Add Linux Kernel Copyright Issues to Android's List of Worries?

Lora Bentley

If you're in the smartphone business, chances are you're involved in patent litigation right now. Apple's suing HTC. NTP is taking on six different companies at once. And those are only the first two that come to mind.


Though no one is suing Google directly, many observers have said the Android operating system may be the real target in several cases.


Now, though free and open source software developers don't put much stock in patents, a few of them are raising concerns about Android. Copyright concerns.


A few weeks ago, blogger Florian Mueller laid out some of them . The problem, as he sees it: Google copied 2.5 megabytes of code from more than 700 Linux kernel header files with a homemade program that drops source code comments and some other elements, and daringly claims (in a notice at the start of each generated file) that the extracted material constitutes "no copyrightable information."


Doing that allowed Google to license Android under an amalgam of different licenses. But if Google is wrong, the "copyleft" nature of the General Public License v.2, under which the Linux kernel is published, requires derivative works to be made available under the same terms, Mueller says. In that case, all of Android (and maybe even third-party applications) would have to be released under the GPL, or the "misappropriated Linux code would have to be replaced," according to Mueller.


Other Linux bloggers, however, are calling Mueller's concerns "the same old FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about copyright violation of header files," according to Linuxinsider. The story quotes SlashDot blogger Chris Travers for his opinion that "mere use of a header file is not sufficient to create a derivative work" for purposes of the GPL. According to Travers, the bigger problem for Google may be the removal of the copyright notices.


As such, it's not clear yet whether Android has a copyright problem at all, let alone whether that problem might also leave third-party developers at risk.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 6, 2011 10:29 AM Android Phone Android Phone  says:

Now I feel uncertain, should I have doubts about Androids?

Aug 29, 2011 4:56 AM Octavian Paler Octavian Paler  says:

I read an article on AppLogic that discussed replacing all references to Bionic with references to glibc throughout the entire Android codebase and how it would be a daunting task. I'm sure Google would rather spend the same resources on the development of new features for future Android versions.  That's what the ecosystem of which I'm actually a part, as a user would also like to see happen. But what must be done must be done. Continuing on the current, highly hazardous basis is not a viable option as far as I can see.

Oct 11, 2011 8:23 AM amendaa amendaa  says:

This is a very interesting article on the different types of skills required in the IT Industry. They range from programming to networks.


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