managers are STILL clueless? Yes, please, I'll buy all your products now that I know how competent you are (/sarchasm).

    • ROFL, so this guy cuts and pastes a years worth of work, then goes on a year's vacation and your managers are STILL clueless?
      In all honesty, what does management really know about the time it takes to code anything? I wouldn't be surprised if they really didn't have a clue.

      Would that this lone programmer had taken the users into account! Everyone who's ever owned a Sigma product knows it takes them years to get stable software out. Whoops. :)

      • The manager of a programmmer BETTER know EXACTLY what is going on or he / she should find a new line of work - like burger flipper.

        Sigma is big enough that the managers of programmers will also have some technical skills. They are big enough to have things like code-reviews. They are big enough and the product complex enough that there is NO WAY they only had one programmer on this project.

        Sigma is full of crap. They need to make ammends. Heads need to roll, and it seems that senior managment is part of the problem.
  • by Robotech_Master (14247) on Saturday August 24, 2002 @03:17PM (#4133997) Homepage Journal
    Note that Sigma Designs runs an NNTP server discussion board for its users and developers at news.sigmadesigns.com [sigmadesigns.com]. To see what they think, go over there and read the "realmagic" or "realmagic.questions" groups.
  • I'm not sure I know all the details of the situation, but from what I read, SigmaDesigs did release the code. Of course, they did it badly and they are still breaking the law by having overwritten the copyright notices and not giving credit to the authors.

    Apart from that, they did release the source code, and though it was "in wide parts identical or near identical to XVID source code," there are obviously some differences.

    Well, if any of you XVID guys have a bit of time, instead of sitting on your hands in protest, maybe you could try out this new code and see if the jerks actually improved anything.

    And it would take no skill at all to just take the SigmaDesigs code, overwrite their stupid copyright notices with the appropriate ones, and release the result as GPL. This is totally legal and someone can even do it this weekend (not necessarily the XVID developers, who have better things to do). I can't see how such a move could be legally contested. Or put it this way, if what I described is illegal, then the GPL means nothing--and I sure hope it's not come to that.

  • by realgone (147744) on Saturday August 24, 2002 @03:42PM (#4134052)
    Oh, this is just too much fun. I absolutely have to parse this one:

    "Thank you for contacting Sigma Designs and requesting information that relates to our MPEG-4 CODEC and the availability of its source code. We would like to take this opportunity to address the relevant issues that have been raised."

    You might be wondering why I'm standing next to your car -- yeah, the one with the smashed window right here -- with a slim-jim in one hand and your stereo in the other. I swear it's not what it looks like.

    "...Fulfilling this goal was carried out in two steps. The first was the introduction of an MPEG-4 CODEC, provided free of charge, so that worldwide users could begin encoding new content."

    Here's the deal -- I thought it was my car. I've got one just like this.

    "The second was the release of source code, so that the development community could continue with technical improvements."

    Okay, so maybe I knew it was your car, but I was... um... just borrowing it. I'm all done, see? Here, you can have it back now. No harm, no foul.

    "Sigma never intended in making, nor realized, any profits from this code base."

    Tell you the truth, I wasn't even planning on keeping your crummy car. We were just gonna use it as the getaway vehicle in this bank job we're doing next week, see?

    "Several weeks after the CODEC was first released, Sigma was contacted by the XVID development team regarding the use of certain portions of their code. Upon examination, it was determined that one of our programmers, unbeknownst to management and contrary to Sigma's policy, had utilized some routines posted by XVID as open source."

    Wait, wait, ignore everything I just said. It was really some other guy that was trying to steal your car -- this shady looking punk in a leather jacket. You're lucky I got here when I did. I think he ran that way. If you hurry you can still catch him.

    "During the past four weeks, Sigma had communicated with XVID to resolve the situation. As a result, Sigma has decided to make the current version of the MPEG-4 CODEC available under the GPL license."

    OW! OW! Stop kicking me! Alright, here's your damn stereo back! Jeez!

    "Sigma is a supporter of the Linux operating system, appreciates the work being done by the open source community, and continues to issue certain other code under open source arrangements."

    But if you don't mind me saying so, sir, you've got great taste in stereo equipment. I got a good luck at that puppy as I was prying her out of the dash and yours is a beaut!

    "Though we believe that we have acted as expediently as possible, Sigma Designs sincerely apologizes to the open source community for this inadvertent use of GPL code and for the several weeks it took to resolve the situation."

    So we're cool, right? No one needs to call the cops or anything. I'll just grab my stuff and -- look over there! The Pope!

    *sound of running footsteps in the other direction*

    • quote:

      "During the past four weeks, Sigma had communicated with XVID to resolve the situation. As a result, Sigma has decided to make the current version of the MPEG-4 CODEC available under the GPL license."

      OW! OW! Stop kicking me! Alright, here's your damn stereo back! Jeez!

      end quote ...

      not quite, more like

      OW! OW! Here, would you like a stereo? I just found this one ... but you can use it too, if you like. It's kinda neat. Maybe I'll let everyone use my stereo (that I found in your car.)
  • On one had we have fought many battles against companies weilding the copyright over users, but now the tables are turned and the public is going after a company (Sigma Designs). This action by them (releasing the code) is NOT enough. They still claim their copyright over almost exact duplicates of XviD code. I'd hate to see the day when an enterprising young lawyer thinks that Sigma wrote the code first and then XviD copied it--the legal battle would have been nasty. Regardless, Sigma still needs to fess up to their screw up. Remember, management is always responsible for those below them. If a "lone ranger programmer" made the mistake, then the higher ups are just as responsible.

    PS... what the hell is up with those stupid "in your mouth", "in your a**" posts? Go away trolls.
    • They still claim their copyright over almost exact duplicates of XviD code.

      I always thought this was funny. When someone (like NeoAudio for example) rips off code and takes out the copyright notices why doesn't someone just put them back in... maybe even adding in that the code has been completely ripped off and if they like said product they should help support the real holders.
  • This time, to sound super redundant [slashdot.org] :) " I still believe that even many developers, who choose to use GPL, do not know what it means, and what it means especially outside the borders of his own country." The problem is same with many other licensing methods, probably even most of them. GPL is just so common nowadays, that I believe every developer should try to comprehend it thoroughly to not do serious mistakes or damage to for example his/her company or to a GPL developers rights.
  • Read the GPL, clause 4:

    • 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.


    Therefore, even if Sigma has released the code, they are still violating the GPL, and have lost all rights under the license in the future. Sigma has to remove all the GPL code from their product!

    • The whole idea... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      of the GPL is to get as many individuals/companies/organizations as possible using GPL code. I think it's a really good sign that a media company saw that using the GPL code was advantageous. Too bad they had to steal the code in the first place, but as long as the code base is opened and credit is given to XVid (and any other group(s) that may be involved), I think it's a very good thing.

      Having companies using GPL code benefits us ALL.

      Remember why we're doing this.
      • by tankrshr77 (170422)
        Having companies using GPL code benefits us ALL.
        Not necessarilly. If all the company does is change copyright notices and doesn't add anything of value to the code (besides mixing it up to make it look like it's not pirated), it does not benefit the community at all.
      • Ensuring Benefit (Score:3, Interesting)

        by _Sprocket_ (42527)


        Having companies using GPL code benefits us ALL.


        OK. Let's consider a counter-argument to this.

        Companies using GPL code only benefits everyone IF the company adheres to the GPL. If a company simply takes code and uses it as a platform to jumpstart their development, they are the only ones that bennefit. And more importantly, the community that collaberated to bring value to the code in question looses.

        And there is definately value to be found in a lot of these GPL projects. GPL code is being used more and more often by business not only to support their infrastructure, but to provide a boost to their development. Unfortanely there also seems to be an increase in businesses that attempt to simply take code in violation of its license.

        In most cases we've been reading about, when a GPL violation is discovered, it usually ends up with a sheepish excuse and promise to release code in accordance with the GPL license. The problem is this is beginning to look like a standard tactic. Steal code, hope nobody figures it out... and if you do get caught, then cough up some code. In the end, you still have access to the code you needed to boost your project at the "expense" of having to give up modifications you had hoped to keep to yourself.

        It seems to be strategy with little overall risk. And if so, it suggests the community is setting itself up to be constantly ripped off.

        A punitive strategy for the community... and one that the origional poster suggests exists within the workings of the GPL license... is to make the entire code base a part of the risk. If you attempt to steal GPL code and are caught, you forfeit access to that code. This would increase the risk from not only releaseing code you would prefer to keep secret (but would have to anyway if you complied with the GPL), but also puts the entire code base you wish to use at risk. Being caught would mean returning to square one - a major hit to any development project or product. And it may be a risk that fewer will be willing to accept. Hopefully it will keep honest people honest.

        Could the community benefit from more companies using its code? Sure. But those companies must understand the requirements of using that code and, ultimately, being a part of the community.

        One final note. The GPL may seem strange to the hardcore competative business developer. But one familiar aspect of the GPL is that it is a license. I find it hard to believe anybody working within the IT industry is not familiar with having to deal with licenses. When you use applications and code that include a license, it should be second nature to review that license and decide if one wishes to comply with it - as strange as those requirements might be.
  • by fluor2 (242824) on Saturday August 24, 2002 @03:56PM (#4134081)
    Doom9 [doom9.org] is an independent "journalist" that seem to have a very good overview at things in the encoding scene. Here is a sniplet from what he writes:

    "First an update on the XviD situation. The release of the Sigma source code does not mean it's all over, it's far from being over. The license agreement which you have to agree to before you can download, and install the codec is not compatible with the GPL. Furthermore, it can now clearly be seen (download the source code and have a look for yourself) that the Sigma codec is pretty much a copy of the XviD codec, but all the copyright notices of the original developers have been removed and replaced. This does not only violate the GPL but copyright laws - you can't just take a program, change a few lines and change the copyright statements, you only have copyright protection for the parts you wrote on your own. And related to this the Sigma codec also contains code taken from the OpenDivX project [doom9.org], the files were outfitted with 2 different copyright notices which is quite funny."

    I hope that Sigma will respect GPL licences. I will for sure stop every purchase of Sigma stuff where I work.

  • Does anyone get the feeling that the only reason they're doing this is because the XVid team weren't going to continue developing XVid?

    I mean, it must be pretty convenient to be able to save thousands of dollars by getting people to develop for you, for free.. and if all you had to do was release some code that was _already_ available to the public (modified slightly).. would it be more than worth it to do so?

    If a rogue programmer did this, then why haven't they quit using the XVid code, and developed their own?

    If releasing code at a later date was their plan, why didn't they just state this when XVid intitially complained?
    • Yes...

      They should not only make "their" (not) code GPL, but make some donations to Xvid!

      That would make their image a lot better!
    • Re:question; (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sancho (17056) on Saturday August 24, 2002 @06:12PM (#4134526) Homepage
      I'm more inclined to think that they're doing this because of the huge backlash they got. This story got published all over the place, both before and after Slashdot. They knew they screwed up, and probably they knew that they were in legally questionable waters. In any case, they saw a bunch of people saying, "I'll stop buying from Sigma," and all this combined probably contributed to their current course of action.
  • by pbryan (83482) <email@pbryan.net> on Saturday August 24, 2002 @06:20PM (#4134548) Homepage
    Date: Fri, 23 Aug 2002 16:05:24 -0700
    To: kal@sdesigns.com, stephanie.porter@edelman.com, RMP4@sdesigns.com, tech_support@sdesigns.com
    Subject: MPEG-4 Video Codec Source Code

    To whom it may concern:

    Thank you for making the source code to the REALmagic MPEG-4 codec available. As you are now aware, this is a required term of the GNU General Public License (GPL). I have downloaded the source code release (RMP4V1_1.zip) from your website, and have concerns pertaining to the notices that appear at the top of the source files.

    In the top of the source files, there is a vague assertion that they are related to the XVID MPEG-4 video codec with the following statement: "This code inspired by the XVID MPEG-4 VIDEO CODEC".

    I have performed a side-by-side comparison between the above-mentioned REALmagic MPEG-4 codec and the XVID (xvid_snapshot_20020822.tar.gz) source code, and it is clear to me that the source files you published are not merely "inspired by" the XVID MPEG-4 codec, but are in fact derivative works.

    If this is true, then your source distribution appears on its face to be in violation of the GPL. Section 2(a) states: "You must cause the modified files to carry prominent notices stating that you changed the files and the date of any change." I could find no such notices of changes in the source files you released.

    I request you remedy this problem by ammending the source code files in accordance with section 2(a), so that this apparent violation can be corrected. Doing so is a legal requirement of the license you accepted by creating a derivative work of the XVID MPEG-4 video codec. Failure to adhere to the terms of the GPL constitutes a copyright infringment by Sigma Designs.

    You are clearly using and benefiting from the work of the authors of the XVID MPEG-4 video codec, yet you have hardly credited the development team for making this possible. I strongly urge you to consider to properly acknowledge the XVID development team. Please, give credit where credit is due.

    -----

    From: Tech Support
    Subject:
    Date: Fri, 23 Aug 2002 19:59:09 -0700

    Interested Parties concerning Sigma's MPEG-4 CODEC

    Thank you for contacting Sigma Designs and requesting information that relates to our MPEG-4 CODEC and the availability of its source code. We would like to take this opportunity to address the relevant issues that have been raised.

    To begin with, Sigma developed an MPEG-4 CODEC to assist in the proliferation of MPEG-4 content and to ensure that users can create content libraries compatible with the ISO MPEG-4 video specifications and its implementation in silicon. Fulfilling this goal was carried out in two steps. The first was the introduction of an MPEG-4 CODEC, provided free of charge, so that worldwide users could begin encoding new content. The second was the release of source code, so that the development community could continue with technical improvements. Sigma never intended in making, nor realized, any profits from this code base.

    Several weeks after the CODEC was first released, Sigma was contacted by the XVID development team regarding the use of certain portions of their code. Upon examination, it was determined that one of our programmers, unbeknownst to management and contrary to Sigma's policy, had utilized some routines posted by XVID as open source. During the past four weeks, Sigma had communicated with XVID to resolve the situation. As a result, Sigma has decided to make the current version of the MPEG-4 CODEC available under the GPL license.

    Sigma is a supporter of the Linux operating system, appreciates the work being done by the open source community, and continues to issue certain other code under open source arrangements. Though we believe that we have reacted as expediently as possible, Sigma Designs sincerely apologizes to the open source community for this inadvertent use of GPL code and for the several weeks it took to resolve the situation.

    Sincerely,

    Ken Lowe
    Vice President of Business Development

    -----

    Date: Fri, 23 Aug 2002 21:42:33 -0700
    To: Tech Support
    Subject: Re: (no subject)

    Dear Mr. Lowe:

    Thank you for your prompt response to my message regarding the Sigma Designs REALmagic MPEG-4 video codec. I URGE YOU TO READ THIS MESSAGE CAREFULLY.

    In your response, you indicated that Sigma has decided to make the current version of the MPEG-4 video codec available under the GNU General Public License (GPL). This is indeed great news.

    You also alluded to the fact that the situation is now resolved. UNFORTUNATELY, THIS IS NOT TRUE.

    As I mentioned in my previous message, it appears that Sigma Designs is presently in violation of section 2(a) of the GPL. This section stipulates that any modifications to source code carry a prominant notice stating that you made changes and the date of the change. I can find no such notices in the REALmagic MPEG-4 codec source code.

    If true, then SIGMA DESIGNS IS STILL VIOLATING THE COPYRIGHT OF THE AUTHORS OF XVID. I strongly urge you to take action, by either ammending the REALmagic MPEG-4 video codec source code to adhere to section 2(a) of the GPL, or else stop distributing the REALmagic codec altogher. Either action will remedy your current violation of the GPL.

    Also, I urge you to give proper credit to the XVID development team in your source code. My comparison of REALmagic and XVID reveals that the Sigma source code is much more than "inspired by the XVID MPEG-4 VIDEO CODEC"; it is clearly derivative of XVID and as such deserves proper acknowledgement to the original authors.

    Please, give credit where credit is due.
  • This is the situation as I now understand it:
    • Sigma took the XVid code, modified it, and then released a binary-only version with an absolutely non-GPL EULA.
    • they got caught red handed.
    • They mumbled something along the lines of "I'll get right back to you" and then stopped answering calles.
    • The XVid served a 'notice of intent to declare war'.
    • Sigma declares that one of their programmers 'accidently' copied 'a bit' of the XVid code, but that management really didn't know
    • sigma 'graciously' decided to release a version of their software under GPL, but continue to claim copyright.
    • Now having access to the code, there seems to be
      • Wholesale copying of XVid code
      • copying of other projects' code as well
      • sophmore attempts to cover up some of the plagiarism.
    It seems to me that the best thing to do is to demand that Sigma simply turn over copyright to the entirety of the code to the XVid people (except for stuff stolen from other people). This would save a future fight over what was stolen and what wasn't. It also makes up for the disruption caused by their criminal acts. They would, however, be allowed to pretty up the spin on this 'gracious' act in some way that made them look like reasonably good guys.

    If this goes to court, then I would expect that any decent judge/jury would do the same thing (along with a nice spoonful of monetary relief. The assignment of ownership would be part declaratory relief and part punitive damages. It would save the court from the trouble of figuring out what was stolen and what was genuinely created by Sigma.

    ( If you take Sigma's declaration at face value this really wouldn't hurt Sigma much, anyways, because they're now claiming that they originally intended to give away the whole project anyways. )

  • You know, I wonder if I'm the only one who finds this whole thing remarkably ironic. I mean, given that DivX :) started out as a cracked-and-patched version of someone else's codec to begin with, it's almost like Sigma's just "carrying on the tradition."
  • The FSF has taken an interest in this case, and I think for obvious reasons. This is the perfect test case to take to court in order to validate the GPL. You have:

    1) a well-documented violation of the license

    2) from a well-respected project

    3) by a less-than-quadrillian-dollar/year company that

    4) openly admitted to the violation.

    My guess is that the FSF is advising the XviD folks to take it to court and nail Sigma to the wall with a big iron spike through the heart. They won't get a better chance than this to prove the GPL.


  • I have been working with STB designs based on Sigma's RealMagic chip for some years now. During this period of time it has been a hazzle to get source code even under NDA, and even then some parts are still binaries.

    We did the same as many other RealMagic developers I have come across, we wrote our own replacement for the standard driver binaries. A fraction of the size, much better performance AND source code! I will look into the NDA issues and try to make it open source, but really Sigma should do it at their own!

    I think that Sigma is afraid because they have a history as PCI card manufacturer with killing competition, but who will steal their chip by looking at the source code? They are afraid of getting a load of requests for improvements and patches to take care of. They are afraid of getting too much to do maybe!? Why not donate a pile of RealMagic eval cards to the open source teams willing to support it?? My (not so) humble opinion is that they are ancient dinosaurs from the early PC ages where propriatery meant profitable.

    Wake up Sigma you are killing your own market!!!

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