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.