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Do Build Environments Give Companies an End Run Around the GPL?

May 24, 2010, 12:47 (4 Talkback[s])

"I have two devices, from two different companies (who shall remain nameless, but both are very large and well known), which run Linux-based firmware. The companies release all their source code to comply with the GPL, however neither of them include a build environment or firmware utilities with the code. This means that if you want to alter the free software on the device, you can't — there is no way to build a firmware image or install it on the devices in question, effectively rendering the source code useless. I have approached the companies directly and while one of them acknowledges that they are not fully GPL compliant, due to other license restrictions they cannot make their build environment public, and they do not have the resources to rewrite it. I have approached the FSF but their limited resources are tied up pursuing more blatant violations (where no code at all is being released.) Meanwhile I am stuck with two devices that only work with Internet Explorer, and although I have the skills to rewrite each web interface, I have no way of getting my code running on the devices themselves. Have these companies found a convenient way to use GPL code, whilst preventing their customers from doing the same?"

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