Matthew Garrett (mjg59) wrote,
Matthew Garrett

HTC are still incredible fuckheads

Update: Despite another email yesterday reasserting the 90-120 days lie, the source code has now landed on HTC's site.

As has been discussed before, HTC have a somewhat "interesting" interpretation of the GPL that allows them to claim they don't need to provide source code until between 90 and 120 days after the release of binaries. It's probably noteworthy that the FSF (who, you know, wrote the license and all) disagree with this interpretation, as do the kernel copyright holders (who, you know, wrote the code that the license covers) I've talked to about it. Anyway, after a pile of screaming and shouting from all sides HTC have tended to release their source code in a timely manner. So things seemed better.

HTC released the Thunderbolt last week and we're back to the 90-120 day song and dance. It's probably worth remembering that by behaving in this way HTC gain a competitive advantage over any vendors who obey the terms of their license - HTC can incorporate improvements made by others without releasing their own until through a significant portion of the lifecycle of their phone.

As far as I'm concerned, every single Thunderbolt sold so far embodies a copyright infringement. Wilfully engaging in copyright infringement for commercial benefit is typically frowned upon by courts, especially if by doing so a foreign company is gaining commercial advantage over a domestic one. If you think Microsoft's patent assault on Android is a problem, just imagine what they could do if they hired one significant Linux kernel developer and used their copyrights to attack the overwhelming majority of Android vendors who fail to comply with the GPL. It probably wouldn't be industry ending (companies would merely have improve their compliance procedures) but it'd do a huge deal of damage in the short term. It's insane for companies to behave this way. Don't reward them by giving them your money.

I'll be talking about this at the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit next month, along with an update on my study of the compliance of Android tablets. I'm hoping that there'll be further developments after that.

Tags: advogato, fedora

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