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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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  • How retarded. (Score:0, Interesting)

    by inteller ( 599544 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:07PM (#4121567)
    So this is how you enforce a GNU license....you stop coding? Wow....that's really gonna hurt them. Now that they have most of the code they don't need them anymore. They'll just make a few tweaks to make it proprietary and call it version 2 and be done with it.
  • Sue them (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RailGunner ( 554645 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:07PM (#4121569) Journal
    This is a good opportunity to show just how enforcable the GPL is. If Sigma is using GPL'd code, and not giving proper credit and opening the source, then civil action should be taken.

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

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

  • Re:Why stop coding? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ethereal ( 13958 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:09PM (#4121598) Journal

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

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

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

    by Rick the Red ( 307103 ) <Rick.The.Red@AUDENgmail.com minus poet> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:21PM (#4121716) Journal
    Unfortunately, the FSF has no legal standing to bring suit because they are not the copyright holders. I hate to say it, but in this case the bully just chased XVID off the playground, and kept their ball. If the XVID guys won't stand up to the bullies, the bullies win.

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

    by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:22PM (#4121726)
    Tell that to Avery Lee [virtualdub.org] who got his code stolen. The FSF was very helpful in forcing the individuals who stole it to comply with GNU terms.

    Being that Xvid is a larger project than Virtual Dub, I would be highly surprised to not see the FSF step in at some point.
  • Re:I'm not surprised (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LMCBoy ( 185365 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:23PM (#4121733) Homepage Journal
    Has the FSF stated that it will defend any GPL'd code in court? IIRC, they said they would defend any software for which they hold the copyright, although they would probably provide legal assistance to others (and it is certainly in their interest to do so). Can anyone correct or confirm this?
  • by Jeffv323 ( 317436 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:27PM (#4121759)
    ... that XVID is DIVX backwards?
  • Re:Why stop coding? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:28PM (#4121770)
    Uh, so someone doesn't have a free lunch off your code? These folks released the code under the GPL, not BSD, license. If code was taken, it should be called on.

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

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

    It's probably the best solution for them.
  • Re:Why stop coding? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fixxx ( 228080 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:56PM (#4122025)
    Because it`s their only weapon, they do not have the resources to sue a big corp.
    The only way to pressure them is to (hopefully temporary) stop development of xvid. By ignoring & continueing development you would give them a free ride.
    "Hey now we can use GPL source from other projects too, they don`t sue anyway ! And those code monkeys keep improving it for free ;p "
  • by jukal ( 523582 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @04:58PM (#4122043) Journal
    I don't have anything against the GPL license, it surely has it's own (maybe even big) place in the software universe.

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

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

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

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

    by garf ( 12900 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @05:18PM (#4122234) Homepage
    ...a lawyer in the house...
  • by Myria ( 562655 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @05:21PM (#4122265)
    In the early days of the original PlayStation, Sony and SN Systems took GCC and modified it to become a compiler for PlayStation. However, SN Systems made a number of additional modifications, such as by adding dongle-based copy protection to protect "their" work. This crap finally stopped a few years later when game developers complained and Richard Stallman got involved. This incident is rarely heard about because PSX game development was under NDA. However, an NDA that covers GCC is illegal, because it would restrict the rights of the next user to copy GCC (thus automatically revoking Sony's right to copy GCC). The PlayStation 2 compiler is now distributed with clear notice that the GCC and binutils portions are under GPL and not covered by the NDA. They also come with source code. They are in fact the same source tree for professional developers as the GCC used in PS2 Linux. myria
  • It's not a slam dunk (Score:4, Interesting)

    by btempleton ( 149110 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @05:24PM (#4122294) Homepage
    Did the authors register their copyright? They need to do that to get statutory damages. If they did, the statutory damages could be extremely high, and so you would have a case for Sigma to fear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Could be. Could not be.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2002 @05:26PM (#4122311)

    If they can prove it was willfull infringement
    for commercial gain (which seems obvious in this
    case, especially given the cease-and-desist
    orders), it is a criminal act (see below), and the responsible party can be imprisoned for up to
    a year. (q.v. TITLE 18, sec 2319.)

    Unfortunately, the "big penalties" would only
    apply if XVID had retail value.

    TITLE 17 CH 5 Sec 506:
    (a) Criminal Infringement. -

    Any person who infringes a copyright willfully either -


    for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain, or


    by the reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of 1 or more copies or phonorecords of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $1,000,

    shall be punished as provided under section 2319 of title 18, United States Code. For purposes of this subsection, evidence of reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work, by itself, shall not be sufficient to establish willful infringement.

  • Re:Why stop coding? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by klparrot ( 549422 ) <klparrot@hotmail.3.1415926com minus pi> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @05:26PM (#4122315)
    I'm not sure why they stopped coding, but I can understand (possibly) why they stopped distributing the codec. If you look at the project website, you'll see that they advise you to contact Sigma Designs, who will be legally required to give you a copy. This puts more pressure on Sigma Designs, and if they refuse to give out copies of the codec, it provides the XVID team even more ammunition to use against Sigma Designs in a lawsuit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2002 @05:46PM (#4122513)

    This is Cygnus, I just had a nice chat with FSF's lawyer and we've agreeded to write off the software to FSF as of 6 pm today (August 22 2002 - Thur). Hopefully, this should help in a major way. I'm delighted by the number of people who wrote encouraging e-mails and good suggestions, hell, it feels good to know that the community is behind us.

    Also, contrary to what some people have been thinking, closing the project is only temporary (till the issues are closed), we are not bending down for any corporation that has stolen our code. Also, I'd like to thank Darell Kruger of AMD for his and his company's generous donation, we are forwarding all this to our FSF council.

    Also note, SIGMA Design's code is being used by a number of RIAA endosed hardware and software solutions (mainly DVD players from Panasonic and Daewoo), hopefully this would turn interesting, since the the most recent players are using their 1.1 code already. I would like to hear from people who own such players. Since we'd like to go at the harware manifacturars and possibly the cartel itself.

    Please join our mailing list if you have any more suggestions (as my e-mail is completely full) and our little server might go foo-bar if we keep it at it.

    Thank you.

    Eric "Cygnus" Von Jane
  • unanswered question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @05:53PM (#4122564) Homepage Journal
    why have they ceased development? that's the part of the article I don't get. I guess they're pissed, but why stop working on the thing, is there a specific reason I missed?
  • by Sancho ( 17056 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @06:17PM (#4122798) Homepage
    Check this thread out , though:
    http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?s=& threadid= 32015

    I spoke to a manager at Sigma Designs over the phone a couple weeks ago, and he basically verified the accusation - a programmer "mistakenly" based their MPEG-4 codec around XviD, added a few patches, changed the interface (but not by much), then released it as their own. We were informed that they were replacing all GPL'ed code with their own, to avoid a licensing problem (even though copyright infringement had already occurred, of course).

    After that, version 1.1 came out, which was a complete slap in the face. Supposedly "rewritten", it was nothing but a different checkout of XviD with a few registers changed and some code reordered.

    Should be an interesting few days.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2002 @06:33PM (#4122922)
    Just a thought, but can Xvid be sued by sigma instead ? Because their license agreement says users may not disassemble or reverse engineer their software and Xvid has posted disassembled informatio.
  • by evilpaul13 ( 181626 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @06:57PM (#4123083)
    "Will they consider it enforceable if the licence says "use this code without my permission and you must give away all the source code to everything you bundled with it"? Also in doubt."

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

    If you take my code, compile it, and sell it, that doesn't make it yours.
  • Just because I'm not charging cash for something doesn't mean that it's not valuable -- or that there isn't a 'price' associated with access.

    Software distributed with the GPL is not without cost The 'price' of using GPL code is that if you make changes to the code, you can't distribute the modified object code without also distributing the modified source code.

    (I.E. the price is your derivative code).

    In any case, these people are stealing copyright code without permission. Since they're charging for it, then they are liable for both the price they're charging for this stolen code and any punitive damages (which can be quite hefty for copyright violation).

    It looks like this might be a good time to call in the lawyers.
    And yes there IS damage to me from having someone steal my GPL code. When I put code under the GPL, my expectation is that, in return for making my source code freely available, I'll get back from the community that uses my code the work that they do to improve my code. When someone steals my code and puts it into a proprietary product, I loose in a few ways:

    1. I don't get the 'payment' of the changes you made to my code.
    2. If you make 'interesting' changes, I have to pay you to get access to my code (as modified by you).
    3. If people start using your code instead of mine, then they may stop contributing GPL codebase.
    4. I don't get the public exposure that comes from the acknowledgement that people are using my code. (this could cost me job opportunities).

"It ain't over until it's over." -- Casey Stengel