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How does RedHat know this? | 197 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
How does RedHat know this?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 14 2012 @ 02:07 PM EDT
Hidden identifiers?

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

How does RedHat know this?
Authored by: DieterWasDriving on Friday, September 14 2012 @ 03:43 PM EDT
I've found my GPL-only code incorporated in proprietary products several times.
Most of those times I wasn't searching for a violation, I was just curious about
the rough outline of what they were doing. Checking the possible error messages
with 'strings' revealed text that I wrote.

I know I'm only finding the really sloppy violations. Error messages can look
pretty similar. But when they copy everything verbatim, including humor and
misspellings, it's very easy to spot.

Once I find an indication that it's my code, it's pretty easy to disassemble and
compare to the original. There are specialized tools that help reconstruct
source code from binaries, but you don't need those tools when you have the
original source code.

On the broader issue: I don't think that Red Hat has a slam dunk win. But it's
clear what the next 20 steps will be, and it puts them pretty close to the

Although the mount program is essential to using the file system, it's a
separable piece. A violator will initially deny copying, usually while asking
for specific proof ("what gave us away?"). In the meantime they are
rewriting the identified copied code. A short while later they will acknowledge
that a 'isolated mistake' was made by a individual programmer. They will put
out a version that has cleaned up the obvious clues.

This can often work, but won't here. They are already in court. An obvious
copyright violation is a solid reason to ask for the entire source code of all
published versions. And likely even get the development history.

The company might do a brief review, or perhaps they already know. They will do
everything possible to limit discovery to the mount program, stall, and obscure
the copying. This will be difficult.

I'm 95% certain that Red Hat will find extensive copying from third parties.
Based on my examination of the binaries and operating characteristics of other
"proprietary" Linux file systems, I'm 94% certain that the internals
will be based on ext2 code, modified over time so that much but not all has been

Now they are in a bind. The GPLv2 doesn't specify if you can remedy a license

A violator will sometimes claim that merely removing the identified lines will
allow them to continue selling their proprietary product, and there is no
recourse for the prior violations. This usually works, but not if you are
already in court.

The easy option of adding a GPL notice isn't appealing. It grants everyone a
license to use your patent. To be precise, it grants everyone that uses that
specific code under the GPL and that includes a proper copyright notice a
license for the patents it practices. So Red Hat wouldn't be covered by the
license grant. But it's easy to argue in hypothetical world where the GPL had
been followed, they might have used the code. So Twin Peaks won't use this

That leave the option of ignoring the GPL. Copying the code was a straight
copyright violation. Twin peaks can try for damages only. That starts with a
claim that the "current retail price is $0", then a claim that the use
is de minimus, then tried for minimum statutory damages with no willful

By the time they get to the courthouse steps, they will be fighting with a
patent filed in 2000 with massive prior art from the 1990s, unclean hands, and a
copyright violation nightmare. I can't see them going in front of a judge or
jury with that set of facts.

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

How does RedHat know this?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 14 2012 @ 04:41 PM EDT
by looking for things like:
util-linux 2.13-pre7

(via a quick check using "strings `which mount` |less" on centos 5.8)


[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

How does RedHat know this?
Authored by: bartjan on Saturday, September 15 2012 @ 03:48 PM EDT
bartjan@fenchurch:~$ mount --version
mount from util-linux 2.20.1 (with libblkid and selinux support)

If Twin Peak's mount provides similar output, then that's a nice start point for
some further investigation :)

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

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