Naughton didn't do enough research to justify his conclusions.
Posted Mar 21, 2011 5:05 UTC (Mon) by FlorianMueller
In reply to: Naughton didn't do enough research to justify his conclusions.
Parent article: Has Bionic stepped over the GPL line?
1) I never thought that Naughton's paper claimed to know the answer. It was, just the way you see it, meant to ask an important question: is this a legally safe approach or are there risks that go beyond what's acceptable? And what's acceptable depends, as I point out in my blog post, on how much is at stake. For the C library of a platform on which an entire mobile ecosystem is built, there must undoubtedly be a more cautious and conservative approach than to, say, a device driver that affects only a single vendor, or to a single third-party application.
2) So when you claim that "he hasn't engaged in the detailed research that would be needed to justify the claims that have been made", I believe that someone highlighting a need -- in light of what I said in the previous paragraph -- to take a closer look at something doesn't have to meet the detailed research standard you would expect in court, or if he claimed with certainty that there is an infringement. So far I haven't seen any other expert claim that there isn't an infringement: you admit in your blog post that there may be one; Eben Moglen was evasive when ZDNet's SJVN asked; LWN's article above doesn't rule out the possibility.
3) There are good reasons to raise the question whether you, @bkuhn, engaged in even the non-detailed research that would have been necessary to make the claims you made. I don't think so in a couple of cases:
3.1) You claim that "Google wasn't seeking to circumvent the GPL at all." The LWN article above tells a different story. In my blog post, I link to this official Android architecture presentation, on page 36 of which you can find, in the specific context of Bionic, the stated goal: "keep GPL out of user-space [sic]"
3.2) You also seem to be placing bets without sufficient research: "If someone actually does all the research to prove that Google did, I'd easily offer a 1,000-to-1 bet to anyone that such a copyright infringement could be cleared up easily [...]"
This flies in the face of everything I know about this industry after 25 years of work, during which I've had discussions on possible alterations of large codebases with CEOs, CTOs and VPs of Engineering on numerous occasions, often with those of major software publishers such as Blizzard Entertainment (I edited, although my focus at the time was on the commercial side, a small part of the Warcraft II C sources myself). During all of that time, I never came across an engineering decision-maker who made your 1,000-to-1-bet claim concerning any (even the slightest) change to a large codebase. Everyone who really knows how it works will tell you that once you make such changes -- and replacing a C library is pretty significant anyway, but let's assume you're right and it's small -- you run the risk of destabilizing parts of a large codebase where you didn't even expect it. With a "release early, release often" mentality one can just replace such a library without caring much; but I doubt that the likes of Samsung and Motorola want to "release early, release often" their devices.
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