Microsoft’s hawkish patent extortion possibly jeopardised
Summary: Just like Microsoft after its unintended or secret GPL violations, code is being made GPL-licensed and the violations covered up as though they never happened
Over the past few weeks we have covered the latest noteworthy GPL violation by Samsung [1, 2, 3. 4].
“It looks like Samsung may have fixed the licensing problem,” said iophk. “Now how to put this in a positive light? It’s strange that the big companies act as if they are under no obligations to follow copyright and seem to do so only under duress.”
It seems like pressure and leaks have worked in the same way that Snowden’s leaks led to bogus government and NSA “transparency” (making public what’s already leaked). Based on Michael’s report, Samsung makes the code GPL-licensed all of a sudden.
Back in June, Phoronix was the first to report of a native exFAT file-system implementation for Linux that appeared on GitHub. It later turned out that Samsung accidentally leaked their exFAT source code. The solution has now been corrected with Samsung formally open-sourcing their exFAT source code.
The exFAT driver talked about in June was modified from an accidental Samsung source code leak that the independent developer found on GitHub. It was a confusing situation and he removed references to the original Samsung source code and it led to a confusing situation in the weeks that followed with tons of comments in the forums.
This was reported to GPL-violations and gave Samsung bad publicity, so they released it as Free software. As for what it means to patents on FAT, I am not qualified to say. It’s not GPLv3 though.
“This was reported to GPL-violations and gave Samsung bad publicity, so they released it as Free software.”In the past, GPL violations by Microsoft were also handled in this way. Microsoft decided to pretend the violation was open-sourced to rewrite history. iophk calls it spin, noting that “‘accidentally leaked’ == Samsung got caught ripping off kernel code” (indeed).
iophk quotes: “While Samsung accidentally put out the source code in the first place, they have now formally released the code under the GPL after it was discovered they violated the GPL in the first place. Samsung was shipping this closed-source exFAT driver on a tablet yet they were relying upon GPL-only symbols.”
iophk says that “all that aside, it’s an improvement that they have properly licensed the code finally… too bad it took all that trouble… Their image got tarnished a bit and that could have been avoided if they had just respected copyright from the start. It was also a bit of necessary extra work.”
This resolves the problem/dilemma for the leakers. Without them, this would not have happened. What does all this mean to Tuxera, Paragon, and patents on exFAT in general? Lawyers might tell. █
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Summary: More about Samsung’s Microsoft-serving code which seems like a gross violation of the GPL
Having been in contact with the source of the Samsung leak for a few days, we now have a lot more information that wasn’t published before. For the uninitiated, see the following three posts [1, 2, 3].
It turns out that the leaked code came from this man, who did not really mean to blow the whistle,
“Thank you very much for covering this story,” wrote the leaker. “It seems like GPL v2.2 is the way to go for this driver, correct?”
“ Kenneth R. Crudup is the one who leaked the driver. He got that driver through working for Broadcom on some android-ware.”
–rxrz (pseudonym)We previously suggested a suitable licence for the leaked code, but we wanted to know who has the copyrights. The leaker explained: “I wish I had those logs, but I found the leak on github, and the original account has been deleted. Although I made a fork of that repo, here it is https://github.com/rxrz/kernel-N8000/tree/master/fs/exfat Kenneth R. Crudup is the one who leaked the driver. He got that driver through working for Broadcom on some android-ware. The driver in that repo is as original as it’s possible to get…
“In those files you can see the version log and the author names. I believe it was written by two people during their contract with Samsung.”
We have already identified and studied one of them. They are in Seoul.
We may still need some legal advice for handling this existing leaked code. The leaker is not sure who to ask. “If you get a minute,” she wrote, “could you please compose a license file for exfat-nofuse? I will merge it asap.”
“Maybe this is something that could be solved over at Groklaw,” said iophk from our team. “The twisty path that the code has taken to arrive where it is now makes it harder to guess who gets assigned the copyright. GPLv2 seems the right choice but who owns it?”
The probe continues… █
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Quick Guide of license compatibility with GPL
Summary: A call for advice on how to handle another Samsung violation of the GPL and betrayal of the community
As a quick reminder, over 6 years ago we called for a boycott of Samsung, which proved that it didn’t care about freedom and actively worked against it. In 2 posts [1, 2] from the past few weeks we covered yet another violation of the GPL by Samsung. This one required a leak to be shown and we spoke to the leaker, who prefers to remain anonymous. We consulted internally to see how this can be dealt with.
“Not enough data to do more than guess,” iophk wrote, “I do recall that the SFLC disapproved of the ‘robin hood’ approach to freeing code that had been ripped off.
“This one required a leak to be shown and we spoke to the leaker, who prefers to remain anonymous.”“I guess it depends on the provenance of the code. If it is ripped off from the kernel then it comes under GPLv2 or later (IIRC). Then it comes down to v2 or v3. I like what v3 accomplishes, but I do not. like mixing copyright with patents in the same license. Can v3 provide any protection if Microsoft starts to claim to have patents on *FAT?”
This is an interesting possibility that we are exploring. Samsung’s GPL violations are in an implementation of exFAT, a very common extortion tool against Linux distributors. “Here is the latest info from the most recent kernel,” writes iophk. “It is v2 only.”
It is v3 which deals with patent provisions. iophk continues: “Linus likes v2 very much but seems to have removed the “or later” clause that I vaguely recollect being there. Can rxrz [the leaker] say which version of the kernel exfat-nofuse came from? If it is a later one, then maybe v2 is the only option. If it is an earlier one, there might be a choice between v2 and v3.”
He later, upon further investigation, adds: “Here’s the oldest commit in Git, which has the same preamble. So I’m not sure under which circumstances v3 could be used. It is certainly a safe bet with v2.”
“We could like to relay the leaker’s question to the wider community.”We spoke with the leaker of this code, who wrote: “I just wanted to do a good thing.
“But now I have decided to put the LICENSE file there, containing GPLv2, since Samsung has stolen that code initially from the Linux kernel tree. (I believe it fits this code the best, v3 may be better though, I don’t know)”
We could like to relay the leaker’s question to the wider community. To quote her, the leaker: “Could you please help the project and make up a LICENSE file content for it? It happens that I’m not too good with legal things myself…”
I promised to work with our community at Techrights or anyone else who reads this to address this issue. Any suggestions of ways forward from here? Or licensing? █
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Swearing to protect corporations like Apple
Summary: Obama is expected to supersede another patent-induced ban — this time against a Korean company — and whether he does so or not, the patent system in the US (USPTO) loses its credibility
The patent system in the US is not working based on the state of the economy. Maybe it helps make the rich even richer, or maybe it helps drive innovation to China, the world’s rising superpower. American.com has this new article which deals with Obama’s focus on patent trolls [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11] — a subject that motivates some new blogs. This is essentially going after the small guys and leaving the rest, who occasionally suffer from those small guys, in tact. Towards the end the article mentions software patents too:
In conclusion, the Obama administration’s executive actions do not require Congressional approval, and will likely result in some modest improvement in transparency and increased PTO level of scrutiny of software patent applications. But serious Congressional policy debate likely will begin in this fall’s session, reflecting a significant opportunity to develop a common legislative agenda on Capitol Hill for much needed, focused bipartisan patent law reform addressing PAE litigation abuse.
PAE means patent trolls. It is a more polite term. Obama could be given the benefit of the doubt if he hadn’t helped Apple embargo Korean rivals (in reverse, removing ITC deterrence against Apple by Samsung). He intervened in the sanctions war by acting to unban the Apple products which a suitable authority decided to ban. Now that Samsung gets banned will Obama intervene again? Or dos hen only come to Apple’s rescue?
Samsung has suffered a big blow in the US over the weekend with a court issuing an import ban on some Samsung devices on grounds they violate two of Apple’s patents.
The Obama administration now has 60 days to decide whether to let the Samsung ban take effect, and may stoke accusations of favouritism if it decides to back the American Apple over South Korea’s Samsung.
If Obama’s staff can’t veto this decision, then it will show that the legal system in the US is just a farce with nationalist agenda. Either way, the fact that Obama’s staff members can intervene in lawsuits they know nothing about is itself proof of a broken, rogue, and arbitrary legal framework. This whole legal ‘anarchy’ serves to show that perhaps this whole system needs abolishing; slight reforms that change public perceptions won’t be enough. Reforming the patent system is like ‘reforming’ the massive surveillance apparatus. █
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Apple’s bubble is bursting
Summary: The defence of Android against Apple’s aggression is proving to be fruitful again, with invalidation of another patent and intent from or opportunity for the government to address spurious litigation
Two smartphones giants, Apple and Samsung, have reached another interesting point as an Apple patent got invalidated.
Samsung has just notified [PDF] the US District Court in Northern California that, according to another USPTO Final Office Action, Apple’s ’915 patent has been found invalid on reexamination. All 21 claims of the ’915 patent bit the dust, as you can see in Exhibit A [PDF], the USPTO documents The issue is prior art and obviousness. So, the jury in Apple v. Samsung got another thing wrong, I see. Apple didn’t invent gestures.
As a pro-Apple site put it, “The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has rejected claims by Apple that Samsung Electronics infringed on its “pinch-to-zoom” patent – one of the decisive claims in the ongoing litigations between the two tech giants. The patent, No. 7,844,915, was first filed back in November 2010 and described, “an environment with user interface software interacting with a software application”.”
Here is a pro-Linux site’s take on this decision from the USPTO, which continues to grant software patents. There is more to it though. As the Murdoch press put it the other day, this major case plays a role in national policy now. To quote: “Smartphone rivals Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. have dueled over patents in courts around the globe. Now they are sparring in front of the Obama administration, which faces a looming decision on whether to veto a trade body’s order blocking the U.S. sale of some Apple devices.”
Sanctions like embargo never benefit the buyers, so the government should consider the possibility that patents themselves — not just patent trolls — are a problem and some reform should address real systemic flaws, not symptoms of these serious flaws [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9].
Apple recently got chastised for using a patent on rounded corners, which relates to desperate Microsoft/Apple moves that the ITC, USPTO, and US Customs don’t quite agree on (there are conflicts of interest). The same person who chastised Apple for it has this update about the Motorola settlement. Yes, Matt Levy, referring to the problem as “Bad Software Patents” (not the best way to put it), then says “Congressional support for patent reform continues to grow. On Monday, Rep. Issa and Rep. Chu introduced the Stopping the Offense Use of Patents (STOP Act). That bill prompted Matt Levy to release Patent Progress’s Guide to Patent Reform Legislation, which has summaries of the six pending bills: SHIELD Act (H.R. 845), Patent Quality Improvement Act (S. 866), Stopping the Offensive Use of Patents Act (STOP Act) (H.R. 2766), End Anonymous Patents Act (H.R. 2024), Patent Abuse Reduction Act (S. 1013), Patent Litigation and Innovation Act (H.R. 2639).”
According to his blog, the FTC study on patent trolls may kick off soon. To quote: “As we’ve noted, the FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez recently proposed doing a 6(b) study on the patent assertion entity business model. The proposed study has the potential to get us information about how patent trolls operate that would be nearly impossible to get without litigation.
“MLex is reporting (subscription required) that FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen indicated last week after a speech at the Chamber of Commerce that she believes that a 6(b) study to examine the patent troll industry would be “appropriate.” It takes three votes to initiate the study, though.”
The FTC should study CPTN and now just trolls. The problem is much broader than trolls. Apple, for example, is doing more damage to Android than all trolls combined and the same can be said about Oracle and Microsoft (other CPTN members, preying on Novell’s patents among others like Sun’s). █
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“Mind Control: To control mental output you have to control mental input. Take control of the channels by which developers receive information, then they can only think about the things you tell them. Thus, you control mindshare!”
–Microsoft, internal document
Nick Kolakowski, Microsoft’s mole in Slashdot (photo from Brooklyn Arts Council)
Summary: An apparent scandal revolving around traffic management in Slashdot and the role played by Nick Kolakowski, a longtime Microsoft booster who recently joined Slashdot and is now trashing Linux in that site while promoting Microsoft
“Apparently the system is getting gamed heavily,” wrote iophk. “Here is one example [from Slashdot],” he adds, noting what seems like AstroTurfing in comments about Slashdot staff.
Microsoft Nick is in a scandal already, having joined the site as staff to deliver Microsoft talking points. To quote one comment:
On page 2 [slashdot.org] of Velcroman1′s slashdot profile Nerval’s Lobster (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) submissions start to show up. We’ve [slashdot.org] already [slashdot.org] established [slashdot.org] that Nerval’s Lobster is Nick Kolakowski, a slashdot employee submitting paid content as user-submitted stories…
It would be interesting to see what percentage of published slashdot stories are genuinely submitted by people who have no financial interest in the submission.
Nick Kolakowski, aka Microsoft Nick, is up to no good. That’s how Microsoft boosters roll.
One former editor of Slashdot told me quite privately that the site had been infiltrated by PR before he left. This still appears to be the case and it is eating away any credibility the site earned over a decade ago (back when the site had news, not noise).
A few hours ago I found a response to yet more anti-Linux rhetoric, this time titled “Forget Apple: Samsung Could Be Google’s Next Big Rival” (familiar talking point!).
Swapnil Bhartiya, who wrote the response, does not seem to know he is responding to Microsoft Nick, who has years of reputation of spouting out Microsoft talking points, essentially filling the Web with garbage Microsoft would love to pay for (we covered dozens of examples from him).
Bhartiya writes: “Slashdot posted a story “Forget Apple: Samsung Could Be Google’s Next Big Rival”. The story idea has floated for a while and pops up every now and then. Is there really any space for rivalry between Samsung and Google? I looked at each point raised by the author and analyzed it.”
The idea has “floated for a while” because it’s an anti-Android talking point regularly to be found in the pro-Microsoft papers or Microsoft lobbyists. They try to cause division in the leading Linux-based operating system by urging the leader of the pack to fracture and defect, just like Nokia (post-occupation). Bhartiya adds: “In my observation of the industry for a while I see many reasons why it makes no sense for Samsung to ‘compete’ with Google. There are actually more reasons for Samsung to stick to Android as a Google partner than spin its own fork.”
Bhartiya’s closing words are as follows: “I think Samsung will continue to strengthen its Android line of hardware. Let me break news to the author. Samsung recently launched Android powered digital cameras. If Sammy had any desire to drift away from Google the would have put their own OS/ecosystem instead of Google’s. So it clearly shows there is no seeds of rivalry between the two companies. The Microsoft/Apple camp will definitely want to spread the FUD as if there is.”
Slashdot, by allowing this embedding ‘journalism’ in its tech publication (with a known Microsoft booster), is throwing its reputation in the garbage can and letting its community leak down the drain. Will Hill, who used to frequently post in Slashdot, had this to say earlier today about Microsoft “injecting” its FUD into the press:
How to Manage Your Free Community
Microsoft spends billions of dollars every year on propaganda to confuse the public. They especially target the tech press, OEMs and developers. Their training manuals call for “infiltration” and “subversion” though false concern called “schmoozing”. Everyone is considered a “pawn” to be exploited to advance Microsoft. They particularly like name calling and the wasting people’s time by “injecting Microsoft” into forums and conferences. To really understand what you are up against read their training manual, Evangelism is War and associated lecture notes several times. It is so evil and so alien that you won’t be able to grasp it the first or second time you read it.
Fighting with these turkeys is a waste of time. Just be careful to curate your forums and software carefully. PJ of Groklaw has written about how to do that. Roy Schestowitz has another method for Techrights. He leaves all the troll comments up for everyone to see and has accumulated an amazing collection of abusive comments. The approaches are complementary. What matters is to keep doing what you do and not let the trolls waste your life.
Vanity Fair recently did an expose of how damaging this toxic culture was to Microsoft itself. We should not be surprised that the anti-social ethics of non free software and exploitation should destroy those who advocate it. Non free software only served it’s owners and that owner turns out to be one person, Bill Gates, who set everyone else on a Darwinian roller coaster for his own benefit.
If Slashdot does not put an end to its Microsoft AstorTurfing (the above is not the first from Microsoft Nick), then we’ll slam the site time after time, calling it out for being just a cogwheel of Microsoft, essentially a PR vehicle like Microsoft Watch after Microsoft Nick took over (it became strongly and consistently pro-Microsoft). █
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Summary: The kernel debate that’s really worth having, not some storm in a teacup over feminism
The other day we wrote about the latest Samsung scandal [1, 2, 3] which looks like another GPL violation (not the first). Just like LG and smaller players such as TomTom, Samsung pays Microsoft for FAT patents. We need to stop this.
“Honestly,” says one person who took action, “I don’t understand how it’s even possible to patent any filesystem. It’s not a concept, it’s a variation of having a structured array of bytes on a block device.”
Here is who’s behind the code leak, which seems to reveal GPL violation and is therefore whistleblowing (protected by law):
A student and programmer using the name “rxrz” has posted a large chunk of a proprietary Microsoft file-system software to GitHub, claiming that she’s liberating it for the open source world. She says that the software was leaked from Samsung, and that it also contains some code from the Linux kernel. That, she argues, makes it de facto open source under the terms of the Gnu General Public License.
“All I’ve done is given the community of open source developers and linux/android users a way to finally share data between all major OS’s without any excessive impact on the performance,” she wrote on GitHub.
In an email interview, rxrz wouldn’t give her name, but said that she was a nineteen year old female student from the European Union.
She posted the code last month, but only gained widespread notice on Linux discussion forums this week.
This debate needs to go mainstream. Instead of debating a gender war on the Linux development lists (no, we won’t entertain this flamebait here) we should speak about GPL violations. It involves a female leaker showing code from a female developer at Samsung and it is about justice, not some self-inflicted offence over ‘rude’ words. Yes, Torvalds needs to tone down his language, but this has already mushroomed to become some distracting storm involving militant feminists (including an employee of a criminal company) and opportunistic misogynists, which just helps discredit Linux in the same way some tried to discredit GNU several years ago. Let’s talk about patents and technical issues, not some distracting gossip. █
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From a patent with Joosun Hahn on it…
Summary: Samsung and its developers appear to be helping Microsoft’s patent war on Linux and also violating the GNU GPL at the same time
The mischievous role played by Samsung in advancing Microsoft’s Linux tax is nothing new. It turns out to be not only proprietary but quite likely a GPL violation. Companies like Tuxera are working for Microsoft by spreading exFAT to manufacture more victims like TomTom, a FAT scapegoat. Microsoft most routinely uses FAT-related patents to tax users and distributors of GNU/Linux (users are being silently taxed through secret deals). It is hard to work around these traps.
Samsung, a patent friend of Microsoft which we reported for GPL violations in the past, pays Microsoft for FAT and then spreads this patent trap further. We recently wrote about some mysterious code from Korea (more details are in IRC logs) and we studied the author of this code in order to better understand her interests and to find out why she may be promoting exFAT. Now there is clarification. Michael Larabel explains: “Last month there was news of a native Linux driver for Microsoft’s exFAT file-system. It turns out that the driver wasn’t developed through any clean-room reverse-engineering but was rather the apparent rebadging of a Samsung exFAT driver for Linux.
“After being informed via email by a user today with this open-source Linux exFAT driver appearing on GPL-Violations.org, the exFAT Linux driver comes with nefarious intentions.
“A lot of people have berated the alleged leaker, but if it proves GPL violations, then it may as well justify the leak and serve as a case of whistleblowing”“It appears (and evidently its “developer” is admitting it) that the exFAT Linux kernel module was based upon source-code found from a Samsung developer for their exFAT driver. The code likely leaked out of Samsung accidentally by a developer pushing their Linux kernel source tree externally to GitHub when it should have been made private.”
Now, the main question is, was the code modified before being uploaded? If so, whose GPL violation is it (assuming it has not been tampered with)?
The developer, Joosun Hahn, has almost nothing on the Web about her (at least not in English) but has various publications (connected Seongsoo Hong in some publications) in decent journals and also patents like this one. Assuming it’s the same person, a 2009 paper describes her as someone who “received her B.S. degree in Computer Science from Soongsil University, Seoul, Korea, in 1994. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Engineering from Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea, in 1996 and 2004, respectively. She is currently a research professor in the Department of Computer Engineering at Hongik University, Seoul, Korea. Her research interests include computer architecture, real-time computing, embedded systems, and wireless sensor networks.”
To quote Phoronix Forums (last page), “This source code is not under GPLv2. This source code cannot be redistributed. This code contains Microsoft’s IP. It cannot even be made publicly available – that’s a direct violation of the law.”
In a later thread someone points out: “I’d rather see exFAT burn in hell with its patents, it’s sad that we see this attempt instead.”
As pointed out here, “I examined exfat_super.c and compared it to fs/fat/misc.c, fs/fat/dir.c, fs/fat/namei_vfat.c, and fs/fat/file.c. I will avoid sharing my conclusions here, but any one else is free to look.”
exFAT needs to be killed at all costs. This is poison and those who develop it, be it a person or a brand (Samsung) needs to find other things to do. Right now it’s helping patent terrorists. GPL violations aside (the guilt cannot be established based only on allegations*, but Samsung has poor history when it comes to GPL compliance), the main issue here should be patents.
A lot of people have berated the alleged leaker, but if it proves GPL violations, then it may as well justify the leak and serve as a case of whistleblowing. We shall wait and see how this story evolves. █
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