September 20, 2004 10:23 AM PDT

Linux group rebuffs Hollywood piracy charge

What seems to be a blunder by the Motion Picture Association of America in its hunt for online pirates has prompted Linux Australia to contact its legal representatives and warn of a possible breach of Australian law.

Linux Australia President Pia Smith told Builder AU that the MPAA had issued the organization a notice of claimed infringement, demanding that the group cease providing access to two copyrighted movies--one called "Grind" and the other "Twisted"--and ordering it to "take appropriate action against the account holder."

However, the files in question had nothing to do with those movies. The file labeled Twisted is a download of the popular framework written in Python, and Grind refers to a download of Valgrind, a tool for developers to locate memory management.

The MPAA has no legal rights over this software. The agency did not return Builder AU's calls regarding the matter.

Linux Australia is an association that caters to the Linux community Down Under.

Smith said the incident demonstrated that the process used to locate allegedly illegal files on Australian servers was flawed and that the MPAA could be breaking a number of local laws.

"We realized that the MPAA must be doing blind keyword matching against Internet content and then sending out automatic take-down notices with no real research or double checks," Smith said.

"This seems to be a huge misuse of resources, an infringement upon various global spam laws, an infringement upon our own Copyright Act under Section 102 and needless stress and cost upon small Australian organizations and companies," Smith said.

Linux Australia's legal counsel plans to contact the MPAA to inform them of the mistake and the legal implications of their actions.

"Linux Australia is concerned that this kind of shoot-in-the-dark approach to copyright protection is potentially damaging for Australian organizations and companies," Smith added. "Organizations that participate in such behavior should be held accountable and forced to put at least some effort into researching the validity of their keyword searches."

Brendon Chase of Builder AU reported from Sydney.

16 comments

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LOL
Gotta love the MPAA. I hope Linux Australia sues the pants off of them. I mean the MPAA exaggerates their claims all the time. Turn about if fair play suckers. >:-)
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MPAA = The next RIAA
Just keep going, MPAA, and look at what's happened to your friends at the RIAA. Their sales are plummeting and they just keep going, and going and going...

Their reputation with consumers is less popular than Hitler's. Keep messing around in a world you don't understand and you can look forward to all the grief they're enduring.
Posted by (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IMYER
Intellectual Theft

As a consultant for several large companies, I'd always done my work on Windows. Recently however, a top online investment firm asked us to do some work using Linux. The concept of having access to source code was very appealing to us, as we'd be able to modify the kernel to meet our exacting standards which we're unable to do with Microsoft's products.

Although we met several technical challenges along the way (specifically, Linux's lack of Token Ring support and the fact that we were unable to defrag its ext2 file system), all in all the process went smoothly.

Everyone was very pleased with Linux, and we were considering using it for a great deal of future internal projects. So you can imagine our suprise when we were informed by a lawyer that we would be required to publish our source code for others to use. It was brought to our attention that Linux is copyrighted under something called the GPL, or the Gnu Protective License. Part of this license states that any changes to the kernel are to be made freely available.

Unfortunately for us, this meant that the great deal of time and money we spent "touching up" Linux to work for this investment firm would now be available at no cost to our competitors. Furthermore, after reviewing this GPL our lawyers advised us that any products compiled with GPL'ed tools - such as gcc - would also have to its source code released. This was simply unacceptable.

Although we had planned for no one outside of this company to ever use, let alone see the source code, we were now put in a difficult position. We could either give away our hard work, or come up with another solution. Although it was tough to do, there really was no option: We had to rewrite the code, from scratch, for Windows 2000. I think the biggest thing keeping Linux from being truly competitive with Microsoft is this GPL. Its draconian requirements virtually guarentee that no business will ever be able to use it. After my experience with Linux, I won't be recommending it to any of my associates. I may reconsider if Linux switches its license to something a little more fair, such as Microsoft's "Shared Source". Until then its attempts to socialize the software market will insure it remains only a bit player.

Thank you for your time.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Nice Astroturfing
Congratulations on an fairly good example of astroturfing.

It is clear that you have no idea as to what the GPL is or allows. Your company's lawyers were wrong when they suggested that any code compiled with GPL tools is automatically under the GPL. The GPL would only apply to the code you created if you combined it with existing GPL code.
Posted by Not Bugged (195 comments )
Link Flag
This poor person has received bad legal advice
I can't speak to the technical issues of token ring or how to defrag the Linux ext file system (except to say that it doesn't need it, not in the way Windows filesystems do) but you need a new lawyer.

1) It's the General Public Licence, not the GNU Protective Licence

2) Anything you compile with GCC or create with any other Open Software tool does not necessarily have to have the source code published. Only if you modify someone else's source code that THEY had published under the GPL and distribute it do you have to give a copy of the source code out.

3) If you do all this fine work for this top-line company, then the only person you have to give the source code to is THAT COMPANY! You don't have to make it widley available to all and sundry. And why not. You took someone elses work and were able to modify the code, so why can't the firm you did the work for have the right to look and amend the code as THEY see fit. Fair is fair.

4) You can examine the eminently readable terms of the GPL here <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html</a>

I think you should change your lawyer and try and get some of the costs you incurred back from your original lawyer.

Happy coding
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
Very unfortunate...
It's very unfortunate there are still people that spread this kind of nonsense: the GPL (General Public License) *does* indeed enforce using the GPL if your project links to libraries or builds on software that is released under terms of that license, which means that if you want to take some, you must give some, but it does *not* enforce you to do that if you *use* GPL'ed software in the development process (so your suggestion that software compiled with GPL'ed software is not true at all) and I think, since you're not obliged to actually release software to the outside world, no-one can demand you to release your kernel changes as GPL either. As the above emails suggested, you'd better get yourself a new lawyer, don't know if he has a personal interest in bringing down Free Software or whether he just isn't capable of doing his job, but his claims are completely untrue.
I guess what makes Free and Open Source Software still not widely used aren't the terms of the licenses the software is released under, but rather people like yourself, your lawyer and companies like Microsoft and SCO spreading nonsense around, trying to scare (intentionally or not) other people away from using it.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
GPL - much to learn
GCC has explicit licensing exemptions on header files and object files so that your binaries, which contain these objects after being compiled with GCC, need not be GPLd themselves. You need to keep an eye on your lawyer.

Also, you mentioned that you were considering using linux internally. This if from the GPL faq:
"The GPL does not require you to release your modified version. You are free to make modifications and use them privately, without ever releasing them. This applies to organizations (including companies), too; an organization can make a modified version and use it internally without ever releasing it outside the organization."

The GPL in its plain text form is oriented heavily in favour software authors, but the result of the GPL: an open computing platform, including a sophisticated and rapidly evolving kernel, that aims to be free of legal entanglements - is heavily in favour of users.

The GPL is part of the package and something you must understand and respect before using software such as the common Linux distros. Why should you be allowed to take millions of hours of other peoples hard work and put it in your own pocket?

Through careful and respectful software development, you can release applications for Linux, that don't conflict with the GPL, yet use whatever licence you choose. It's when you start taking other people's code and mixing it with your own then try and call the result yours only, that's when the GPL gets in your way, that's what it is there for.

You can visit the gnu website for more information about the finer points of the GPL, there is a lot to learn.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
Grossly misinformed
You are grossly misinformed, and it's a shame that you decided to spread the wrong information (but somehow I have the feeling that was the purpose of your post: FUD).

- You do not have to release under any open source license anything compiled with GCC.

- You do not have to release under any open source license anything that uses Linux various libraries (unless statically linked, which you shouldn't do anyway) - there is a "Lesser" GPL (LGPL) that provide such exceptions.

- It's only if you took existing GPL code and modified it that you'd have to release it BUT only if you distributed such code (for money or for free.) You can use it internally without ever showing your modifications to anyone in the outside world.

There are a bunch of vendors that produce Linux products (compile with GCC, and linking to LGPL-ed Linux libraries) such as IBM and Oracle. Their products are not open source, nor do they break any licenses or laws by not open sourcing their product.

You need better lawyers. If they had as much as read the FAQs on the GPL website, they'd have this figured out. But again, I smell an ulterior motive in this post...
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
Troll Alert
One would think that if you spent that much time and effort developing and debugging your application, tweaking it, and setting up your system, that you would have taken 1/2 hour of your valuable time to actually READ the GPL that you got it under.
If you had, you wouldn't be posting such lame and false remarks. The only conclusions I can draw, then, is that you're either an idiot or a deliberate troll. Of course, if the latter is true, the former probably is as well.
Posted by (4 comments )
Link Flag
Information is key
The truth of the matter is that if you or your lawyer had actually read the GPL you would know that basically you only have to release the source if you modified someone elses program and intend to distribute it publicly.

Also if you knew anything about linux's file system you would know it defrags itself on the fly and doesnt need a seperate defragmentation program. Microsoft practically invented the periodic manual defragmentation procedure due to poor programming and an inferior file system. No other operating system that I have ever seen needs to be manually defragmented.

As for token ring.. its a dead technology and you really should think of phasing it out ASAP. Linux just wanted to keep things simple and didnt include it in their general releases. You can however find or create modules that will allow you to use token ring with Linux.

From the sound of things either your trolling, spreading FUD or you and your lawyer are incompetent and/or lazy.

In any case you should be more careful about telling tales like this around people who probably know the topic better than you do.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Link Flag
Stealing Code OK for you..?
So you can use/modify their code for free and do not like obeying the license? I call BS on that... Also, your lawyers are wrong. You only have to give up the code if you distribute binaries... If I used your code in my project and didn't share back that would be OK? or do you prefer to take from others and hide your code-theft?
Posted by Bull-shit (1 comment )
Link Flag
Almost identical to RIAA case.
Also reported here on news.com among other sources.

The Recording Industry Association of America apologized Monday to Penn State University for sending an incorrect legal notice of alleged Internet copyright violations.

Politech.com:<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.politechbot.com/p-04747.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.politechbot.com/p-04747.html</a>

News.com: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.cbsi.com/2100-1025_3-1001095.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.cbsi.com/2100-1025_3-1001095.html</a>
Posted by PusherBot (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Seen this before...
I own/run a small to medium ISP in the UK. One of our customers is a web hosting operation that hosts several thousand sites, one of which is an online shop for computer and console games.

Some months ago we received multiple e-mails from the MPAA requesting that we deal with a customer that was supposedly hosting illegal downloads of Spiderman, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, etc etc. On inspection of the address mentioned, we realised what had happened - the shop was selling "Spiderman - the game", "Finding Nemo - the game", "Toy Story - the game", and countless others, but certainly no film downloads!

Sadly we were too busy to persue it in any way at the time, but on reflection perhaps we should have... the MPAA need to learn to stop using bully-boy tactics and clueless "automated" systems towards server and network administrators who would probably be highly cooperative in a genuine case of pirated material being hosted, but are going to be nothing but alienated by tactics like these.

If the MPAA contact me with a genuine takedown notice, it's going to the bottom of my to-do list - and if they ask why the takedown was so delayed, I'll tell them that it's because I filter all messages from them directly to spam :)
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
The way the MPAA is going about this is actually quite ingenious.. just send out blind take down notices with an automated search bot and let the accused spend the money and the time to verify if the accusations are valid. IP protection and enforcement at near zero cost to the IP holder (sounds much like a spammers business model, eh?).

They just dont seem to understand that ticking off half the companies in the world with false alarms is going to make their efforts many magnitudes more difficult.

Add me to that list of people who are going to take notices from the MPAA as about as urgent as reorganizing my file cabinets and about as suspect as the many other spam messages I get with miracle cures and fast money.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Link Flag
Something else interesting...
Earlier today I was browsing Slashdot and came across a link to the following ZDNet story, regarding the MPAA's response to this incident:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.zdnet.com.au/news/business/0,39023166,39161794,00.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.zdnet.com.au/news/business/0,39023166,39161794,00.htm</a>

In short, they are claiming "human error" for this. I, and I'm sure many of you also, find this particularly hard to swallow.

The sheer quantity of takedown notices I have seen just in the process of running a *small* ISP, all of which looked like a textbook case of a poorly-tuned automated scanner, lead me towards disbelieving this explanation - either they are running an automated system which is what it looks like to me and everyone else I've spoken to, or it really is a case of human error and they simply employ a disproportional number of idiots! Hmmm, I wonder... =)
Posted by (2 comments )
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