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Wireless Networking Hardware

Is Sveasoft Violating the GPL? 738

Posted by simoniker
from the gumby-time dept.
Ron Harwood writes "First, Linksys was violating the GPL by not releasing their source for their Linux implementation on the WRT54G wireless router and WAP54G access point. When this was rectified, third party firmware started showing up. Well, now it looks like Sveasoft (one of the third party developers) has decided to restrict access to their modified source code to subscribers - that also will need to pay $49 for a CD rather than being able to download it." The thread summary at DSLReports only makes it clear that this is all very complicated.
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Is Sveasoft Violating the GPL?

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  • by RLiegh (247921) * on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:23PM (#9766245) Homepage Journal
    The GPL FAQ on the GNU Site says: [gnu.org]

    But if you release the modified version to the public in some way, the GPL requires you to make the modified source code available to the program's users, under the GPL.

    So, are the subscribers allowed to redistribute the modified source that they purchase? If so, there's no violation (at least, not on that point). If not, then yes; they are in violation of the gpl.
    • by efextra (673412) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:28PM (#9766292) Homepage
      I am a subscriber and they allow you to redistribute, but it seems thats not what they want you to do. From the code download page:
      This file is distributed to Sveasoft subscribers only. Redistribution is allowed under the GPL license. However, redistribution terminates Sveasoft subscription rights.
      • However, redistribution terminates Sveasoft subscription rights.

        How would they know? Any subscriber can just give the CD to a buddy to distribute. Regardless, it seems they're definitely trying to skirt the spirit of the GPL, and for that I hope they sink into obscurity, at which point their subscription isn't worth squat anyway.

        • by trashme (670522) <tribble@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @10:57PM (#9766775)
          From one of the forum posts:
          4) Sveasoft can track the subscribers who redistribute their binaries by attaching some kind of tag to each firmware binary (as demonstrated by the different MD5 sums found so far). This makes sense, considering Sveasoft thought TheIndividual was someone else at first. Arno Nym has done some work to try to find what the unique identifier is. It is unknown wether this is allowed under the GPL.

          That's how they know who distributed the binary and whose account to revoke.
      • This clause is not allowed under the GPL. Here is a quote from section 6 of the GPL (italics mine):

        Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein.

        By attatching conditions to the redistribution of their code (namely that di

        • They're not putting restrictions on the redistribution. They're putting restrictions on their own subscriptions. In order to be a subscriber, you have to abide by their terms. One of those terms is not redistributing the source. If you choose to distribute the source, it simply terminates your subscription. This may not be in the spirit of the GPL (not that I care much), but at least from my interpretation is is well within the letter of the GPL.

          • But don't you have to be a subscriber to get the source? If so, then this situation results: you subscribe, and get the source for one release (we'll call it "release 1". Then you redistribute it, and lose your subscription. So, now when "release 2" comes out, what do you do? You can't have a subscription anymore, but you're entitled to the source via the GPL anyway. How is that not a GPL violation?
        • You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein.

          But they're not! Their restrictions are not restricting the source code, they're restricting the subscription terms!

          Certainly this violates the spirit of the GPL, and for all I know, it may violate the letter of the license*. But this is another case where it would have been a good idea to go through appropriate channels instead of proceeding from misgivings straight to full-blown Slashdot hysteria.

          * Actua

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:23PM (#9766246)
    I think this is right at the bleeding edge of where the GPL draws the line...

    The GPL doesn't allow code modifiers to keep their code secret, but it doesn't reqire that the code be posted for free on the Internet either. They can charge a reasonable fee for the obtaining, making, and delivery of the disk and/or download service... you might be able to try to make a case that they're charging too much for such services, but the GPL doesn't say they have to provide such services at cost. This may be a bug in the GPL according to the purists, but the seem to be within the letter of the license.

    However, here's the catch: The GPL requires that the people who get the software must also be given the GPL as a license option that they may apply to the copy they just got. (The redistributor can offer any other license they want too, but they have to give the striaght-up unmodified GPL as another option if they do.) Therefore, only one person needs to pay the fee, and then, they can post the code for free download.

    No need to GNU/Worry. We'll be seeing this code being forked on Soureforge shortly I think.
    • by mfh (56)
      > They can charge a reasonable fee for the obtaining, making, and delivery of the disk and/or download service... you might be able to try to make a case that they're charging too much for such services

      Here's my $1.50 plus $4 USD shipping. Now give me the source code dammit. $50... think of all the beer and ebay treats I could get with that.
    • Reasonable being no more than the cost of the media + distributing it. I think it would be hard to find an accountant that will show that as a $49 cost.
      • No it isn't. You just have to buy your disks from a disk seller who's giving you a rebate, or you own.

        Since the entity doing the distributing is paying that rate, that's the cost, even if it's not the market price of the materials.

        I was once the sys admin for an office supply retailer that sold to the state. Justifying the markup on the "5% over cost" contract was part of the report writing...
    • But where do you draw the line?
      Now you or I(or better yet, 49 of our closest friends) may be willing to pay $49 to download it then distribute it, but what happens if the company decides it wants to make $100,000 off the modifications.
      Now they make it available under the GPL for $100,000. Now it becomes much harder for you or I to buy it. And it makes anyone who bought it less likely to distribute it for free.
      • It does say "reasonable cost", so it could be challeneged (likely by the EFF).

        Sveasoft could probably justify $49 as being "reasonable". There is the cost of shipping and the media, of course, which isn't very much. But someone also has to burn it. They could very well be charging a normal hourly fee (say $50/hr) to have that person burn the CD. You could also factor in the cost of the cd burner itself (depreciated over x number of copies), or maybe a rental fee for using the burner. They could also being
    • by RedWizzard (192002) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:42PM (#9766371)
      The GPL doesn't allow code modifiers to keep their code secret, but it doesn't reqire that the code be posted for free on the Internet either. They can charge a reasonable fee for the obtaining, making, and delivery of the disk and/or download service... you might be able to try to make a case that they're charging too much for such services, but the GPL doesn't say they have to provide such services at cost.
      Yes the GPL does say you must provide source code at cost. The relevant clause is (emphasis mine):
      3b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge
      no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange;
      $50 is unjustifiable as the cost of distribution of the source.
      • How much do you think it costs the company to have a developer stop what he's working on and make a CD for someone that requests the code? Probably more than $50.
        • by Spy Hunter (317220) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @10:07PM (#9766495) Journal
          Yeah, but by that logic they could just make the source avaliable only on special solid platinum CDs hand-carved by tibetan monks and charge three billion dollars each. Sure, it's the actual cost of distribution, but it's not reasonable. An FTP server would do the job for at least three orders of magnitude less money and be more convenient for everyone to boot. I don't think a judge would be impressed by that argument, even if it doesn't exactly violate the letter of the GPL.
          • Yeah, but by that logic they could just make the source avaliable only on special solid platinum CDs hand-carved by tibetan monks and charge three billion dollars each.

            Accompany it with a written offer ... to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed ...

            on a medium customarily used for software interchange

            You're right. I doubt that you'll find a judge who'll

        • I don't think that a software developer is the only person with the necessary skills to burn a CD. Even assuming that he was required to burn the first CD, any minimum wage person can burn copies of the originial.

    • by black mariah (654971) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:43PM (#9766373)
      The GPL doesn't allow code modifiers to keep their code secret
      Yes it does. The GPL only kicks in when you DISTRIBUTE your modifications. You can keep them in-house all you want. This is a pedantic reply, I know, but it's an important distinction to make.
      • by hazem (472289) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @11:10PM (#9766834) Journal
        he GPL only kicks in when you DISTRIBUTE your modifications.

        My thoughts exactly. Now suppose someone like Sveasoft wants to have beta testers of their product, and to become one, you pay $49. You're now part of the club and maybe could be considered part of the organization.

        So, they send you binaries to test. Are you considered internal to the organization now? Or is this an external distribution? If it's the former, they may not have to give you the source at all. And if they do give you the source, they could "kick you out of the club" if you chose to distribute that source that is in beta form. If it's the latter, then what actually constitutes "in-house" vs a public distribution?

        This issue will be of interest to many businesses considering working with FLOSS as part of their business model. Many could be uncomfortable with not-quite-finished versions of their software gaining world-wide distribution, especially when their name is attached to it. By forcing them to distribute source to their beta-versions, they really lose the ability to beta test with any more people than are actual employees. Losing beta testing could be a factor to decide against adopting FLOSS.

        On the other hand, by allowing beta "in-house" distributions, there is the risk of being perpetually in beta. Here, if someone wants the software at all, they put their name on a web form to become a "member". The software never exits "beta" and they never have to distribute their source code changes.
        • On the other hand, by allowing beta "in-house" distributions, there is the risk of being perpetually in beta. Here, if someone wants the software at all, they put their name on a web form to become a "member". The software never exits "beta" and they never have to distribute their source code changes

          This is a very good point. There are a lot of parallels between it and the "private club" drinking rules in some parts of the South. Basically, there are still cities that are so dry that you're not even all
    • by BJH (11355) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @10:33PM (#9766638)
      However, here's the catch: The GPL requires that the people who get the software must also be given the GPL as a license option that they may apply to the copy they just got. (The redistributor can offer any other license they want too, but they have to give the striaght-up unmodified GPL as another option if they do.) Therefore, only one person needs to pay the fee, and then, they can post the code for free download.

      Absolutely incorrect. The distributor can't relicense code that they don't own; the only license they can offer that software under is the GPL. Dual/multi licensing is only available as an option to the copyright holder.
  • GPL (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mfh (56)
    Say it isn't so!

    The thread summary at DSLReports only makes it clear that this is all very complicated.

    There's nothing complicated about this. It's all smoke.

    Sveasoft can track the subscribers who redistribute their binaries by attaching some kind of tag to each firmware binary (as demonstrated by the different MD5 sums found so far). This makes sense, considering Sveasoft thought TheIndividual was someone else at first. Arno Nym has done some work to try to find what the unique identifier is. It is u
    • Actually (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:34PM (#9766324)
      Everything was fine, up until they tried to prevent peopel from redistributing code. Last I checked, you had to pay to get the binary AND the source code. Nothing in the GPL says you have to give out the source, or binary, for free. It says that if you give out a binary, you have to give out the source. So you are free to charge for your software, but the source had better be on the disk as well (or available on the web).

      Where they cross the line is in trying to stop people from distributing modified version. Nope, sorry, can't do that. That's the "viral" part MS complains about. Even if your product costs money, someone is free to make their own version that does not for free, the GPL gaurentees that.

      This is really the thing that commercial companies worry the most about. Source distribution, though generally not done, isn't a big threat to most of them. The threat is then that with that source people are allowed to make their own versions of the product for free.

      However, as you said, if you can't deal with the GPL's rules, don't use GPL code. I have no sympathy. The redistribution part is real, real clear.
      • Re:Actually (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mfarver (43681) *
        Everything was fine, up until they tried to prevent peopel from redistributing code.

        I do not see any evidence they are trying to prevent people from redistributing the code. The Seavsoft follks see to be upset about other sites that make the seavsoft binaries available without the source.

        I just logged into seavsoft's site and as a paying licensee I can still download both the binaries and the source. Sveasoft is doing nothing wrong. as far as I can tell (and in fact already has a letter from the FSF
        • Re:Actually (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Aneurysm9 (723000)
          The problem with this line of thinking is that Sveasoft has no license to distribute the unmodified GPL'd portions of the source under any license other than the GPL. They can do whatever they want with their code, but if it's code they've obtained under the GPL and modified their only choice is to distribute under the GPL or not to distribute.
        • Re:Actually (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Theatetus (521747) *
          Sveasoft is using the GPL in a creative, but legal way.

          How is it even "creative"? It's explicitly allowed by the GPL, this point is clarified by a lot of the FSF's writings, and companies (like, for instance, the one I work for) have been doing it for a long time. We sell our GPL'd software for tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. Our customers have every right to redistribute it, but who's going to pay $10k to give something away?

    • Re:GPL (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dorlthed (700641)

      Sveasoft has changed their minds about offering the source code as a free download, and now only offers it on a CD sent through the mail for a price of $50. This seems to be a violation of the GPL, but we need to hear back from the FSF about that.

      Total violation. Off with their heads.

      What the fuck are you talking about? This is not even 'a little' violation. There's nothing in the GPL saying that you have to make the source code available through the cheapest way possible, or through the Internet. Y

  • If you read the GPL closely you will notice that it says that in exchange for adding a warranty you can charge for the product, it does not require you to make a version without a waranty availible. This is both a strength and weakness of the GPL, its what I've always hated but its why its commercially viable.
    • It's not that big a deal really.
      NO matter what they charge, someone can get it and resell it cheeper (or even give it away) since it's legal to do so once they get the source.

      They can charge $1000 for a warrenty if they want. Someone will pay it, and then pass it around though (just to spite them for charging $1000 probably)
  • Lawyers win (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Puls4r (724907) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:23PM (#9766253)
    There is no way out of this cycle. The lawyers will be getting rich, the "small" guys will still not have the $$$ to protect their GPL licenses in court, and the circle will continue, albeit viciously.
  • by Dozix007 (690662) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:24PM (#9766258)
    There are sadly many ways to get around GPL. One being the method they use by offering to ship the source only. This can be done in many different shapes to get around anything. You simply charge an irrate fee for packaging, documentation, or something of the sort. There are a few liscences that will not allow this, sadly they are not widely used.
    • Well, regardless of that being allowed, they clearly cannot stop redistribution. The GPL is painfully clear that that you MUST license your software under the GPL, it use GPL code. PArt of that is allowing people to redistribute their own versions, as you have done.

      The GPL doesn't say you can't charge for your derivitive work, you can, and people do. It just says that if someone wants to make a derivitive of your derivitive, they must be allowed to do so, and you can't control that.
    • There are sadly many ways to get around GPL ... You simply charge an irrate fee for packaging, documentation, or something of the sort.
      My understanding is, the point of the GPL isn't that everything has to be a free download! Rather, that once you acquire a copy of the source, you are free to redistribute it -- post it anywhere you want, etc. Or modify it, etc.
    • Not really.

      Think about it... Borrow a copy of the CD from some poor schmuck who bought it. Then post the code on the internet. It's legal, the GPL says so. Problem solved. Sheesh...if it was this easy to get around the GPL, You'd already be paying for SCO's next round of lawsuits.
  • Not a violation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CptChipJew (301983)
    Nowhere in the GPL does it say they HAVE to offer their software as a free download on the Internet.

    Furthermore, they are allowed to sell disc media based on "cost of materials". Yes 49.99 is a bit exorbitant, but well within their rights.

    This is why I've always felt the GPL needs to either be replaced or improved. Downloads on the Internet ought to be a requirement, as all GPL'd software involves an advanced enough audience that knows how to download software.
  • Sveasoft? (Score:4, Funny)

    by JohnTheFisherman (225485) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:25PM (#9766270)
    Isn't that a specific model of pillow at Ikea? :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I can't hear you! IP laws work both ways, bitches! Of course, this will get modded down by hypocrites, but then again this is Slashdot.
  • by toupsie (88295) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:26PM (#9766278) Homepage
    I run wifibox [sourceforge.net] instead of Sveasoft. Its GPL compliant and has SNMP. Hmmmm, pretty graphs [raxnet.net].
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:27PM (#9766281) Homepage Journal

    3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

    • b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

    Yes, you can choose to distribute using an ftp server, but how exactly does one go about recovering their distribution costs that way? By putting it on a CD and charging for snail mail at least you can break even on your distribution costs. Of course, why they don't just put the CD in the box with the router is beyond me.

    • They could always claim the physical cost of distribution was $50 - after all, there's the handling charge!

      But, if this went to court, no reasonable jury would believe an argument that it costs $50 to make and ship a CD. I mean, AOL does it for pennies, SveaSoft can do it for $10. It is SveaSoft's decision to decide how they want to distribute the source, though, so them not putting it up for download is fair game.

      However, it seems to me that the bigger problem is that they're supposedly tagging the binar
      • Ummm no. In no way does the GPL state that you have to release the tools that you used to make a binary from the corresponding source code. If you did you'd have to release your compiler, your linker, your OS, your hex editor. Hell, even your text editor. Tagging the code is a total non-GPL issue.
    • Except that when they distribute the object code to subscribers, it *IS* accompanied by the source code (another file available from the same server in the same directory). This satisifies section 3a of the GPL.

      A distributor only has to satisify ONE of sections 3a, 3b, and 3c. Since Sveasoft satisfies section 3a, they are not required to satisfy section 3b, and 3b is the only section that requires that an offer be made to third parties.

      • That's pretty cool, I'll have to remember that one.
      • I wrote:

        Except that when they distribute the object code to subscribers, it *IS* accompanied by the source code (another file available from the same server in the same directory). This satisifies section 3a of the GPL.

        The part that I was missing is that this is no longer true. Future binary releases will not be accompanied by source releases. So they will in fact be relying on section 3b. However, they've also said that they will only sell the source code CD to subscribers who have paid for the bin

    • what shipping method are they using that costs $49 to ship a CD?!
  • by oasisbob (460665) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:41PM (#9766362)
    As the (amazed) owner of a Linksys WRT54G, I've been following this issue for a while, but not as closely as some other have, I'm sure. Here are my impressions.

    Sveasoft is indeed walking the line of GPL compliance, but they're doing a good job at it. The firmware they produce is quickly adding features with very fast release cycles. They welcome community involvement with the firmware and accept new features and patches readily.

    Because the firmware is being used by many people who don't use Linux normally, the GPL is new to most of them. Early posts in the Sveasoft forums confirm this, calling the original whistle-blowers "GPL whiners," as if people asking for GPL compliance were simply cheap. Little did they realize that Sveasoft is building on Linksys who built upon GPL software to begin with.

    Why should Sveasoft get money for something which is mostly configuration and frontend polishes of what the original programmers created?

    Because they do it really well. They provide the service which falls perfectly into a "profit for the service, not the product" business model. I use Linux heavily, but I'm really not interested in cross-compiling source code which could easily turn my $70 router into a brick. Yes, I can reflash it by cracking the case and setting up a tftp server -- but It's just not something I want to mess with. To me the $20 they ask for an annual subscription (including informal tech support) is worth it.

    I would check out a sourceforge fork if it was created and developed, but I am skeptical that it could match the features of the Sveasoft firmware.

    They've developed a good community, and I'm not too bothered that it's slightly off the beaten path of the normal Open Source development process.
    • I used to work for a company that provided a customised Linux distro as part of our service offering. On a fairly regular basis, someone would start screaming in our forums when we wouldn't give them our source code for free. These people didn't read the GPL, which clearly states:

      * that you can charge a fee for the transfer of the source,

      * and that you only have to distribute the source with the binary.

      Others, of course, can do what they wish with the source. So James seems to be skirting the intent, if
    • By buying this subscription I've paid for the rights to versions say A, B, C and D all of which must be GPLed. B, C, D are future releases, but I've paid for them and I have rights to receive them. I then choose to exercise my GPL rights to distribute my version A. Upon hearing this Sveasoft tells me I've violated their subscription license and have lost my subscription rights to B, C, D. But since I have already paid for B, C, and D and the GPL applies to them I still have GPL rights to the source. I ha
  • by Anonymous Coward
    James Ewing is really Derek Smart!

    Let's compare:

    1) HUGE Ego - check

    2) Marginal talent - check

    3) extremely sensitive to criticism - check

    4) greedy - check

    Anyone check if he claims to have a PHD?

    Seriously, this guy has got issues. He bans people on his boards, he keeps changing the rules on what he wants, he IS violating the GPL and he just seems to be an all-around greedy dick. I was just ready to give him the $20 because I got some cash and Satori 4.0 works pretty well for me but fuck th

  • by Eric Smith (4379) * <eric@brouhaha. c o m> on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:51PM (#9766415) Homepage Journal
    The essential point is then that Sveasoft stopped people distributing source.
    But Sveasoft has NOT stopped people from distributing source. They sell a subscription. Anyone who buys the subscription gets the opportunity to download binaries and sources. As per the GPL, Sveasoft does NOT prevent redistribution of the source. However, they will terminate your subscription if you redistribute the source.

    That policy does not conflict with the GPL in any way, because the GPL does not require Sveasoft to provide subscriptions.

  • I sense tableware (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @09:59PM (#9766467) Homepage
    If Sveasoft wishes to restrict access to their software, then it might be a good idea for someone to stick a fork in the project. [registers Sfreeasoft.com]
  • by mctanis (319096) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @10:10PM (#9766510)
    This is quoted directly from the Sveasoft Forums.

    > Okay, so here is the Sveasoft business model, as I understand it:
    >
    > 1. Sveasoft produces GPL'ed code which runs on a GNU/Linux based
    > router.
    >
    > 2. Sveasoft distributes pre-releases of their software on a
    > subscription
    > basis and provides priority support to the subscribers.
    >
    > 3. The pre-releases are offered under the GPL and subscribers are
    > entitled
    > to distribute them publicly if desired.
    >
    > 4. If a subscriber *does* redistribute the pre-release code
    > publicly,
    > before it becomes a production release, they are considered to
    > have
    > "forked" the code and do not receive future pre-releases under
    > the
    > subscription program.
    >
    > 5. Once a pre-release works its way through the testing program
    > and
    > becomes a production release, it is made available under the
    > GPL for
    > public download, both "free-as-in-speech" and "free-as-in-
    > beer".
    >
    > James, please step in here if I've missed anything, or if I haven't
    > accurately characterized some piece of the above.
    >
    > I look forward to getting the FSF compliance lab's feedback on
    > Sveasoft's
    > business model. Thanks for your help!

    > Hi Rob,
    >
    > I would just underscore that whenever we distribute binaries they are
    > *always* accompanied by the source code.
    >
    > Subscribers are free to do whatever they like with the pre-releases
    > with the proviso that if they distribute it publicly we are not
    > responsible for support and they need to develop the code further
    > themselves from that point forward.

    I see no problems with this model. If the software is licensed under the GPL, and you distribute the source code with the binaries (as opposed to making an offer for source code), you are under no obligation to supply future releases to anyone.

    Please be clear that the subscription is for the support and distribution and not for a license.

    Peter Brown
    GPL Compliance Manager
  • You must make the code freely (ie to anyone) available, but you may charge a reasonable fee for the service.
  • Somewhat off-topic, but does anyone have any screenshots, or a demo site for the sceasoft firmware?
    I'd love to take a look at what they have to offer, without comitting to the software..

    -Colin
  • If you look at all the FAQs on Sveasoft's site, they make it clear that, if a pre-release build gets out, since the code is GPL, they're not going to stop it. At the same time, however, the first people who get to see that code happen to be the pay the subscription.

    I payed for a subscription, because the stock firmware on my Belkin router is AWEFUL. I probably could've found the modified firmware (even the pre-release binaries and source) on any number of websites if I cared, but paying $20 a year isn't
  • by da_anarchist (548175) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @10:44PM (#9766707)
    I'm sure I'm not the only one pissed at them. First, non-subscribers are not allowed to download the newest version of their firmware for the Linksys WRT54G wireless router. You must pay $20 for the prviledge or use the release that is about six months out of date. Fine, I understand that they have bills to pay too, just as long as they don't slip on the release schedule for the free version (blatant GPL violation non-withstanding).

    Now, here's the part which burns me. As of last Sunday, access to the Sveasoft website [sveasoft.com] has been discontinued for those not paying their $20 yearly fee. Before that, you could download the free version of their firmware from them or check out their forum for troubleshooting etc. No more. Non-subscribers can't even browse - instead we are told that "Sorry, but only users granted special access can read topics in this forum." Sveasoft says that we should try linksysinfo.org instead, yet the amount of information there is sorely lacking. Furthermore, the admin there would make George Orwell proud - any hearsay about Sveasoft will get your IP banned and your message promptly thrown into the void. Straight from the horse's mouth:

    "It is not a "I hate Sveasoft for closing his site" debate. Anyone thinking and debating that issue will be have a Temporary ban, as I have better things to do than listen to people whinged about why sveasoft closed and the GPL Issues."

    Sveasoft themselves tolerate no dissent either, a poster at linksysinfo.org reported [linksysinfo.org] that after reporting a bug in the firmware, they banned him for "an attempt to create a flame and is against our posting guidelines. Should you wish to create further problems I will contact the authorities in Germany and report that you are criminally trespassing in our computer systems. It is up to you. Go ahead - make my day." Yikes! Not very nice people, are they?

    I could go on and on, like how Sveasoft masquerades as an average user in his forums and on linksysinfo.org helpfully suggesting we contribute $20 for their wonderful firmware (that's right, I'm talking about YOU Wolf!), but the fact is that this is totally against the spirit of Open Source and that it is a shame that such a promising project has been ruined by greed.
  • by isd_glory (787646) * on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @10:47PM (#9766718)
    From the forum:
    Just to lay everyone's fears at rest I will find a fair way of making source code available to subscribers at no charge via the Internet. It is unfortunate that some folks need to make things difficult for everyone but with a little ingenuity we can hamstring the troublemakers without harming the majority. I will have a solution by Monday available to all subscribers.

    I will leave the announcement about the $50 USD charge up. Anyone coming in externally demanding source will have to fork over the distribution and shipping fee.
  • by stvangel (638594) on Wednesday July 21, 2004 @11:39PM (#9767034)
    I'm not affiliated with Sveasoft, although I'm running their firmware on two access points of mine. I've browsed their forums, and while I'm not a subscriber I've considered it. Much of this discussion appears to be misleading of the actual facts as I see them.

    Sveasoft modified the GPL'd Linksys firmware adding a lot of features, capabilities and bug fixes. Originally, the firmware and source code were freely available on the Sveasoft ftp site. There were usually two versions: a work-in-progress and a latest-stable-release. The work-in-progress was exactly that - new features that may or may not be working, old features that might be broken, and miscellaneous instabilities or anomalies. The source code for the work-in-progress was not always available, but then people were told not to use the work-in-progress unless they had a specific reason to do so. People were told to download the stable release unless they were willing to help test the unstable version or put up with it's limitations.

    Tech support was handled on the forums. This worked pretty well for knowledgable people, but became increasingly difficult when people would download the work-in-progress and then have things that wouldn't work. A few months ago, several individuals started complaining about GPL responsibilities and demanded the source-code to the work-in-progress be posted. This despite the fact the work-in-progress wasn't an actual release, but a testing copy.

    Sveasoft became disillusioned by the amount of vitriol and demands from these annoying individuals and decided to switch to a subscription basis for the prerelease versions. The source code and binaries for release versions would still be available for download, but the bleeding edge would only be available to people who paid the $20/year subscription or worked out an arrangement with Sveasoft. They said they'd be more than happy to waive the fee if you were contributing something to the effort. That could be help with coding, writing documentation, online support, testing features, or many other ways to assist their efforts. Propose something to them.

    They never refused to release the source code. They release the source code when they do an actual release of the firmware, when it's nice and stable and working. Sveasoft has said everybody can freely redistribute the release versions of their firmware and source code. They've never said that you cannot redistribute the pre-release versions, but that if you do, you've basically forked the code and it's your release now. You provide all support and further maintainance on it and you forfeit your subscription to future prerelease versions.

    None of this I have a problem with. It's an unreleased version of the code; they shouldn't be expected to support it. If one of my beta testers leaks my code to the internet, I'm certainly not going to be sympathetic if someone downloads it and has problems with it and calls my tech support for help. Why should Sveasoft? They've done a nice service to the community and released many versions of firmware that are greatly advanced over the standard Linksys versions. It's annoying when a few obnoxious weekend-lawyers try to nickel-and-dime the literal words of the GPL rather than respect the intentions and values of the people who wrote it. Nothing Sveasoft has done persuades me that they have anything other than these values at heart and that they're being unfairly singled out for persecution. It's unfortunate that a few annoying individuals have to ruin things for the rest of us.

    I wish Sveasoft the best of luck going forward, and congratulate them on what they've accomplished so far.
    • A few months ago, several individuals started complaining about GPL responsibilities and demanded the source-code to the work-in-progress be posted. This despite the fact the work-in-progress wasn't an actual release, but a testing copy.

      How do you mean, "despite"? You are describing a blatant GPL violation. The GPL does not distinguish between "testing copies" and "official releases". Any distribution of binaries must be accompanied by the availability of the corresponding source code, period.

      No wonder

  • by know2much (37539) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @01:59AM (#9767589)
    Money for support and the code is free

    Do not let all the flames fool you, this is my real experience with Svasoft:

    Sveasoft is not charging $20 dollars for the binaries. The binaries are free.

    Svaesoft is charging $20 dollars for access to the support forums. Nothing ilegal there. I paid $20 dollars and the support and I am more than happy with what I got.

    There are two types of binaries:

    1) Stable firmware is released for free in binary form, just as many Linux distributions are available for free. Yu can dwonload those right now from the Linksysinfo.org site. If you want the source code of the freely availabe stable releases you can buy it via a $50 dollar CD, if the $50 were really substantialy above the real cost of generating and shipping the CD, there would be a market of people who would profit from re-distributing that seme CD for less, as anyone can do that under the GPL terms. It happens all the time with all major Linux Distributions.

    2) Pre-release bianaries are shared only with forum suscribers (but still free). Forum suscribers are allowed access to the source code (I am a subscriber and just to check I re-downloaded the latest Alchemy pre-release 5.1 10 minutes minutes ago). According to the GPL I can redistribute the binaries and the source code. Sveasoft support agreement says that if I decide to re-distribute myself I terminate my support contract (not my rights and obligations to re-distribute according to the GPL terms), and that Sveasoft has no obligation to support the people to which I decided to re-distribute.

    Svasoft has not re-written a single iota of the GPL license. He only wrote the terms of his support agreement, and those terms do not contradict or oppose the GPL in any way, as the GPL does not dictate support terms. Sveasoft is respecting every letter of the GPL license.

    All the fuss is being generated by people who misunderstand the GPL, the GPL does not mean free (as in bear) support, it means access to the source code and the freedom to modify, fork your own code and/or re-distribute. You have the freedom to buy support from anyone, or support that yourself, or to make money supporting it for others. You have the right to fork the code if you want and create your own distribution.

    Sveasoft understood better than most the GPL and how to create a support model that does not depend on charity and where slackers do not get an absolutely free ride. Yet even slackers get a great deal from stable firmware.

    He figured how to get the benefits of GPL code without many of the perils of the "tragedy of the commons".

    Despite all the moaning and groaning we are hearing, this is actually a very good development for the GPL community. A sustainable model to support the devolopment of more GPL software.

    People who are willing to spend time and money to debug bleeding edge software, have now found a way to build a community that supports itself and its key developer. The entry barrier is incredibly low, $20 dollars, but despite the low $20 barrier, that seems to have been enought to exclude all of those that make a lot of noise but no real contribution to the GPL community. They are mostly posting flames here and at DSL Reports, while the Sveasoft forums are getting more quiet and productive as the community is being self selected and more focused.

    Real men and gals that want to support and develop the GPL commons, are very happy and working as hard as ever to develop great new features. Anyone with time and $20 dollars can join the effort.

    Once the firmware is stable and debuged it will be contributed back to the greater commons. If for any reason Svasoft wanted to delay that, i am sure someone in the fourm, will decide to quit his/her support and contribute the code to the community ( I know I would), but I am also confident that Svasoft will do that, as he did very recently with the 4.0 firmware.

    Do not let the noise fool you, the GPL is safe and getting stronger.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:24AM (#9768229)
      Ok let me try to explain it to you.
      It is not about GPL violations. It is about the way Sveasoft reacts to the legal act of redistribution.
      After I posted a binary of Alchemy 5.1 they send me threat emails, lied to my mail provider to get the account banned, lied to my webhost ("pirated versions") and got that account banned.
      I am sick of Sveasoft's fanboys pretending that everyone else is a cheap bastard just because we stand up for our rights. It's fine with me if Sveasoft charges 1.000$ for a firmware binary as long as they let people pass it on freely.

      If you're still not convinced read the emails that James send me.
      A nice quote:
      "You really should do some background research on who you are fucking with. I will eventually find out exactly who you are and where you live and
      then we're gonna have some real fun."

      http://wrt54g.streamfire.net/ [streamfire.net]

  • Here's the skinny: (Score:3, Informative)

    by altaic (559466) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:40AM (#9767720)
    Alright, there is a lot of confusion about what exactly Sveasoft is asking of their customers, as well as what the GPL requires. There are two issues: the fact that there are two interacting agreements, and the fact that distribution of source might be different than binary.

    First issue:

    Here are the two agreements:

    1. Source/Binary license -- GPL.
    2. Extra services and support -- subscription agreement

    Saying "one's a software license and the other's a service agreement," is vacuous and misleading. What matters is how the two interact. The service agreement puts restrictions on the GPL. It's not allowed to do that (Preamble from the GPL):

    "To protect your rights, we need to make restrictions that forbid anyone to deny you these rights or to ask you to surrender the rights. These restrictions translate to certain responsibilities for you if you distribute copies of the software, or if you modify it."

    And from the Terms and Conditions of the GPL:

    "6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein. You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to this License."

    Now, Sveasoft's service agreement says that if a subscriber exercises their right to distribute the source, as given by the GPL, their subscription will be terminated. Hence, the "further restrictions" which "ask you to surrender the rights" given by the GPL. It not made any more plain than that.

    Thus, Sveasoft is in violation of the GPL.

    Second issue:

    Sveasoft is asking $50 to send a CD containing the source of pre-releases by snail-mail. As far as I know, they are not distributing binaries of the pre-releases in a different manner, so it's a non-issue.

    For instance, I have modified GPL code on my computer, but I am not required to give it to people, for free or otherwise. I'm only required to give someone the source if I've given them the binary.

    If they gave away the binaries and charged for the source, that would be a violation. Or if they charged for the binary and charged again for the source. But AFAIK, they do not. As the source always accompanies the binaries, it's not a problem.

    Conclusion:

    Sveasoft is in violation of the GPL, due to the first issue but not the second issue.

    • The service agreement puts restrictions on the GPL. It's not allowed to do that

      It certainly doesn't. You're still free to redistribute as much as you like. Just as they are free NOT to distribute any update or new code to you afterwards.

      Nowhere does the GPL state that you must redistribute your code to everybody. It simply says that if you distribute it to someone, even at a price (provided the source is included), you must allow them to redistribute it under the GPL - which is the case with that model.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 22, 2004 @03:13AM (#9767829)
    Hello everybody.
    Sorry I join this discussion so late. I might be the one who got that debate started.
    My story is not a short one which is why I posted it on a website.
    A quick overview: offered binary for download, got serious threat emails from Sveasoft about it, they had my webhost cancel the account, my email provider delete my mailaccount and more: they claimed publically that I was defaming them just because I posted their emails.
    Read the entire story, it's worth it.
    It tells a lot about James Ewing.
    TheIndividual

    http://www.30mb.com/x/annejuul/ [30mb.com]

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