Blogger Accuses Asus of Infringing GPL with Eee PC

Nov 26, 2007

Cliff Biffle, a US blogger, accuses Asus of infringements against the GPL with the software on ist Eee PC.

Writing on the subject of the recent presentation of the Asus mini-notebook, "Eee PC", in his blog, Biffle claims that modifications to the Open Source components infringe on the GPL. Biffle says that he has downloaded 1.8GB of source code from both the US and the Taiwanese sites and checked the code. He discovered that the code does not include all sources. Nor does the source code contain modifications by the PC vendor, and the required documentation was also missing.

In his test report Biffle describes what he discovered about the purported source code the download. He writes that the Zip archive includes just a couple of Debian installation packages, some of which were older versions than those supplied with the device, along with the kernel headers. He goes on to write that Asus has made major changes to the "asus_acpi" kernel modul for kernel 2.6.21.4, but without publishing, or disclosing and documenting the changes. In Biffle’s opinion the vendor has taken steps to remove details of the modifications and the new functionality offered by the module. The modified modules now no longer contain typical information such as the module name, version and authoring information, as these details have simply been removed.

The Madwifi for the Atheros WiFi chip has also been modified says Biffle. However, there is no need to publish these changes as the Madwifi is dual licensed under the GPL and the BSD license, which means that Asus can keep the changes to itself.

It also looks like Asus is using the multipurpose Busybox binary in the Initramfs system image but without keeping to GPL rules. The developers of Busybox are currently working with the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) to defend their rights in a court of law, if needed.

The blog author writes that he and other people have contacted Asus but without receiving a response. Biffle hopes that Asus will simply say "Oops!", admit its error, and update the Zip archive.

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