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The Anatomy of a Modern GPL Violation

Dec 09, 2009, 15:32 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bradley M. Kuhn)

"Roughly, the typical GPL violation tracks almost directly the adoption and spread of Free Software. When I started finding GPL violations, it was in a day when Big Iron Unix was still king (although it was only a few years away from collapse), and the GNU tools were just becoming state of the art. Indeed, as a sysadmin, I typically took a proprietary Unix system, and built a /usr/local/ filled with the GNU tools, because I hated POSIX tools that didn't have all the GNU extensions.

"At the time, many vendors were discovering the same frustrations I was as a sysadmin. Thus, the typical violation in those days was a third-party vendor incorporating some GNU tools into their products, for use on some Big Iron Unix. This was the age of the violating backup product; we saw frequently backup products that violated the GPL on GNU tar in those days.

"As times changed, and computers got truly smaller, the embedded Unix-like system was born. GNU/Linux and (more commonly) BusyBox/Linux were the perfect solutions for this space. What was once a joke on comp.os.linux.advocacy in the 1990s began to turn into a reality: it was actually nearly possible for Linux to run on your toaster."

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