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ShortCircuit showcases BOOX, a product that violates GPL2

ShortCircuit's most recent video showcases the BOOX eInk tablet. In the description of the video are links to buy the tablet. I think viewers should be informed that BOOX actively violates Linux's GPL2 license by refusing to release their kernel source code. (sources below) They've been refusing for years. It's not only illegal but unethical.

 

If you are unaware Linux is under the GPL2 license. To summaries one of the clauses in GPL2, if you use, distribute, or modify anything under GPL2 you must also supply the source code. These are the licenses that keep opensource software opensource.

 

I think ShortCircuit is unaware of BOOX's violation. As a long time follower and consumer of Linus Media Groups content, I don't think they'd ever showcase a product like this without telling their audience something this important. I've tried to comment on Youtube but for some reason, the comment won't go through.

 

I ask that people try to get this information to someone working at LinusMediaGroup so that a disclaimer can be added. I think it's unethical to showcase and help advertise a product that breaks what so many in Linus's audience believe in without adding a disclaimer, and I think Linus would agree with me.

 

To be clear I'm not criticizing Linus, ShortCircuit, or the video about the product; only that important information the audience might want to know was missing from the video. Everyone should be given this information so that they may decide for themselves if they want to support such a company.

 

As an alternative, ShortCircuit has done a review on a similar product here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0R0vu3Ti1w.

 

 

Sources:

http://bbs.onyx-international.com/t/install-linux-or-alternate-os-and-gpl2-kernel-source/698 

https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/hl09g7/onyx_boox_chinese_company_will_not_share_their/

 

Edit:

To clarify. Them not opening their distribution or custom software solutions isn't a GPL2 violation; but them not opening their modified Linux kernel is. A quote form a representative `However, kernel source code of Android could not be open for now. Welcome to develop apps by our SDK.`. This quote can be found in the first listed source.

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Chinese company and keeping everything closed source and Proprietary. Where have i heard that before?

 

(oh right, Tencent)

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5 minutes ago, SorryClaire said:

Chinese company and keeping everything closed source and Proprietary. Where have i heard that before?

hmmmm. i wonder.

 

9 minutes ago, greysourcecode said:

If you are unaware Linux and by extension Android is under the GPL2 license. To summaries one of the clauses in GPL2, if you use, distribute, or modify anything under GPL2 you must also supply the source code. These are the licenses that keep opensource software opensource.

i didnt know how open source android was until i gave it a google after reading this. anyway, can google do anything legally? i know linux cant because i dont think a legal corporation runs any part of it, but id think google would do something.

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I don't think you understand the license. It applies to modifications of specifically the software licensed, i.e. in the case of Android, the Linux kernel. You do *not* have to make open source software that you make that simply runs on the kernel. Android uses the Apache license for the parts that are "Android" while the Linux kernel itself remains under a GPL license. Just think of all the companies like Samsung that offer their own Android modifications. None of them make their code open source, nor do they have to. The same applies to BOOX.

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22 minutes ago, Chris Pratt said:

I don't think you understand the license. It applies to modifications of specifically the software licensed, i.e. in the case of Android, the Linux kernel. You do *not* have to make open source software that you make that simply runs on the kernel. Android uses the Apache license for the parts that are "Android" while the Linux kernel itself remains under a GPL license. Just think of all the companies like Samsung that offer their own Android modifications. None of them make their code open source, nor do they have to. The same applies to BOOX.

Hey Chris. This is a quote from a company representative "However, kernel source code of Android could not be open for now". They're not releasing the modified kernel. No one's asked for the distribution, just the modified Linux kernel. You can find the source of this quote in the sources I listed at the start of the thread. 

 

I've edited the start of the thread to clarify this issue. 

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12 minutes ago, greysourcecode said:

Hey Chris. This is a quote from a company representative "However, kernel source code of Android could not be open for now". They're not releasing the modified kernel. No one's asked for the distribution, just the modified Linux kernel. You can find the source of this quote in the sources I listed at the start of the thread. 

I don't see anything in any of the sources you posted that is anything more than people just saying it they must release the source for no specific reason. They're allowed to modify anything that's Android without releasing the source. They of course don't have to release the source for their own software that runs on Android. The only stipulation is that *if* they made modifications to the Linux kernel, then they must release the source for that modified Linux kernel. However, there's no indication or admission that they did in fact modify the kernel.

 

Unless I'm missing something, this is still all just assumption and misunderstanding of the license. Maybe they are in violation, but I've yet to see the proof of that, and unless you've got something more than conjecture, it's totally out of line to drag LMG into the fray.

 

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given how long ONYX has been around and how niche their products are, i don't see anything being done about this.

 

China has already set a precedent for GPL cases that they would be assessed on a case by case basis. 

 

And i don't think the cost of the legal battle to get such a niche product to be banned from sale in other countries is really going to be worth it to....well anyone who normally would take on these cases. A quick google search has showed multiple people reporting ONYX as far back as 2010...and yet they are still around. Which does mean that it's not worth it to try and go after them, or they're not actually breaching GPLv2

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9 minutes ago, Chris Pratt said:

I don't see anything in any of the sources you posted that is anything more than people just saying it they must release the source for no specific reason. They're allowed to modify anything that's Android without releasing the source. They of course don't have to release the source for their own software that runs on Android. The only stipulation is that *if* they made modifications to the Linux kernel, then they must release the source for that modified Linux kernel. However, there's no indication or admission that they did in fact modify the kernel.

 

Unless I'm missing something, this is still all just assumption and misunderstanding of the license. Maybe they are in violation, but I've yet to see the proof of that, and unless you've got something more than conjecture, it's totally out of line to drag LMG into the fray.

 

The source I sent was a request for the source code of the kernel. If there was no modification to the kernel then the kernel is still open source and the company would have to provide a copy. Just because there was no modification doesn't mean that a company has a right to make something open source, closed source. 

 

Here is a quote from GPL2

Quote

 

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:

 
a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

 

Even if no modification was made to the kernel, BOOX is still obligated to keep the kernel opensource and provide a copy of its source code. 

 

 
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3 minutes ago, Arika S said:

given how long ONYX has been around and how niche their products are, i don't see anything being done about this.

 

China has already set a precedent for GPL cases that they would be assessed on a case by case basis. 

 

And i don't think the cost of the legal battle to get such a niche product to be banned from sale in other countries is really going to be worth it to....well anyone who normally would take on these cases. A quick google search has showed multiple people reporting ONYX as far back as 2010...and yet they are still around. Which does mean that it's not worth it to try and go after them, or they're not actually breaching GPLv2

My goal isn't to sue or litigate against ONYX. I just think it's right the audience know that ONYX does break GPL2.  

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1 minute ago, Arika S said:

Which does mean that it's not worth it to try and go after them, or they're not actually breaching GPLv2

This. I think a lot of people either think GPL applies more expansively than it actually does or don't understand what is a kernel mod and what isn't. Android has already done the main modding that's necessary, and that Android source is already available. As long as third parties don't further mod the kernel, they're allowed to use the Android modded kernel without releasing their own source.

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10 minutes ago, greysourcecode said:

The source I sent was a request for the source code of the kernel. If there was no modification to the kernel then the kernel is still open source and the company would have to provide a copy. Just because there was no modification doesn't mean that a company has a right to make something open source, closed source. 

 

Here is a quote from GPL2

Even if no modification was made BOOX is still obligated to keep the kernel opensource and provide a copy of it's source code. 

 

 

See that's where you're getting off the rails. Android subsumes the Linux kernel, along with its license. As a developer building on Android, you're not required to try to rip out the Linux kernel from Android. The source for that modification is already open source with Android. Android's license doesn't require open source.

 

As such, just by using Android as your base, does not mean you must have your own public repository just for the Linux kernel within Android. If you make your *own* modifications to the kernel, then you technically have to, but again, I've seen no proof that BOOX has done that.

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15 minutes ago, greysourcecode said:

I just think it's right the audience know that ONYX does break GPL2.  

you assume.

 

There's yet to be any mention of a court case in 11 years since allegations of a violation started popping up. The only "proof" anyone has is: "i asked for the source code via email, and they didn't give it to me"

 

LMG can't be taking anecdotes if they are going to be putting such a disclaimer on the video. they would need actual proof. 

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19 minutes ago, Chris Pratt said:

See that's where you're getting off the rails. Android subsumes the Linux kernel, along with its license. As a developer building on Android, you're not required to try to rip out the Linux kernel from Android. The source for that modification is already open source with Android.

Developers building on Android don't normally make modifications to the Kernel. If a developer were to modify the Linux (or Android) Kernel under GPL2 they'd be required to make that opensource. I'm not closed to the idea that I might be wrong but let me walk through my reasoning and you can point out where I'm wrong.

 

1. The Linux Kernel is opensourced under GPL2

2. Android's Kernel (Linux) is opensourced under GPL2 (as stated under parts 0, 1, 5, and 6 of GPL2)

3. Any modifications to Android's, and by extension the Linux Kernel falls under GPL (as stated in part 0, 1, 2, 5, and 6)

4. If asked for the sourcecode of something under GPL (e.g. a modified Linux Kernel) it must be provided (as stated in parts 2 and 3)


GPL2 isn't enforceable in China and that's why nothing been done.

 

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3 minutes ago, Arika S said:

you assume.

 

There's yet to be any mention of a court case in 11 years since allegations of a violation started popping up. The only "proof" anyone has is: "i asked for the source code via email, and they didn't give it to me"

 

LMG can't be taking anecdotes if they are going to be putting such a disclaimer on the video. they would need actual proof. 

Again, the quote from the company representative is ` could not be open for now.`. They have decided to make it closed source. 

 

Here's a quote from GPL2 of what must be provided when distributing something under GPL2. 

 

Quote

 

a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,
 
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,
 
c) Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)

 

Non of the following conditions have been met. 

 
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Just now, greysourcecode said:

Developers building on Android don't normally make modifications to the Kernel. If a developer were to modify the Linux (or Android) Kernel under GPL2 they'd be required to make that opensource. I'm not closed to the idea that I might be wrong but let me walk through my reasoning and you can point out where I'm wrong.

 

1. The Linux is opensourced under GPL2

2. Android's Kernel (Linux) is opensourced under GPL2 (as stated under parts 0, 1, 5, and 6 of GPL2)

3. Any modifications to Android's, and by extension the Linux Kernel falls under GPL (as stated in part 0, 1, 2, 5, and 6)

4. If asked for the sourcecode of something under GPL (e.g. a modified Linux Kernel) it must be provided (as stated in parts 2 and 3)


GPL2 isn't enforceable in China and that's why nothing been done.

 

It's not that clear cut. It's not like there's a clear delineation in the code where its like here's the Linux kernel, here's the Android modification of the Linux kernel, and here's my code that just modifies Android. It's all mishmashed together. As I already said, Android subsumes the Linux kernel and its license. They have made their own work open source in compliance with GPL, but it is released under a totally separate license that does not require derivative works to be open source. If you have an issue, it would be with Android's authority to close source on something that technically has components that can't be.

 

Once I start with Android as my base, I'm operating under Android's license. While that *technically* doesn't cover modifications to the Linux kernel, I can't reasonably be assumed to know the difference between what's the Linux kernel and what's the Android kernel anymore.

 

It's easy to nitpick with smaller companies, but why hasn't anyone gone after the Nintendo Switch. I *guarantee* they've made kernel mods, and I also guarantee you will *never* see their source.

 

At a certain point, derivative work takes on a life of it's own, and it's just not reasonable or honestly even possible to keep one piece separate and open source when the rest must be closed. That's just reality.

 

 

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13 minutes ago, greysourcecode said:

Again, the quote from the company representative is ` could not be open for now.`. They have decided to make it closed source. 

 

Here's a quote from GPL2 of what must be provided when distributing something under GPL2. 

 

Non of the following conditions have been met. 

 

....Again. LMG need more than anecdotal evidence. "i asked, they didn't give it to me, therefore GPL violation". Unless you have a legal background, all you can do is allege/claim a violation, but that doesn't mean is IS a violation.

And without evidence, it would be irresponsible of LMG to put up such a disclaimer over something that might not even be true.

 

In YouZi vs Digital Heaven, the courts ruled that a derivative of software released under GPL does not automatically become licensed under GPL too in China and will be assessed on a case by case basis, but GPL IS absolutely enforceable in china.

Which....Again, if this IS a true violation of the GPL then there would be litigation or at least some report of them presenting their case to court, this has been going on for at LEAST 11 years, it doesn't take that long to take something to court. If they are choosing not to enforce GPLv2 Against ONYX, then that's on GNU/FSF/whoever controls the Linux Kernal that android is based on

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1 hour ago, Chris Pratt said:

It's not that clear cut. It's not like there's a clear delineation in the code where its like here's the Linux kernel, here's the Android modification of the Linux kernel, and here's my code that just modifies Android. It's all mishmashed together. As I already said, Android subsumes the Linux kernel and its license. They have made their own work open source in compliance with GPL, but it is released under a totally separate license that does not require derivative works to be open source. If you have an issue, it would be with Android's authority to close source on something that technically has components that can't be.

No, that's not how it works.

You still have to release any modifications made to the Linux kernel even if you develop for Android. Android's license does not subsumes other licenses. Android's license only applies to the Goggle written parts of Android.

 

 

1 hour ago, Chris Pratt said:

Once I start with Android as my base, I'm operating under Android's license. While that *technically* doesn't cover modifications to the Linux kernel, I can't reasonably be assumed to know the difference between what's the Linux kernel and what's the Android kernel anymore.

You are in fact responsible for knowing which parts are the kernel and which parts are not when developing an Android distro. It is also very easy to do because each segment of code ships with its own licensing agreement. If the license is not included in the source code file itself, it will be included in the folder.

 

 

1 hour ago, Chris Pratt said:

It's easy to nitpick with smaller companies, but why hasn't anyone gone after the Nintendo Switch. I *guarantee* they've made kernel mods, and I also guarantee you will *never* see their source.

Nintendo hasn't released the source code for some Linux modifications because Nintendo doesn't use the Linux kernel in their products.

For the products that do use GPL or some other license, they do in fact release the modifications. For example they have modified WebKit to make it work on their consoles so that source code is up on their website.

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3 hours ago, SorryClaire said:

Chinese company and keeping everything closed source and Proprietary. Where have i heard that before?

 

(oh right, Tencent)

What does Tencent have to do with anything? Or them being Chinese even?

Keeping things closed source isn't bad if it doesn't violate a license (which I don't think Tencent has been found guilty of), and most GPL violations has historically been made by US companies like Cisco, Best Buy, Fortinet, Microsoft, Western Digital, GCI, and so on.

 

 

3 hours ago, Chris Pratt said:

I don't think you understand the license. It applies to modifications of specifically the software licensed, i.e. in the case of Android, the Linux kernel. You do *not* have to make open source software that you make that simply runs on the kernel. Android uses the Apache license for the parts that are "Android" while the Linux kernel itself remains under a GPL license. Just think of all the companies like Samsung that offer their own Android modifications. None of them make their code open source, nor do they have to. The same applies to BOOX.

Ehm... Samsung and every other big OEM DO in fact make their Android modifications open source. They do in fact have to do it.

Here are the source files for the kernel used in the Galaxy S20 series for example, on Samsung's website.

Here is Motorola's repos for their open source projects including their Linux kernel modifications. 

Here is HTC's repo for their kernel sources.

Here are the repos for Xiaomi's kernel modifications.

Here are the OnePlus kernel modifications.

Huawei also has a website for searching and downloading their kernel source code.

 

I think you get the point...

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15 hours ago, Chris Pratt said:

It's easy to nitpick with smaller companies, but why hasn't anyone gone after the Nintendo Switch. I *guarantee* they've made kernel mods, and I also guarantee you will *never* see their source.

Uh, i agree with your explanations and conclusions, but Switch OS isn't based on Android/Linux, it uses some parts, like for example Microsoft does too in Windows  (tcpip stack), or the Nvidia driver that seems Linux based, but that doesn't make the OS Linux or Android based... 

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1. Most consoles (e.g. ps3, ps4) use the BSD kernel and are not subject to GPL2. BDS doesn't require discloser of modifications. I'd not be surprised if the Nintendo Switch were on that list.

2. The BOOX tablet's kernel says it's under GPL2 in the actual device

Quote

Go to settings
Go to “about”
Go to “about device”
Go to “legal information”
Go to “open source licenses”
Go to the first item “/kernel”
You see that its licenses GPL Version 2. 

3. A Boox representative said it's under GPL2. (https://www.reddit.com/r/Onyx_Boox/comments/i04wdy/linux_kernel/)

 

I hope you all now accept that BOOX's kernel is under GPL2. There are no exceptions for GPL2. 

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