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Moving Forward with Hewlett Packard’s GPL Violation

Moving Forward with Hewlett Packard’s GPL Violation

The last time we talked about HP, I presented more evidence that the four known Touchpad devices purchased running Android 2.2 came directly from HP’s production line.  Since then, Green, a kernel developer for the Cyanogenmod Touchpad team, was busy working with Ben Maskell of the law firm Roetzel & Andress.  Ben Maskell contacted us with a copy of the letter sent Monday, 8 November to HP’s Open Source Program Director, Philip Robb.  I produce the CliffNotes version here, but I encourage you to read the full letter.

… We request that Hewlett Packard provide Mr. Drokin with a copy of the source code for the Android operating system that came factory-installed on a number of HP TouchPads.

Mr. Drokin is… the author of many copyrighted contributions which have been integrated into the Linux / Android kernel and licensed version 2 of the General Public License (“GPL”)…

We have recently become aware that Hewlett Packard has utilized Mr. Drokin’s code in a version of the Android operating system which was custom tailored for the HP Touchpad…

… Hewlett Packard’s use of the Linux kernel and Mr. Drokin’s code was subject to the license requirements set forth in the GPL… It is apparent Hewlett Packard has modified and publically distributed the Linux Kernel under the license granted in GPL § 2. Therefore, Hewlett Packard has a legal duty to release this source code at least under GPL § 3…

We are fully prepared to enforce Mr. Drokin’s rights. However, to avoid unnecessary costs to both parties, we kindly request that Hewlett Packard voluntary release the requested source code. We request your timely response to this letter, but in any event, no later than Wednesday, November 23, 2011…

So mark that date on your calendar. I emailed Ben Maskell to find out more.  In specific, as I asked in my previous article, I wanted to hear the legal argument that establishes four Touchpads as distribution, and asked if there were any legal precedents they planned to rely upon.  He told me it’s a little early in the process to go digging through case histories and at this point they only refer to the plain language of the GPL.  To clarify:

HP has used the code, and they are therefore bound by the terms.  See section 5.  Under sections 1 and 2 of the license, HP is generally allowed to modify, adapt, distribute, and copy Mr. Drokin’s code so long as they also comply with section 3.  Section 3 provides that any copies or distributions are accompanied by the source (3a) or a written offer to provide the source (3b).  HP has not complied with section 3 and is therefore in violation of the GPL.

We hope that HP will respond to our letter and that the parties reach an out-of-court resolution to this matter.

We hope so, too.  HP’s track-record is one of denial, flippancy, and silence, and it’s unfortunate that things have come this far to see simple rights respected.

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