An eagle-eyed user of the Linux Kernel Mailing List archive, going by the name of Jo Shields (who many of you may know), has accused Compro Technology of violating the General Public License (GPL).
Over at lkml.org, Jo writes:
"I've discovered a GPL violation by Taiwanese TV card manufacturer Compro Technology.
On their site, they are offering a "driver" for Mandriva Linux 2007.1, in the form of an 18 meg "linux.rpm"[1,2,3,4]. This "driver" is, in fact, an entire kernel image (from snd-emu10k1.ko to libata.ko, with everything in between), generated from Mandriva's kernel source package, with local modifications to at least two files (major file size gap between Compro and Mandriva kernels in tuner.ko and cx88xx.ko).
Their "driver" is being offered in binary-only form, without any accompanying license, and I have received no replies to a formal request for source after 2 (Taiwanese) working days. Obviously, this violates several GPL clauses, and infringes on the rights of every kernel developer with code in 2.6.17.
It is also the opinion of a LinuxTV developer with whom I've been discussing the matter that their modified drivers appear to contain large un-redistributable portions of code from a chip vendor's proprietary SDK, but we obviously can't adequately check this with only .ko files to work with.
They appear to be offering a similar "driver" for Fedora Core 6, which is non-functional, presumably due to a failed upload (cpio fails to extract the rpm)[4,5].
I'm not 100% certain what my next step should be, so I decided this was the best place to give a public airing. One suggestion I've had suggested is to file a DMCA takedown notice with their (US-based) ISP, but I've no idea whether it's the right stage to do something like that, nor do I have any claim to any code contained in the kernel. At any rate, I wanted to make the kernel developers informed of this discovery."
The GPL, a widely used free software license for the Linux kernel, has previously been used in court. In 2006, the GPL Violations project accused D-Link Corporation of distributing a NAS device with a Linux-based operating system that was incompliant with the GPL. Following-up a legal warning notice, D-Link signed a declaration to cease and desist and agreed to refrain from further distributing the product.
Compro Technology, we're sure, will be hoping Jo Shields' discovery doesn't lead to similar consequences.