Why The RIAA May Want To Side With Open Source Developers In France

from the what-is-distribution-anyway? dept

We all know that the RIAA has been pushing for a certain definition of what constitutes “distribution” online these days (which the courts are still in flux over). An anonymous reader points to a case in France that the RIAA may want to pay attention to — where it may find itself siding with some strange bedfellows: open source developers. Apparently, some of open source developers have sued the large French ISP Free/Iliad for failing to offer up the software used in the 3 million routers that customers use, despite the fact that it includes GPLed software (which requires that any software you distribute also be available to others for free). The ISP has responded by claiming that it hasn’t actually distributed the software, since the routers are still officially a part of its own network — and therefore the software doesn’t have to be offered up.

In other words, simply giving the routers to users doesn’t count as distribution in his definition — which would certainly go against the RIAA’s “making available is distribution” claim). However, as the link above suggests, it could get even worse. If you follow the same definition that Free/Iliad is making, then an ISP could purchase a site license for certain applications or content and then let everyone on its “network” access it, since it wouldn’t be “distributing” it. Thus, suddenly, it may be in the RIAA’s best interest to side with a bunch of open source developers before the definition of “distribute” in France gets defined in a way that the RIAA wouldn’t much appreciate.

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Comments on “Why The RIAA May Want To Side With Open Source Developers In France”

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Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

If I give you a box with software in it...

If I give you a box with software in it then I have distributed the software to you if you can access the software sufficient to obtain a copy of it. If you can use the software, but are unable to access it to make a copy of it then the software has not been distributed to you.

The question is, can users of these routers access the software within it sufficient to make a copy?

NB This has no bearing on, and is nothing to do with, the RIAA’s making available claim.

jonnyq says:

Source Code

“Apparently, some of open source developers have sued the large French ISP Free/Iliad for failing to offer up the software used in the 3 million routers that customers use, despite the fact that it includes GPLed software (which requires that any software you distribute also be available to others for free).”

Geez Mike…

They’re in trouble for not making the SOURCE CODE available. The “software” has already been distributed but the “source code” has not been made available. And your parenthetical clause there doesn’t make sense either. The GPL doesn’t require that the software be free of charge, it just requires that the source code be distributed or at least made available with the software.

The GPL doesn’t require that the source code be distributed with the software, just that it be made available at least upon request.

If the routers are indeed rented and not purchased, I think the ISP may have a case here. If the routers are purchased, then I think they should have to make the source code available upon request. Did 3 million users ask for the source code and have their requests denied?

Beyond that, I think your on point.

ScaredOfTheMan says:

What amazes me...

…is how the ISP must think, its router code is SOOOOOO Amazing that it can’t possibly let it loose, I mean they must have done some revolutionary things to GPL’d Software and boy oh boy would it be incredibly disruptive to the french home router market if that code was released.

That or they have some nasty bits there, like snooping, or intrusive metric collection, QoS or something else, and don’t want that known.

Seriously if the folks who wrote the software you use decided it was free for everyone why makes yours any different?

Anonymous Coward says:

# 2 Is Right

This has nothing to do with the “making available” claim if the users don’t have access to the router (as in able to change settings, etc).

For example in the hospitality industry there are several network management companies. In most, the hotel owns the hardware but not even the GM has access to log in to it.

It is the difference between Hardware and Software. You can replace the firmware on any router with whatever firmware you want. Just look at the homebrew type firmware for the Linksys WRT54GS and other wireless access points.

It is all down to contracts. IF certain SPECIFIC users are granted access, then those SPECIFIC users are supposed to have the ability to download the GPL’d software.

Unless the routers are completely unprotected they don’t need to have a link on their website for it.

At least that is true if the RIAA’s “making available” theory is bunk, which it is but time will tell if the law recognizes common sense.

From France says:

Firmware versus Software

I have one of these boxes, called a FreeBox, and the software is in the form of Firmware, this is downloaded and updated regularly by the ISP, but not really “downloaded” nor really “distributed” but also both of the above. The issue is a complex one and should be handled appropriately as I would love to get the source and fix it.
The box has a disk drive and if you record a show off certain channels, you can not access them via ftp. I would love to disable this “feature”. Anyone ever figured out how this box runs its ftp? I can access it with FileZila but not off the command line, I get to login and then it hangs with the password, never sends anything back.
Anyway, other than that, an outstanding box and only 30Euro a month for high speed internet, tons of worthless TV and free phone calls. Would really hate to see anything happen to it or Free as they are really the only “sane” choice among ISPs over here.

David says:

More about Free

Aside from the issue at hand, Free is a very interesting company. For 29.95 Euros per month (approximately $50), clients receive unlimited high-speed (ADSL) Internet, free telephone calls unlimited in length to anywhere in the world (although there is a small charge to call French portables), and hundreds of channels of television (many HD). Free is also in a frenzy of laying fiber optic line throughout France, but upgraded fiber optic service won’t cost anything extra. When I add up how much I pay to Comcast, DirecTV, and BellSouth here in the States and compare it with the 30 Euros that I pay for service to my place in Paris, I have to say that Free is definitely doing a great job.

Powerkor says:

For the French:
Just threaten them with war, they’ll lay down their arms and give the code up. We all know they can’t fight 😉

Joking 100%

On a serious note, no one likes the RIAA either. They should think up some new business models and stop impeding on technology advancements.

I agree that people are abusing file sharing, but whining about it isnt going to solve anything… and suing 900 million people isn’t going to make them buy more cds or records, but actually push it further underground.

So. stop focusing on record sales. Start devising ways to make content more secure. I know its a hard road to trek, but thats your responsibility, not the consumer.

Big brother would say ‘Get to work, maggots.’

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