updated 10:55 am EDT, Mon August 15, 2011
Android firms' Linux violations may trigger suits
Google's Android partners may have made a costly mistake in ignoring the Linux licenses behind the very foundation of the OS. New findings have emerged that many phone and tablet makers aren't properly giving out source code to meet the GPL version 2 license requirements at the heart of the Linux kernel Android uses. As such, these same companies have officially lost their rights to distribute Linux and could be found responsible for violations in lawsuits and trade disputes, Florian Mueller noted.
Some of these companies assume that Google's posting of open-source Android code qualifies. GPL terms, however, require that any modifications made to a distribution with a Linux kernel have to be republished on their own. Google may have compounded the problem by the decision to withhold Android 3.0 source code under the guise of the OS not being ready, as companies that shipped Android tablets could still be responsible for releasing Linux-based software on their devices that didn't have any source code option.
Precedent comes from a lawsuit from the Software Freedom Conservancy and the Software Freedom Law Center against Best Buy over its distributing devices running BusyBox's version of Linux. Although many of the devices sold using BusyBox met the requirements, Best Buy was in legal trouble as soon as it sold anything that didn't meet the terms of the license.
Google hasn't responded to the new claims and the potential risks. The company may have trouble defending assertions of openness as both it and some of its partners haven't been abiding by the terms of he open licenses.