Changeset - 46c50ec0b192
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Bradley M. Kuhn - 14 months ago 2020-10-01 17:52:25
bkuhn@sfconservancy.org
Copyleft Compliance: Minor rewrite of strategy & firmware liberation

This rewrite should improve the stand-alone nature of these documents
and allow for better integration with other summary text and
announcements on the website.

Note that they have now drifted heavily from the original formulation
of the items as grant proposals.
1 file changed with 81 insertions and 83 deletions:
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www/conservancy/static/copyleft-compliance/enforcement-strategy.html
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{% block subtitle %}Copyleft Compliance Projects - {% endblock %}
 
{% block submenuselection %}EnforcementStrategy{% endblock %}
 
{% block content %}
 

	
 
<h1 id="software-freedom-conservancy-proposal-for-gpl-enforcement-grant">History and Future Strategy</h1>
 

	
 
<p>The Software Freedom Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity
 
  registered in New York.  Founded in 2006, Conservancy helps people take control
 
  of their computing by growing the software freedom movement, supporting
 
  community-driven alternatives to proprietary software, and defending free
 
  software with practical initiatives.  Conservancy accomplishes these goals
 
  with various initiatives including fiscal sponsorship, licensing and project
 
  governance policy, and public advocacy.  Some of Conservancy's most important
 
  licensing policy work involves defending and upholding the rights of
 
  software users and consumers under copyleft licenses, such as the GPL.</p>
 
<p>As existing donors and supporters know, the Software Freedom Conservancy
 
  is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity registered in New York, and Conservancy
 
  helps people take control of their computing by growing the software
 
  freedom movement, supporting community-driven alternatives to proprietary
 
  software, and defending free software with practical initiatives.
 
  Conservancy accomplishes these goals with various initiatives, including
 
  defending and upholding the rights of software users and consumers under
 
  copyleft licenses, such as the GPL.</p>
 

	
 
<h2 id="brief-history-of-user-focused-gpl-enforcement">Brief History of
 
  User-Focused GPL Enforcement</h2>
 

	
 
<p>The spring of 2003 was a watershed moment for software freedom on
 
  electronic devices. 802.11 wireless technology had finally reached the
 
  mainstream, and wireless routers for home use had flooded the market
 
  earlier in the year. By June
 
  2003, <a href="https://hardware.slashdot.org/story/03/06/08/1749217/is-linksys-violating-the-GPL">the
 
    general public knew that Linksys (a division of Cisco) was violating the
 
    GPL</a> on their WRT54G model wireless routers. Hobbyists discovered
 
  (rather easily) that Linux, BusyBox and many GNU programs were included in
 
  the router, but Linksys and Cisco had failed to provide source code or any
 
  offer for source code to its customers.</p>
 
  general public knew that Linksys (a division of Cisco) was violating the
 
  GPL</a> on their WRT54G model wireless routers. Hobbyists discovered
 
  (rather easily) that Linux and BusyBox were included in the router, but
 
  Linksys and Cisco had failed to provide source code or any offer for source
 
  code to its customers.</p>
 

	
 
<p>A coalition formed made up of organizations and individuals — including
 
  Erik Andersen (major contributor to and former leader of the BusyBox
 
  project) and Harald Welte (major contributor to Linux’s netfilter
 
  subsystem) — to enforce the
 
  GPL. <a href="https://sfconservancy.org/about/staff/#bkuhn">Bradley
 
    M. Kuhn</a>, who is now Conservancy’s Policy Analyst and
 
  Hacker-in-Residence, led and coordinated that coalition when he was
 
  Executive Director of the FSF. By early 2004, this coalition, through the
 
  M. Kuhn</a>, who is now Conservancy’s Policy Analyst and
 
  Hacker-in-Residence, led and coordinated that coalition (when he was
 
  Executive Director of the FSF). By early 2004, this coalition, through the
 
  process of GPL enforcement, compelled Linksys to release an
 
  almost-GPL-compliant source release for the
 
  WRT54G. A <a href="https://openwrt.org/about/history">group of volunteers
 
    quickly built a new project, called OpenWRT</a> based on that source
 
  quickly built a new project, called OpenWRT</a> based on that source
 
  release. In the years that have followed, OpenWRT has been ported to almost
 
  every major wireless router product. Now, more than 15 years later, the
 
  every major wireless router product.  Now, more than 15 years later, the
 
  OpenWRT project routinely utilizes GPL source releases to build, improve
 
  and port OpenWRT. The project has also joined coalitions to fight the FCC
 
  and port OpenWRT.  The project has also joined coalitions to fight the FCC
 
  to ensure that consumers have and deserve rights to install modified
 
  firmwares on their devices and that such hobbyist improvements are no
 
  threat to spectrum regulation.</p>
 

	
 
<p>Recently, OpenWRT decided to join Conservancy as one its member projects,
 
  and Conservancy has committed to long-term assistance to this project.</p>
...
 
@@ -55,18 +54,18 @@
 
<p>OpenWRT has spurred companies to create better routers and other wireless
 
  devices than they would otherwise have designed because they now need to
 
  either compete with hobbyists, or (better still) cooperate with them to
 
  create hardware that fully supports OpenWRT’s features and improvements
 
  (such as dealing
 
  with <a href="https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/network/traffic-shaping/sqm">the
 
    dreaded “bufferbloat” bugs</a>). This interplay between the hobbyist
 
  dreaded “bufferbloat” bugs</a>). This interplay between the hobbyist
 
  community and for-profit ventures promotes innovation in
 
  technology. Without both permission <em>and</em> the ability to build and
 
  modify the software on their devices, the hobbyist community
 
  shrinks. Eventually, instead of encouraging people to experiment with their
 
  devices, hobbyists are limited by the oft-arbitrary manufacturer-imposed
 
  shrinks. Without intervention to assure companies respect the hobbyist
 
  community, hobbyists are limited by the oft-arbitrary manufacturer-imposed
 
  restraints in the OEM firmware. OpenWRT saved the wireless router market
 
  from this disaster; we seek to help other embedded electronic subindustries
 
  avoid that fate. The authors of GPL’d software chose that license so its
 
  source is usable and readily available to hobbyists. It is our duty, as
 
  activists for the software freedom of hobbyists, to ensure these legally
 
  mandated rights are never curtailed.</p>
...
 
@@ -84,41 +83,41 @@
 
  cases. Most notably, the GPL-compliant source release obtained in the
 
  lawsuit for certain Samsung televisions provided the basis for
 
  the <a href="https://www.samygo.tv/">SamyGo project</a> — an alternative
 
  firmware that works on that era of Samsung televisions and allows consumers
 
  to modify and upgrade their firmware using FOSS.</p>
 

	
 
<p>Harald Welte also continued his efforts during the early and mid-2000s
 
  after the Linksys enforcement through
 
<p>Harald Welte also continued his efforts during the early and mid-2000s,
 
  after the Linksys enforcement, through
 
  his <a href="https://gpl-violations.org/">gpl-violations.org
 
    project</a>. Harald successfully sued many companies (mostly in the
 
  wireless router industry) in Germany to achieve compliance and yield source
 
  releases that helped OpenWRT during that period.</p>
 

	
 
<h2 id="importance-of-linux-enforcement-specifically">Importance of Linux Enforcement Specifically</h2>
 

	
 
<p>In recent years, embedded systems technology has expanded beyond wireless
 
  routers to so-called “Internet of Things” devices designed for connectivity
 
  with other devices in the home and to the “Cloud”. Consumer electronics
 
  companies now feature and differentiate products based on Internet
 
  connectivity, and related services. Conservancy has seen Linux-based
 
  firmwares on refrigerators, baby monitors, virtual assistants, soundbars,
 
  doorbells, home security cameras, police body cameras, cars, AV receivers,
 
  and televisions.</p>
 

	
 
<p>This wide deployment of general purpose computers into mundane household
 
  devices raises profound privacy and consumer rights
 
  routers to so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices designed for
 
  connectivity with other devices in the home and to the “Cloud”. Consumer
 
  electronics companies now feature and differentiate products based on
 
  Internet connectivity and related services. Conservancy has seen
 
  Linux-based firmwares on refrigerators, baby monitors, virtual assistants,
 
  soundbars, doorbells, home security cameras, police body cameras, cars, AV
 
  receivers, and televisions.</p>
 

	
 
<p>This wide deployment of general purpose computers into
 
  mundane household devices raises profound privacy and consumer rights
 
  implications. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/15/us/Hacked-ring-home-security-cameras.html">Home</a> <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/01/23/family-says-hacked-nest-camera-warned-them-north-korean-missile-attack/">security</a> <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/06/05/617196788/s-c-mom-says-baby-monitor-was-hacked-experts-say-many-devices-are-vulnerable">cameras</a> <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/12/tech/ring-security-camera-hacker-harassed-girl-trnd/index.html">are</a> <a href="https://abc7.com/baby-monitor-hack-leads-to-kidnap-scare/4931822/">routinely</a> <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-44117337/security-footage-viewed-by-thousands">compromised</a>
 
  — invading the privacy and security of individual homes. Even when
 
  companies succeed in keeping out third parties, consumers
 
  are <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/aug/29/ring-amazon-police-partnership-social-media-neighbor">pressured
 
    by camera makers</a> to automatically upload their videos to local
 
  by camera makers</a> to automatically upload their videos to local
 
  police. Televisions
 
  routinely <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/07/vizio-settlement-moves-forward/">spy
 
    on consumers for the purposes of marketing and massive data
 
    collection</a>.</p>
 
  on consumers for the purposes of marketing and massive data
 
  collection</a>.</p>
 

	
 
<p>There is one overarching irony to this growing dystopia: nearly all these
 
  devices are based primarily on software licensed under the GPL: most
 
  notably, Linux. While Linux-based systems do allow proprietary user-space
 
  applications not licensed under GPL, the kernel and many other system
 
  utilities routinely used in embedded systems, such as Conservancy’s BusyBox
...
 
@@ -156,27 +155,28 @@
 
  generational educational opportunities. There are few easier ways to
 
  understand technology than to experiment with a device one already
 
  has. Historically, FOSS has succeeded because young hobbyists could
 
  examine, modify and experiment with software in their own devices. Those
 
  hobbyists became the professional embedded device developers of today!
 
  Theoretically, the advent of the “Internet of Things” — with its many
 
  devices that run Linux — should give opportunities for young hobbyists to
 
  quickly explore and improve the devices they depend on in their every day
 
  lives. Yet, that’s rarely possible in reality. To ensure that both current
 
  and future hobbyists can practically modify their Linux-based devices, we
 
  must enforce Linux’s license. With public awareness that their devices can
 
  be improved, the desire for learning will increase, and will embolden the
 
  curiosity of newcomers of all ages and backgrounds. The practical benefits
 
  of this virtuous cycle are immediately apparent. With technological
 
  experimentation, people are encouraged to try new things, learn how their
 
  devices work, and perhaps create whole new types of devices and
 
  technologies that no one has even dreamed of before.</p>
 

	
 
<p>“Internet of Things” firmware should never rely on one vendor — even the
 
  vendor of the hardware itself. This centralized approach is brittle and
 
  inevitably leads to invasions of the public’s privacy and loss of control of their
 
  devices that run Linux — <em>should</em> give opportunities for young
 
  hobbyists to quickly explore and improve the devices they depend on in
 
  their every day lives.  Yet, that’s rarely possible in reality.  To ensure
 
  that both current and future hobbyists can practically modify their
 
  Linux-based devices, we must enforce Linux’s license. With public awareness
 
  that their devices can be improved, the desire for learning will increase,
 
  and will embolden the curiosity of newcomers of all ages and
 
  backgrounds. The practical benefits of this virtuous cycle are immediately
 
  apparent. With technological experimentation, people are encouraged to try
 
  new things, learn how their devices work, and perhaps create whole new
 
  types of devices and technologies that no one has even dreamed of
 
  before.</p>
 

	
 
<p>IoT firmware should never rely on one vendor — even the vendor of the
 
  hardware itself. This centralized approach is brittle and inevitably leads
 
  to invasions of the public’s privacy and loss of control of their
 
  technology. Conservancy’s GPL enforcement work is part of the puzzle that
 
  ensures users can choose who their devices connect to, and how they
 
  connect. Everyone deserves control over their own computing — from their
 
  laptop to their television to their toaster. When the public can modify (or
 
  help others modify) the software on their devices, they choose the level of
 
  centralized control they are comfortable with. Currently, users with
...
 
@@ -209,40 +209,39 @@
 
  compliance.</p>
 

	
 
<p>Those tactics no longer succeed; the industry has taken advantage of that
 
  goodwill. After the BusyBox lawsuit settled, we observed a slow move toward
 
  intentional non-compliance throughout the embedded electronics
 
  industry. Companies use delay and “hardball” pre-litigation tactics to
 
  drain the limited resources available for enforcement, which we faced for
 
  example
 
  in <a href="https://sfconservancy.org/copyleft-compliance/vmware-lawsuit-links.html">the
 
    VMware violation</a>. While VMware ultimately complied with the GPL, they
 
  drain the limited resources available for enforcement, which we faced (for
 
  example) in <a href="/copyleft-compliance/vmware-lawsuit-links.html">the
 
  VMware violation</a>. While VMware ultimately complied with the GPL, they
 
  did so by reengineering the product and removing Linux from it — and only
 
  after the product was nearing end-of-life.</p>
 

	
 
<p>Conservancy has recently completed an evaluation of the industry’s use of
 
  Linux in embedded products. Our findings are disheartening and require
 
  action. Across the entire industry, most major manufacturers almost flaunt
 
  their failure to comply with the GPL. In our private negotiations, pursuant
 
  to
 
  our <a href="https://sfconservancy.org/copyleft-compliance/principles.html">Principles
 
    of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement</a>, GPL violators stall, avoid,
 
  action.  Across the entire industry, most major manufacturers almost flaunt
 
  their failure to comply with the GPL.  In our private negotiations,
 
  pursuant to
 
  our <a href="/copyleft-compliance/principles.html">Principles
 
  of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement</a>, GPL violators stall, avoid,
 
  delay and generally refuse to comply with the GPL. Their disdain for the
 
  rights of their customers is often palpable. Their attitude is almost
 
  universal: “if you think we’re really violating the GPL, then go ahead and
 
  sue us. Otherwise, you’re our lowest priority.”</p>
 
  rights of their customers is often palpable.  Their attitude is almost
 
  universal: <q>if you think we’re really violating the GPL, then go ahead and
 
  sue us. Otherwise, you’re our lowest priority</q>.</p>
 

	
 
<h2 id="conservancys-plan-for-action">Conservancy’s Plan For Action</h2>
 

	
 
<p>Conservancy has a three-pronged plan for action: litigation, persistent
 
  non-litigation enforcement, and alternative firmware development.</p>
 

	
 
<h3 id="litigation">Litigation</h3>
 

	
 
<p>Conservancy has many violation matters that we have pursued during the
 
  last year where we expect compliance is impossible without litigation. We
 
  last year where we expect compliance is impossible without litigation.  We
 
  are poised to select — from among the many violations in the embedded
 
  electronics space — a representative example and take action in USA courts
 
  against a violator who has failed to properly provide source code
 
  sufficient for consumers to rebuild and install Linux, and who still
 
  refuses to remedy that error after substantial friendly negotiation with
 
  Conservancy.</p>
...
 
@@ -251,34 +250,33 @@
 
  works, and we’ll end any litigation when the company fully complies on its
 
  products and makes a bona fide commitment to future compliance.</p>
 

	
 
<p>Conservancy, after years of analyzing its successes and failures of
 
  previous GPL compliance litigation, has developed — in conjunction with
 
  litigation counsel over the last year — new approaches to litigation
 
  strategy. We believe this will bring to fruition the promise of copyleft: a
 
  license that assures the rights and software freedoms of hobbyists who seek
 
  full control and modifiability of devices they own. With the benefit of
 
  this grant, Conservancy plans to accelerate these plans in 2020 and to keep
 
  the public informed at every stage of the process.</p>
 
  strategy.  We believe this will bring to fruition the promise of copyleft:
 
  a license that assures the rights and software freedoms of hobbyists who
 
  seek full control and modifiability of devices they own. With the benefit
 
  of this grant, Conservancy plans to accelerate these plans in 2020 and to
 
  keep the public informed at every stage of the process.</p>
 

	
 
<h3 id="persistent-non-litigation-enforcement">Persistent Non-Litigation Enforcement</h3>
 

	
 
<p>While we will seek damages to cover our reasonable costs of this work, we
 
  do not expect that any recovery in litigation can fully fund the broad base
 
  of work necessary to ensure compliance and the software freedom it
 
  brings. Conservancy is the primary charitable watchdog of
 
  GPL compliance for Linux-based devices. We seek to use litigation as a tool
 
  in a broader course of action to continue our work in this regard. We
 
  expect and welcome that the high profile nature of litigation will inspire
 
  more device owners to report violations to us. We expect we’ll learn about
 
  classes of devices we previously had no idea contained Linux, and we’ll
 
  begin our diligent and unrelenting work to achieve software freedom for the
 
  owners of those devices. We will also build more partnerships across the
 
  technology sector and consumer rights organizations to highlight the
 
  benefit of copyleft to not just hobbyists, but the entire general
 
  public.</p>
 
  of work necessary to ensure compliance and the software freedom it brings.
 
  Conservancy is the primary charitable watchdog of GPL compliance for
 
  Linux-based devices.  We seek to use litigation as a tool in a broader
 
  course of action to continue our work in this regard.  We expect and
 
  welcome that the high profile nature of litigation will inspire more device
 
  owners to report violations to us. We expect we’ll learn about classes of
 
  devices we previously had no idea contained Linux, and we’ll begin our
 
  diligent and unrelenting work to achieve software freedom for the owners of
 
  those devices. We will also build more partnerships across the technology
 
  sector and consumer rights organizations to highlight the benefit of
 
  copyleft to not just hobbyists, but the entire general public.</p>
 

	
 
<h3 id="alternative-firmware-project">Alternative Firmware Project</h3>
 

	
 
<p>The success of the OpenWRT project, born from GPL enforcement, has an
 
  important component. While we’ve long hoped that volunteers, as they did
 
  with OpenWRT and SamyGo, will take up compliant sources obtained in our GPL
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