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GNU is Not Unix Software

MPlayer Alleges KISS Technology Violating GPL 423

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the code-by-another-name dept.
bfree writes "Not for the first time, the people at MPlayer think they have found their code being distributed binary only, this time in at least one of KISS Techologies products. In their traditional quiet style the full story is now the first piece of news on their homepage including string comparisons between the player ROM and MPlayer. The 'evidence' presented relates to subtitle identification, where the KISS ROM includes the same list, in order, of subtitle formats as MPlayer (including their own format mpsub) and MPlayer's patterns for each of the formats are also there identically."
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MPlayer Alleges KISS Technology Violating GPL

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  • by Brahmastra (685988) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @09:20AM (#7866815)
    If anyone is wondering where the link with the actual accusation is, it is on the main page of Mplayer's website.
  • by sirmalloc (648119) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @09:21AM (#7866817)
    well it appears on their website that they offer the source for download here [kiss-technology.com]
    • This ZIP-file only contains soucecode for uClinux and busybox.
    • by helmutjd (568988) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @09:35AM (#7866861)
      That archive only contains the source for busybox and uclinux... no mplayer source is included, which means it's still a GPL violation.

      Not to mention the fact that you need to include a copy of the full text of the GPL with your binaries, which they also seem to fail to do.
      • Just curious about this, but has anybody ever been sued for a GPL violation?

        If nobody ever gets in any trouble for using GPL code in a closed project, then isn't it reasonable to assume that it'll happen more often?

        And who is supposed to hire the lawyers on behalf of a free project? And don't tell me FSF will just handle everybody's legal troubles pro-bono...

        • The FSF tends to stick with GNU projects. They insist that all GNU developers give them a form assigning the FSF their copyrights - so that they have strong standing in a court. One potential argument a GPL-violator could bring up against most other projects would be to argue to the judge that the plaintiff can't prove that all the copyright holders agree with the suit. Then again, all the copyright holders did release their code under the GPL, so the court might nix that argument. The FSF prefers not t
          • "They insist that all GNU developers give them a form assigning the FSF their copyrights"

            As I understand your comment, the FSF hasn't litigated such a case, but in any case -- how many coders really want to sign over their copyrights to the FSF? They're already giving away their source -- now they're expected to give away their copyright too?

            • by Rich0 (548339) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @12:42PM (#7867644) Homepage
              The FSF opposes on principle most licensing schemes other than the GPL (and legally equivalent variations). They don't wan't dual-licensed products (a la MySQL), etc. You are correct that as a result many developers don't like working on GNU projects. But quite a few do - the FSF is largely about a revolution in how software is licensed in general. In the FSF's vision of the world, there is no such thing as closed-source software. The way they propose to create this new world is by making GPL-based software which is better than anything offered in closed-source.

              The FSF is definitely about activism. Not all programmers are activists, but the FSF believes that the GPL gives them an edge that no proprietary development firm can beat - the fact that even if only a minority of GPL software users give back, they still receive more than proprietary vendors do from their community.

              I'm not bashing those who disagree with the FSF - as I said the FSF is definitely an activist group. But they obviously have been successful despite their requirements regarding copyright assignment. GCC is probably the most widely used compiler there is...
        • Yes, in 2002 MySQL AB sued Nusphere for statically linking to GPL code without including source. The judge didn't rule on the merit of those claims however, so it wasn't a very good test for the GPL. The judge just told Nusphere to stop using the MySQL name with their product.
        • Just curious about this, but has anybody ever been sued for a GPL violation?
          AFAIK, it's never gone to court.

          If nobody ever gets in any trouble for using GPL code in a closed project, then isn't it reasonable to assume that it'll happen more often?
          I'd have to assume it'd be a gamble for both sides... would you really want to be the first company to test out the GPL? And even if you won, is that really the kind of PR you want?

          And who is supposed to hire the lawyers on behalf of a free project? And
          • "And failing that, don't forget that a lot of companies have significant interest in GPL'd software (think IBM, Novell, etc). If the GPL really ever came into question, I imagine you'd see more than a few significant financial contributions from third parties."

            heh, I wouldn't count on IBM to swoop in for the rescue. Their interest in GPL is limited to the extent that it can help them sell hardware (and perhaps services). Why would they spend money on a GPL lawsuit? After all, they're still in the same po

            • they're still in the same position to sell that same hardware (and perhaps services) regarless of whether some other organization is violating a GPL stipulation
              If the GPL is questioned in a serious lawsuit, it'll be more than just "some other organization violating the GPL". You'd essentially be proving (or disproving) the legal validity of the GPL.

              I suppose it depends on what happens to previously-GPL'd code if the GPL is ruled unenforceable. I really know nothing about it, but I've heard speculatio
        • If nobody ever gets in any trouble for using GPL code in a closed project, then isn't it reasonable to assume that it'll happen more often?

          Companies do get in trouble for violating the GPL all the time. They seem to realize so quickly that their legal position is untenable that cases have never had to go to court. That's a good thing: it shows you how strong the GPL actually is.
        • by nathanh (1214) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @06:35PM (#7869536) Homepage
          Just curious about this, but has anybody ever been sued for a GPL violation?

          Sort of. I'll say "yes" but qualify. You can't sue somebody for violating the GPL. It's not a contract. It's a license. If they don't agree to the license then it has no legal weight.

          The impressive part about the GPL is that if they don't agree to the GPL then copyright law springs into effect. Copyright law can kick them in the teeth a lot harder than the GPL ever could.

          So you don't really sue for a GPL violation. You sue for copyright infringement. You offer the GPL as an escape mechanism. If the guilty party accepts the GPL then they avoid the lawsuit. If they don't accept the GPL then... well... simply put, they lose in court.

          There have been several examples of companies being sued for copyright infringement of GPLed software. I think they've all ended in settlement so far. So effectively the courts have been used to enforce the GPL. A recent example was MySQL vs NuSphere as reported on Slashdot.

  • This is great... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sheetrock (152993)
    Isn't this going to start a trend where hardware companies stop releasing ROM updates for their products?

    90% of my stuff wouldn't even work right if I couldn't update the firmware, and there are a number of people that patch ROMs to extend hardware capabilities unofficially. Maybe the companies will get around it by encrypting their updates, but that doesn't sound like a win for anybody else.

    • Isn't this going to start a trend where hardware companies stop releasing ROM updates for their products?

      I don't see how. If they haven't broken any distribution licenses then there is no problem. If they have, well they should have thought about that before they used the code.
    • Re:This is great... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Saturday January 03, 2004 @10:44AM (#7867132) Homepage Journal

      While that's unfortunate for you, the end customer, it's just too bad. If they're not playing by the rules and they're stealing peoples' code, then the problem is that they were crooks, not that they used free software. Wouldn't be much different from Microsoft stealing Sun code.

      Perhaps it's a dawning age when businesses will be afraid to use proprietary software for fear that the company integrated GPL'ed source into their binaries without giving poper credit and/or providing the sources? Imagine, all the manadrones going from "Open Source is untrustworthy, we might get sued" or other such nonsense to "Proprietary systems are untrustworthy, they might get sued and we'd lose support".

      Ahhhh.... sweet sweet vindication... maybe.

    • what are you saying? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by penguin7of9 (697383) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @10:49AM (#7867156)
      So, you are saying we should tolerate GPL copyright violations so that you can get updates to your ROMs from sleazy companies? I don't think so. As long as software copyrights are the law of the land, GNU has the same rights to enforce them as everybody else.

      If KISS doesn't want to deal with the GPL, they can always license Windows XP/Embedded for their players and you can pay for it. And you can bet that Microsoft will enforce their licenses.
    • by be-fan (61476)
      Hopefully, it starts a trend where hardware companies stop violating copyright laws because they think no-one will notice!
  • by ScottGant (642590) <scott_gant@s[ ]l ... T ['bcg' in gap]> on Saturday January 03, 2004 @09:26AM (#7866832) Homepage
    Mplayer is one of those apps I just can't live without on my machine. It handles just about anything and everything that I've thrown at it. I use it as my default mp3/movie player. And Quicktime movies are not a problem for Linux anymore.

    I quickly made a list of all of my 10+ gigs of mp3/m4a files just using find and grep...touched it up a bit in vim and then use "aterm -e mplayer -playlist /home/sgant/music/playlist -shuffle" and I've got hours and hours of back to back music. When I want something a little more structured, I have different playlists.

    Yeah, I probably could do this with xmms...but why?

    Give Mplayer it's due. It's a fine piece of software and they deserve all the recognition they get.
    • Yeah, I probably could do this with xmms...but why?

      It's hard to explain, but I couldn't stand listening to several pieces of music without a playlist-based system like XMMS. For example, you have this list of 100 songs and you want to jump into a specific piece (not just the next or previous one). Try doing this with a keypress or two on mplayer -shuffle.

      For movies I use MPlayer, and I like to keep these two things separate. I haven't come across a situation where I'd need a playlist of movies, and MPl

      • I see what you mean, but I listen to my music more as a backdrop/radio station type thing. Just random music playing in the background.

        If I want to hear a specific song, I just use rox to find the file and click on it to fire up mplayer to play it.

        But I know where you're coming from.
  • Sometime in the near future, the GPL is going to be tested in court. This is a Good Thing, though, because I'm not sure that the Open Source movement can continue its momentum without an absolute guarantee by the courts that the work of developers will not be open to being "stolen" by proprietary software companies.

    However, there is the possibility that the GPL is struck down as being untenable. In that case, one of two outcomes exists:

    1. All formerly GPL software reverts to merely being copyrighted by the author, who can then do what he wants (close the source, BSD style license, etc.).
    2. All formerly GPL software is considered public domain. There is a massive "land grab" as companies snap up the sources out there for use in their closed proprietary products.

    IANAL. I want to make that clear. I do believe that the GPL is valid, legal, and will stand up in court. I just hope the court system agrees with me.
    • by rehabdoll (221029) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @09:41AM (#7866884) Homepage
      IANAL, but the GPL is a license, nothing else. You cant lose your copyright just because the license is invalid.
      • The problem is that while you can't lose your copyright because of distibution under an invalid license, it's hard to prove damages if you were distributing something essentially for free and someone else comes and packages it and makes money with it. The GPL provides protection because by downloading, using, and modifying GPL software, you are agreeing that you will not redistribute the software without making the source available. That contract between the author and user is what currently "guarantees" that the author's work won't be "stolen" out from under him/her. Again, IANAL, so YMMV...
        • it's hard to prove damages if you were distributing something essentially for free and someone else comes and packages it and makes money with it

          But it's not for free. What you are supposed to give in exchange for use of GPL source is your modifications to the code. And from the look of those string searches, KISS did, in fact, modify the code, if only in the name table of subtitle formats.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 03, 2004 @10:17AM (#7867026)
          Fortunato NC wrote: The problem is that while you can't lose your copyright because of distibution under an invalid license, it's hard to prove damages if you were distributing something essentially for free and someone else comes and packages it and makes money with it.

          This is not that big a problem in the US. The US Copyright Act [cornell.edu] provides several remedies: (i) injunction (a court order for the infringer to stop), (ii) damages based on the copyright holder's actual damages _and_ the copyright violators profits or (iii) statutory damages (that is, damages specified by the statute without any need to show actual damages).

        • As the GPL says, "You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License.". If the GPL is declared an invalid license (which I can't imagine), then the code is under no license, so it may not be copied or distributed.
        • by penguin7of9 (697383) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @10:57AM (#7867178)
          The problem is that while you can't lose your copyright because of distibution under an invalid license, it's hard to prove damages if you were distributing something essentially for free and someone else comes and packages it and makes money with it.

          I don't see that as a problem. People who use the GPL want compliance, not vast amounts of money. The requirement to comply with the license doesn't go away even if there are no monetary damages.

          The GPL already has big hammer: if you violate it, you lose all rights to the software. So, at this point, KISS faces the prospect of having to rip mplayer out of all their players, shipped, shipping, and on the drawing board, and looking for a substitute. That would amount to an enormous penalty and drive them out of business.

          If the open source community feels an example needs to be set, that's what the authors of mplayer should demand.

          Of course, in the past, GPL authors have often been nice and simply permitted companies like KISS to come into compliance by posting the source code after the fact. But that's a friendly gesture from the open source community; the GPL license carries a bigger stick.
          • You missed his point. Let's say, hypothetically, KISS said 'kiss off, we are violationg the GPL and don't give a rat's ass.' Ok, so know they are known to be in willful violation of the GPL, and therefore lose license to redistirubte within the bounds of copyright law. The GPL is not a contract, and therefore not adhering to the GPL only means redistribution is prohibited by *copyright* law. Now take them to court because they are redistributing the content without a license. Easy case to prove, but
            • Now take them to court because they are redistributing the content without a license. Easy case to prove, but the penalty is based on damages.

              Actually, the award is not necessarily based on the copyright holder's actual damages. According to 17 USC 504 (a), "an infringer of copyright is liable for either... the copyright owner's actual damages and any additional profits of the infringer, as provided by subsection (b); or statutory damages, as provided by subsection (c)." The emphasis on the additional profits language is mine, but it's important: the copyright holder is entitled to any additional profits the infringer made through use of the infringing material.

              Even in cases where it's difficult to prove damages or additional profits from the infringing material, the copyright holder is entitled to statutory damages. See 17 USC 504 (c). That's $30,000 for infringement in general, and $150,000 if it's willful infringement. An infringer who uses language like "KISS off" or an infringer finding themselves back in court for doing it again will probably be facing the $150,000 number. Paying the judgement does not entitle you to future use of the copyrighted work.

        • by A nonymous Coward (7548) * on Saturday January 03, 2004 @11:16AM (#7867253)
          The GPL is a LICENSE not a contract.

          Statutory damages can be tremendous, I believe $150,000 per violation if wilful.

          The other penalty is that KISS will have to stop distribution altogether if they lose in court. That basically puts them out of business.

          GPL protection has nothing to do with using or modifying, only with distribution.

          You barely have anything right. You need to read more groklaw.
    • by Curtman (556920) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @09:53AM (#7866930)
      If I write a piece of software, it is copyrighted by me. If I choose to release my software with a license attached, that gives you the right to use my software under the terms of that license. If for some reason that license is invalid, the software is still copyrighted by me, and you no longer have the rights you once did under that license. Seems pretty straight forward to me.
    • Start reading here

      groklaw [groklaw.net]
    • 1. All GPL software is copyrighted by the author.
      It can't revert if it never left that state.

      2. If a government declares my copyright invalid because they don't like my license they can't take away my ownership as punishment. Unless they make a law specifically stating such a process. Imagine if the gov just came and took all blue cars because they dont' like the colour. Doing this would be just as wrong.
    • Why would GPL be any less valid than Microsoft's EULA? If GPL were considered invalid, the whole licensing system would be invalid, and would cruble. This would mean that no software company could control software piracy. Music companies could not control unlicensed distribution of music.

      GPL is a license like any other. To use the software, you must adhere to its rules.
  • Kiss off (Score:3, Funny)

    by Bowie J. Poag (16898) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @09:41AM (#7866883) Homepage


    Their fax number is busy... Either they took the ringer off, or other people have the same idea. ;)
    • by Alan Cox (27532) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @10:36AM (#7867098) Homepage
      Thats not the way to do it. The KISS folks have been one of the people who seem to have got the Linux DVD player thing right with regard to the source modules. Secondly the mplayer people need to find out who that code came from - the kiss player if I remember rightly is based on a kit from Sigma designs.

      So firstly its quite possibly not their fault
      Secondly its quite possible they are all still on their christmas holiday

      Someone at mplayer might want to look at the other sigma based players firmware files.

      And finally .. ranting and raving isn't how you solve problems because you make it hard for an accidental offender to correct a problem without losing face, which sometimes means they'll try and tough it out rather than sort it out.

      There are lots of GPL infringements that get sorted out politely. Mostly involving large companies who regardless of what people like Microsoft may claim about Open v Closed most definitely DO NOT do any checking on what their contractors shipped them. They get sorted because the company can add a footnote to the manuals or put the tar source files up on the support page without embarrasment.



      • Hi Alan,

        True. But you have to agree there was some degree of professional neglect on their part. While it's true the GPL doesn't necessarrily require an inheritant to go out of their way to contact the benefactor, as is the case with KISS, its good practice to do so, at least from a professional standpoint.

        AFAIK, nothing in the GPL obligates me KISS to have any substantial dialogue with the mplayer guys. Much the same as nothing obligates me to say "thank you" when someone keeps an elevator door open fo
      • by demi (17616) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:18PM (#7867824) Homepage Journal
        So firstly its quite possibly not their fault
        Secondly its quite possible they are all still on their christmas holiday

        Amen. And thirdly, maybe KISS is just treating the mplayer people like they treat their own users: with hostility and inaccessibility. Considering that KISS release sources for busybox and Linux, I find it difficult to believe that they would somehow refuse to release mplayer source because they're evil. Most likely it's just an oversight that will be cleared up in time--too bad the mplayer people are so quick to pound the drum of aggrievance, but it's totally in character for them.

        By the way, I like mplayer very much, the developers do a really excellent technical job; they just lack interpersonal skills--which are very necessary when trying to get a business to do what you want them to do.

  • acknowledgement (Score:5, Insightful)

    by koekepeer (197127) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @09:45AM (#7866899)
    ok the issue is about code that reads subtitles. other comments here already pointed out that (at least some of the) source is available at the KISS website

    besides possible GPL violation what i find disturbing is that apparently no credit was given to the mplayer developers.

    one of the main motivations of working on something for free is being appreciated and acknowledged for the work you do. kill the motivation, and you kill the incentive to release for free. it's a gift, right?
    • by DrWho520 (655973) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @10:01AM (#7866964) Journal
      How long until someones acknowledgement is denied and work is stolen by a large company who can hide behind the DMCA? An Open Source project could be "appropriated" by Sony or Microsoft who then releases it as their own project. If the source is unavailable, could you determine the origin deffinatively without reverse engineering?

      Could this be true, or am I missinterrupting the DMCA (shudder, I hate that thing)?
    • Re:acknowledgement (Score:4, Informative)

      by lspd (566786) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @11:59AM (#7867458) Homepage Journal
      besides possible GPL violation what i find disturbing is that apparently no credit was given to the mplayer developers.

      While I fully agree that anyone stealing GPL software deserves whatever lawsuits they get, the Mplayer team has violated the GPL [debian.org] in the past as well.
    • besides possible GPL violation what i find disturbing is that apparently no credit was given to the mplayer developers. one of the main motivations of working on something for free is being appreciated and acknowledged for the work you do.

      How odd to read someone writing negatively about violation of the GPL when the one thing that the FSF said made the original BSD license non-free was the advertising clause! If you want credit that badly, use a license that insists upon it. The GPL doesn't ask for it

  • by Bowie J. Poag (16898) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @09:48AM (#7866913) Homepage


    In accordance with the GPL, the source for KISS DP-508 is available upon
    request, for a nominal fee to cover media and shipping costs.*

    .

    .

    .

    * = The source code will be provided to you as a series of large, neon-lit
    marquee letters shipped individually in wooden packing crates. Currently,
    the world's supply of neon gas limits our ability to ship large quantities
    of source code. The current expected wait time is 32 years, plus or minus
    6 months, depending upon the condition of labor relations in countries with
    substantial noble gas exports.

    For more information, please inject crystal meth directly into your eyeballs,
    and light yourself on fire while listening to the following song:

    http://www.ibiblio.org/propaganda/pogo/easteregg.m p3 [ibiblio.org]


    Thats the version of the GPL I prefer, personally.
  • ...going to get away with this.

    There is no way the KISS Army can withstand the awesome onslaught of the GNU Hurd! RSS will lead the charge against the interlopers, with the battle cry "They're properly called GNU/Linux Systems!" ringing over the Plains...
  • by An Anonymous Hero (443895) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @10:02AM (#7866969)
    We have one more pattern in our parser, which was commited on 2003 July 20, in effect of supporting a new subtitle format, called "ASS". Kiss Tech's files are missing this one, so they must have lifted our code before that date.

    So, not only they don't comply, they don't even kiss ass. Pretty damning if you ask me!

  • by mindstrm (20013) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @10:09AM (#7866994)
    It's a copyright violation.

    The GPL is not a contract you agree to before using or obtaining source... it is a license that permits you to do things other than those allowed by copryight law alone.

    If they are using MPlayer's code without license, that's copyright violation, and all that entails.

    They can either come to an agreement with the copyright holders, or cite the GPL as their permission, if they had followed it.

    • Yes... and No... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IBitOBear (410965)
      (This is a hair you are splitting.)

      IANAL, but...

      "Contract Law" is a bit like saying "Intellectual property". It isn't right. Contract law is really "tort" law, and a "tort" is a twisting (violation etc) of an agreement. The word "contract" is just a place-holder for the formula for an agreement, and it is broader than you might imagine.

      A contract exists when (if I recall correctly) consideration (value) is exchanged under terms of agreement. In point of fact, there is legal precident for the idea of
  • Why doesn't mplayer sue, if they think their intellectual property rights have been abused? Certainly seems more logical than posting unproven and potentially libelous assertions on their website.

    Before someone says that they're just a small band of impoverished but brave open source developers who can't afford to pay lawyers....well, tough.

    Civil claims don't get enfoirced as if by magic. If the broader open source community has no means to help individual developers enforce the GPL in court, then it wi
    • Before someone says that they're just a small band of impoverished but brave open source developers who can't afford to pay lawyers....well, tough.

      Actually, then they are still likely to be represented by the FSF [gnu.org], or FSFE [fsfeurope.org] in this case, probably.
    • Welcome to America (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cloricus (691063)
      You're joking right? "Oh dear god they are doing some thing we don't like; SUE THEM!!!" /me Hits speed dial to lawyers
      There is no need at all to sue KiSS, all they need to do is send a nice letter to them asking politely if they will comply with the GPL and if applicable give MPlayer some credit. (Though they aren't bound by anything to give open credit, only the basics.)
      If that fails you take it to the next step and the step after that and at some point they will comply as one of the last steps you get t
    • It's the mplayer developers' choice whether they want to enforce their license against KISS. If they don't, after a while they may not be able to.

      But their actions have no bearing on whether you or I can legally enforce the GPL against software we have created and released under the GPL. The GPL is just contractual language. Just because you may fail to enforce your contracts doesn't affect my ability to enforce my contracts even if the contracts we use use the same language.

      If your line of reasoning a
  • by sqrt529 (145430) * on Saturday January 03, 2004 @10:24AM (#7867053) Homepage
    I don't understand why they say it's a GPL Violation. The source is offered as a download on the kiss website.
    http://www.kiss-technology.com/?p=hot_news&v=users [kiss-technology.com]
  • by MImeKillEr (445828) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @10:36AM (#7867099) Homepage Journal
    "Gene Simmons unavailable for comment."
  • by Xugumad (39311) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @12:15PM (#7867530)

    Is that it only takes one lazy programmer for their to be a GPL violation. I don't see this is being some high-up manager instructing their programmers to use mplayer to save time, I see this as someone realising they needed subtitles code and mplayer had it already, so they did a quick cut&paste.

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