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GNU is Not Unix

Sigma Designs Accused of Copyright Infringement 417

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

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

    by DigitalCH ( 582593 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:03PM (#4121524)
    Why did they stop coding though? So what someone is stealing your stuff... Sue them.. ignore them... but don't stop...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:03PM (#4121527)
    But, geez, this really tops the list. Talk about adding insult to injury.
  • GPL Powerless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Skuto ( 171945 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:08PM (#4121575) Homepage
    This is why I avoid using the GPL as much as possible for my own work: if someone infringes upon it, they can just ignore your complaints and take an 'so sue me' attitude.

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

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

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

    by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:08PM (#4121579)
    If this is true, it doesn't surprise me at all. It was only ever going to be a matter of time before a corp violated the GPL. I mean, there's a huge amount of free code out there - if you're looking at what would be for your project 6 months work right in front of you, ready to use, the temptation just to "accidentally" include it must be tremendous.

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

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

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

    by gorilla ( 36491 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:10PM (#4121603)
    if someone infringes upon it, they can just ignore your complaints and take an 'so sue me' attitude.

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

  • by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:10PM (#4121610) Homepage
    It's pretty damning.

    Makes you wonder how often companies silently steal code .. any famous examples from the past that never received widespread attention? I'm asking about GPL'd source specifically. I'm aware there is tons of BSD licence'd code in commercial projects, but the licence, being Bill Gates' wet dream, allows for this, right?
  • I think... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mhore ( 582354 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:11PM (#4121616)
    that any fair court would (provided XVID had the funds for a legal battle....doubtful...) see that there is obviously something bad going on here. I think (as others have mentioned) that this would be a good time to really test the GPL in court. Is the FSF interested?

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


  • wow (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:13PM (#4121630)
    What would happen if I had stolen Microsoft code and released it for a free software project. Would they have kindly asked me over and over and over again to stop? Would they say, "please?"
  • Re:Any Questions? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Otterley ( 29945 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:16PM (#4121659)
    No sense wasting your time; I can all but guarantee you the conversation will go something like this:

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

    A: "We're not aware of any court filings pertaining to the matter, so no, we have no comment."
  • by gimpboy ( 34912 ) <john@m@harrold.gmail@com> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:18PM (#4121678) Homepage
    I know it's posted anonymously, but this news release is important background that is not attainable through the links of the original post.

    if by not attainable you mean that clicking on the link to xvid.org then clicking on the press releases in the files section is an impossible feat, then yes the information is not attainable throught the links in the original post. it is indeed a harsh reality.

    how about the unattainable information in pdf [xvid.org] format.

    for more unattainable information i would goto this oracle of truth [google.com]
  • by njdj ( 458173 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:20PM (#4121698)
    Are they going to sue the b*st*rds?

    (If they need a donation to help them do that - they have only to ask, as far as I'm concerned.)
  • Tempting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:29PM (#4121777)
    I was tempted to do a sarcastic post about Sigma being a genuine American company bringing real dollars into the US economy, but decided that it had been done already :) Still, I'd like to vent about what I perceive as a giant hipocracy on the part of corporate America. They define "stealing" to include making backup copies, but feel perfectly free to actually infringe on other people's copyrights.
  • by __aahlyu4518 ( 74832 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:35PM (#4121836)
    I see posts with a +5 insightful here that are just saying that they are evil and should be burned for violating the GPL. Ehmm... whatever happened to 'innocent until proven guilty' ? I thought we had courts for that. They say they have proof, and put in on their web. So it is true then because someone with software that has a GPL license says so ? c'mon people... I agree that it is news, but it is not a conviction.
  • Re:Sue them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) <jhummel&johnhummel,net> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:36PM (#4121850) Homepage

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

    We are the GPL. We are the ones who use it, live it breath it - and if we are truly a community that believes that the sharing of ideas is more powerful then the hording of them, then we must be the ones to pay for its support.
  • Re:Tempting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Software ( 179033 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:38PM (#4121869) Homepage Journal
    Call me guilty of feeding the trolls, but to make generalizations like "giant hipocracy [sic] on the part of corporate America" is completely asinine. Individuals can be guilty of hypocrisy, as can groups with a defined mission, but "Corporate America" is neither of these. You might as well say that homo sapiens are hypocritical because some are opposed to murder and some are murderers. Grow up, learn the meaning of hypocrisy, or both.
  • by StevenMaurer ( 115071 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @05:05PM (#4122116) Homepage
    It wouldn't work. This is a case of civil copyright infringement, not the penalty phase of a felony conviction.

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

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

    Believe me when I say that Sigma Designs will fold like a house of cards if they do that. At one time they had such a bad reputation with distributors, they had a terrible time just getting their products out on the shelves. Assuming little has changed (and this episode convinces me it hasn't) it wouldn't take much to have them get dropped completely. And that would hurt them where it hurts the most - in the pocketbook.
  • Or don't (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Fencepost ( 107992 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @05:06PM (#4122133) Journal
    Hell, ask Stallman, he's always looking for a pulpit.

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

  • Bit packing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by oneiric ( 603250 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @05:13PM (#4122185)

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

  • by realgone ( 147744 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @05:23PM (#4122280)
    Ehmm... whatever happened to 'innocent until proven guilty'?
    This only applies if people tend to say things like "All rise" or "The Honorable <YOUR NAME HERE> presiding" whenenver you walk in a room. Otherwise, your average citizen* has every right to form an opinion of culpability based on the available evidence and respond accordingly (within the limits of the law). Lacking this, the whole concept of citizen activism would be pointless.

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

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

  • Re:What I like... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by darkwiz ( 114416 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @05:28PM (#4122341)
    Near the end of the comparison document is a section that was hand optimized in assembly. The only differences are the names of the registers, and a few things are reversed.

    That, to me, is the most damning of all the evidence. Directory structure: oh, we were inspired by their structure. Compiled code: optimization conincidence. But coming up with a hand optimized assembly code of that length, and having it accidentally that close - not in a million years.
  • by Sancho ( 17056 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @06:00PM (#4122640) Homepage
    Ignoring them won't help (not sure why you suggested that--if MS used GPL code, say, the kernal, instead of developing their own idea, you'd say ignore them?).

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

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

    Not in the US. In fact, nearly every statement you made doesn't apply to the US. Filing criminal charges falls into criminal. Filing a lawsuit almost always falls into civil. Also, in the US you are not, by default, liable for the other parties legal fees. This is one of the problems some people have with the system here. Civil court cases are indeed expensive, but if the loser was required to pay the winner's legal fees, you'd see a lot more lawyers willing to work on a loan, particularly when they're sure they can win given enough time.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @06:43PM (#4122988) Journal
    No sense wasting your time; I can all but guarantee you the conversation will go something like this:

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

    A: "We're not aware of any court filings pertaining to the matter, so no, we have no comment."

    Perhaps you will get that answer, but you may make other shareholders aware of it and start thinking about if they should still own stock.

    That will get the company's attention better then anything.

    It's better than that.

    Conference calls are for analysts, i.e. reporters for the financial media and stock brokers. ANYONE can call in. (But you'll be asked for your affiliation. I recommend one of our big guns be the questioner - like somebody from FSF.)

    Ask that question and the whole financial media community will hear it as:

    XVID says you stole your core technology from them. They're about to sue. Since it's a GPL case they may have a well-endowed foundation and several large companies that are dependent on GPL for their business models to front the fees and several law professors to do pro-bono work for them as they litigate the enforcability of the GPL, with you funding the anti-GPL side. They'll also have the entire software community spreading the word that your technology is stolen, to your customers and distributors.

    What effect will this have on your stock price?

    There IS no good answer. So:

    The brokers will call their customers and tell 'em to dump ahead of the rush.

    The funds will just dump right away and try to beat the brokers to the market.

    The analysts will write scathing articles about the stock for the financial papers and shows.

    And their stock tanks. Even if the company survives the executives' stock options turn into wallpaper.

    And that's BEFORE you get around to actually filing a suit. B-)

    I'd go out and short 'em right now (or buy puts) - except that the software codec is not their core product. So they can clean up their act by releasing the source to the software codec under GPL before the conference call.

    And the news (including links to XVID's smoking gun and the fact that slashdot has this item already) is already on the Yahoo SIGM [yahoo.com] stock discussion board. So it will already be factored into the price by the time I could trade. B-(

  • by LinuxGeek ( 6139 ) <djand.nc@NosPAM.gmail.com> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @07:36PM (#4123300)
    Why stop releasing new code? Did you think about this question before asking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sigma coder: Busily prepares his resume.

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

  • by Eric Damron ( 553630 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @10:18PM (#4124039)
    Well this is not the first or the last time a company seeking a quick buck through the theft of IP will occur.

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

    To whom it may concern.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you.

    Eric L. Damron
  • by Artifex ( 18308 ) on Friday August 23, 2002 @01:43AM (#4124793) Journal
    What really sucks is that this press release implies that Sigma created the software, and is now giving it away.

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

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

    Then again, if you look at the history if DivX;-), you'll see references to a hacked Microsoft codec, too, and that quite likely was not GPL =)
  • by turnstyle ( 588788 ) on Friday August 23, 2002 @09:26AM (#4125772) Homepage
    I disagree - a story about a breach of the GPL is in fact a story about the GPL. Perhaps you understand all the implications of the license but I'd bet that a *majority* of younger programmers don't.

    Before this thread, I had not thought about the legal defense issues. It's another thing to consider when deciding whether to GPL or not.

    You might be a big fan of the GPL, but telling me to shut up and calling me a whiner doesn't make a very strong point.

  • by grnbrg ( 140964 ) <slashdot@NOSpaM.grnbrg.org> on Friday August 23, 2002 @10:31AM (#4126143)
    Yeah, they've released the source. Weeee! But there's still a nasty click through to get it --

    License. This Software is licensed by Sigma, free of charge, to you as end user solely for the purpose of building ISO MPEG-4 compatible content for your own use. This license to you is personal, non-transferable, non-exclusive, and without right to sublicense the use of the Software. You may NOT modify, prepare derivative works of, rent, lease, distribute, sublicense, sell or transfer the Software or any part thereof.

    And added to all (most?) of the source code files --

    Copyright © 2002 Sigma Designs, Inc. All Rights Reserved

    Source and object code (Copyright Sigma Designs 2002) may be covered by one or more pending patents.

    (GPL header stuff)

    Sigma Designs, Inc. www.sigmadesigns.com

    This code inspired by the XVID MPEG-4 VIDEO CODEC

    Although I think the best bit comes again from their Click-thru licence to get the source --

    You also expressly agree that you will not violate any copyright of a third party or Sigma in your use of the Software.

    Bwahahahaha. Do as I say, not as I do!



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