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Google Didn't Ship Relicensed Java Code After All 223

Posted by Soulskill
from the deeper-looks dept.
RedK writes "In a follow up to yesterday's news about Google apparently relicensing confidential Oracle code found in Java under the ASL, it seems that the blogger who initially reported the issue was plain wrong, as the files he indicated were in breach of Oracle's copyright do not actually ship with Android. Google has also deleted many of these files, which were mostly used as unit tests."
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Google Didn't Ship Relicensed Java Code After All

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  • Irrelevant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the linux geek (799780) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:04PM (#34966554)
    If Google distributed the source at any point, it's a copyright violation, whether or not it shipped in a handset.
  • natural outcome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:13PM (#34966648)

    it seems that the blogger who initially reported the issue was plain wrong

    Florian Mueller produced two blatantly erroneous stories in about as many days. I hope this high error rate keeps Slashdot from promiscuously posting his stuff for a while. I'm not counting on miracles, but this guy was given two chances on Slashdot and he blew it badly each time. Even if Slashdot's goal is to troll for eyeballs, they can find someone more competent to do the trolling.

  • by randall77 (1069956) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:17PM (#34966670) Homepage
    Yes, they are liable, but liable for what? What damages case can you make for files that aren't actually used?
  • Re:Irrelevant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:21PM (#34966698) Homepage
    They might have a case for copyright violation against Google, but it might hamper their dreams of extracting licensing fees from all the handset makers shipping with Android. Could be significant.
  • Relevant (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:22PM (#34966706)

    Fines/Damages/Fees/"Whatever your legal system calls it" usually depend on how often you copied it and what money you made from it.

    So if there are only those files, all they did was making them available in the source code repository, so that might be some large one-time sum.

    If that code was in every single android device or only many android devices had code somehow based on this one or derived from it or otherwise extending the copyright of those file to what is shipped with those devices, then Oracle could have hope to get some money for every single Android devices shipped. Both from google and from the manufacturers, who might want to get that money back from google.

    I think this difference is relevant.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:22PM (#34966712)

    found in the unit test area? Does that mean EMI (who owns the copyrights for the Beatles songs) could sue Google for copyright violation and get a percentage for each android handset even though the song "All You Need is Love" is not used in Android in any way whatsoever?

  • Re:natural outcome (Score:4, Insightful)

    by samkass (174571) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:23PM (#34966716) Homepage Journal

    Except that Google *DID* distribute the copyrighted code in question, even if they didn't put it into the handsets. So it's actually this story that's wrong-- Google did, in fact, violate the copyright. Does that mean Slashdot should stop posting pro-Google stories for a couple days? Your point doesn't make much sense to me.

  • by javacowboy (222023) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:25PM (#34966730)

    I really don't understand this bias against Oracle.

    If any other company was the victim of a GPL violation, for whatever reason and whereever the code was distributed, Slashdot would cry foul. I guess as long as it's done to Oracle, it's OK.

    It doesn't matter if you distribute the code as part of a product that makes money or if you use it internally. If you slap an Apache license header on GPL code, you're violating the GPL. Copyright law doesn't require you to make money in order to infringe. Why do you think the RIAA is going after P2P users and getting massive settlements?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:26PM (#34966738)

    My blog never made a specific claim about Android devices containing certain code.

    That's not what your blog post reads like. If they're not part of the codebase used on an Android device, you should have explicitly stated so, seeing as quite obviously "The Android versions of those files" by default suggests that those files are a part of the Android OS.

    Maybe you can admit you were wrong or at the very least unclear in certain places, rather than quite childishly trying to bullshit your way out of this?

    It's also wrong, as stated above, that Google "deleted" those files. They are still in the Froyo (Android 2.2) and Gingerbread (2.3) trees. At least they were when I last checked, which was yesterday. They are just not in the tree for future versions.

    That's kind of how source repositories work when you delete things.

  • Re:Go Google go (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:41PM (#34966850)

    Just to make something clear: they didn't use JavaME because they were too cheap, it's because anyone who has done more than a Hello Wold app realizes how antiquated JavaME is (both CDC and CLDC). Hands down developing something in Objective C using Xcode is a much better experience. What Google offered is basically JavaSE on a phone, which Sun should have started pushing years ago. This isn't the first technology Sun created in the Java realm that sucked (Applets, JSF, JavaFX, EJB 1.0 to name a few) and Google's net result is an increase in Java developers. Oracle should be happy about this, just as Jonathan Schwartz was in his blogpost here: http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan/entry/congratulations_google

  • by zzatz (965857) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @04:08PM (#34966984)

    Please name one Android device that ships with this code.

    I'm looking for clarity regarding the impact of any possible infringement. Willful infringement of code central to Android devices could stop shipments. Incidental infringement of peripheral code is another matter. It should be resolved, of course, but would have little impact on the market.

    Do Android devices contain infringing code? Do they contain infringing code that could be easily replaced? Or do they contain infringing code that is central to their operation?

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @04:33PM (#34967174) Homepage

    ...and a GPL infraction is generally handled by allowing the offending party to make right rather than continuing to drag their names through the mud or sue them for some obscene damages.

    GPL violators generally get treated much nicer than anyone else that violates some license.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @04:54PM (#34967320) Journal

    What you said was:

    Android contains, under the Apache license, code that is essentially just decompiled code of Oracle/Sun software that was never licensed to Apache.

    Now, with some creative interpretation, you can likely indeed weasel out of it and say that this doesn't really mean that files were shipped to end users as part of Android. But it certainly wasn't the impression from your original post, and nowhere did you highlight that very important detail. What more, you contrasted your newly discovered files with PolicyNodeImpl.java, from which the "decompiled unlicensed copy" story started - and why it wasn't big deal back in the day was that it didn't ship on devices.

    A lot of readers interpreted your words in the same way as TFA, which leaves one to wonder if that was an honest mistake (but then why not just admit that and correct the story?), an attempt to sound more sensationalist than it really is by omitting details that make it mundane, or deliberate FUD. I was one of those readers [slashdot.org], and I now have to apologize to fellow Slashdot readers for spreading this misinformation. Are you going to apologize for starting it?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2011 @05:02PM (#34967370)

    The burden of proof goes the other way. Oracle would need to prove that this distribution did cause damage. It is not Google's (or anyone else's) job to prove lack of damages. They could maybe get server logs to determine # of downloads, but that's only useful for statutory damages.

  • by arcsimm (1084173) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @05:05PM (#34967402)
    The files discovered in the Android code repository are unequivocally Oracle's IP, with an inappropriately modified license. This means, that for these at least, Google is almost certainly liable for infringement. However, since none of those files ever went into an Android handset, their presence, in a legal sense, is most likely completely irrelevant with regards to Oracle's main aim, which is to extract court-mandated royalties from Google and/or handset manufacturers for each Android device they produce. It would be like the RIAA trying to collect royalties on music that I wrote and produced on my own, because they found pirated music on one of my computers.

    Does that sound about right, or am I way off-base here?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2011 @05:19PM (#34967486)

    Okay, maybe not creative. We'll go with "incorrect" then.

  • by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @05:35PM (#34967602)

    You can be sure the damage award would not be zero even if nobody ever used it.

    For an inadvertent inclusion of an incorrect license on GPLed code? I can't be sure of what you suggest at all, in fact the opposite seems considerably more likely. Looks to me like you're pretty far out on a limb on this, I would suggest backing slowly away.

  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @05:55PM (#34967752)

    Usually the infringed party contacts the infringing party and allows them to correct the error, since mistakes happen. It's the polite, non-douchebag way to behave, particularly since the goal of the GPL is spreading code. In legal terms, it's called "good-faith".

    Oracle, of course, is a douchebag, and as such does things the douchebag way.

    Thus, Oracle gets slammed for being a douchebag.

    It's like seeing a guy hit on your girlfriend, and instead of telling the guy she's spoken for, you sucker-punch him. You're a douchebag if you behave that way, plain and simple. That's how Oracle operates.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2011 @06:04PM (#34967804)

    This is why I decided not to be a lawyer. You made up some bullshit blog post that definately gave people the impression that Android was using stolen code. You know.. in the phone...

    Then when someone calls you on your bullshit you use a bunch of legalese to try to weasel your way out of any responsibility for what you said.

    "I never said it was on a phone"

    Well you never said it wasn't and your blog post gave the impression that it was.

    This type of shit may fly on Engadget, but slashdot users aren't retarded. Not all of us anyway.. Every time I think I want to post a comment on Engadget I read the incredibly stupid stuff that has already been posted and I just give up.

  • Re:natural outcome (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2011 @07:38PM (#34968408)

    It is absolutely germane.

    If there is no mens rea, the damages aren't as great. If the code in question isn't on any Android headset, guess what. That means no per headset royalty goes to Oracle. If the code in question was derived from object code freely available from the Sun website. Guess what. The damage incurred to Oracle is much smaller. The magnitude and nature of the crime are obviously very important to determining the damages to be awarded to Oracle.

    You are apparently comfortable with charging everybody involved in the death of another person with first degree murder instead of looking into the crime and determining if it was manslaughter, murder 2, murder 1, negligent homicide, etc. The context in which a crime occurs is always important.

    Also, this obviously goes beyond the legal question. It is also clearly a question of ethics. Most of us would like to know if Google willfully plagiarized code that was not theirs. They did not which is clear from the context. If nobody had bothered to correct the original blog post, which lacked large chunks of crucial information (it failed to mention that the code was part of unit testing, freely available for download from the Sun website, etc.), we would not know the relevant facts of the case.

    And now Florian Mueller is running around acting like is blog post is somehow free of error despite his half-assed job at disclosing the relevant facts. He found these files and stopped right there when he should have kept investigating. He made absolutely no attempt to discover an explanation for the code's inclusion in the source tree. He also clearly implied that the code was included in Android proper that runs on actual headsets. Then, after several someones pointed out that he was talking about unit tests and code not actually relevant to Android's functioning as an OS, he claimed that manufactures may have chosen to include it in production releases. A claim that is patently absurd. It's nice to know these facts about his journalistic integrity.

  • Re:Still... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by node 3 (115640) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @08:10PM (#34968630)

    Take Linux, fork it, and redistribute it under the Apache license...

    Google didn't take Linux and redistribute it under the Apache license or anything remotely like that. See what I mean about "spin"?

    Yes, they did "something remotely like that". They took Oracle's copyrighted files, changed the copyright (which they do not have the right to do) then redistributed them under that license (which they do not have the right to do.

    That's exactly like taking something else under the GPL (like Linux) and changing its license, and redistributing it. See what I mean about facts?

    ...silly accusations against the victim, solely because they are Oracle.

    Haha, that's rich. Oracle... victim... like it wasn't Oracle who sued Google over using Java, thus pissing off the entire free software and open source community in one go...

    Right. I'm weeping for Larry at this very moment or maybe not.

    And again, you are proving my point. Google violated Oracle's license, but because it's Oracle that's being wronged (and Google that's doing the wrong, but Slashdot's hate for Oracle exceeds their love for Google), then fuck them.

    *THAT'S* the very definition of "spin".

  • by IBitOBear (410965) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @09:31PM (#34969232) Homepage Journal

    Most GPL violations are solved with a quick appology and direct remediation of the violation. Typically the violation is the failure to disclose source and such disclosure then happens. Damaged or headers are not uncommon, and in case of individual stupidity (not every guy checking stuff into version control is a jet-fuel genius) or honest mistake (not every guy checking stuff into version control is fully versed in copyright law), then reasonable people just go "eh, dude, that needs to be fixed" and then someone else replies "ok, cool, I'll fix that".

    So the change of license was wrong, and needs to be fixed. Neither license is particularly incompatible with the other. Reasonable people, finding an issue _this_ minor are expected to act reasonably.

    Of course Orace is involved so that's expecting rather a lot.

    For the most part, if the actual complaint was this mis-licensing, between typical and reasonable GPL entities, then there would have been a check-in with the corrected headers.

    So no matter what the other facts may be, the damage threshold is nascent to non-existent, and the "reasonable behavior" test has not been met by Oracle.

    This whole thing is Oracle FUD to damage Android for no apparent reason than the fact that Oracle doest that kind of thing.

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