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Observers.net: Closing the open source door [AOL violating GPL with its 'net appliance?]

May 23, 2001, 02:56 (42 Talkback[s])

The question raised by this article is whether America Online (AOL) has violated the GPL by using Transmeta's Midori Linux without bothering to provide information about how to obtain source or even the license itself. People with a less hostile predisposition to AOL than the authors may not like the tone, but an important issue regarding how the GPL can work in the "sealed box" world of embedded systems has been raised.

"...Giving credit where credit is due is one of the foundations of open source technology, and it's done through copyright notices on any and all applications used that are covered under the GPL. (AOL did give credit to applications and libraires covered under the MIT and BSD licenses.)

While we were able to find several utilities covered under the GPL whose authors were not credited by AOL, the majority of the utilities are on other partitions we think are encrypted. The first two partitions on the flash card are boot sectors. Partition 1 is the main boot sector. Partition 2 is the backup of Partition 1. Our best guess is that both are encrypted, possibly due to private AOL network information included on those partitions.

What happens next is up to the authors of the applications covered under the GPL, authors whose work AOL failed to credit with copyright notices. They can demand that AOL follow the provisions of the GPL. Should that not happen, AOL can almost certainly expect to find itself in court yet again to justify its actions."

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