November 18th, 2010



About this time last year, I spent a while talking about how Barnes and Noble were failing in their GPL obligations. It took them about two months to release some source code that didn't actually correspond to the hardware - they finally provided it in March, more than three months after shipping the device.

The Nook Color is now shipping. Guess what Barnes and Noble aren't providing yet?

The flood of generic Chinese Android devices with no source code makes it very easy to think that GPL adherence is something that's only problematic with devices sourced from countries with poor records in IP enforcement. In reality, it's a problem everywhere. Barnes and Noble are a US company and the contractors for the Nook were based in Canada. They're aware enough to include the GPL notice in their documentation, but not concerned enough to make sure that they actually posses the source code that they're legally obliged to provide.

I'm glad to see that the Linux Foundation are providing resources to ensure compliance, but it's likely that this is going to continue being a problem until we start engaging in more visible efforts to educate companies about their legal obligations. The idea that a company like Barnes and Noble would ship copies of Windows without paying the appropriate license fees is pretty implausible, but they seem perfectly happy to engage in for-profit copyright violation if nobody's going to chase them down. It'll be interesting to see if this trend continues, or if we start making a sincere effort to remind vendors of their obligations.

In other GPL violation news - Fusion Garage have promised me that they'll provide the source code to their GPLed components on Monday. Given that the device has been end of lifed this is obviously pretty inept. Investors should realise that they're putting money into a company that has knowingly been engaging in criminal behaviour for over 6 months. We'll see how they manage compliance for their Android devices.