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Linux developer in solo bid to enforce GPL

A Linux developer is attempting to get the Singapore-based maker of a tablet device to comply with the GPL without taking the usual route of going to the courts.

Red Hat employee Matthew Garrett says he has written to the US Customs about the fact that Fusion Garage, the maker of the Joojoo tablet, has not provided him with the source code for the operating system that runs the device.

Garrett sent the letter based on advice offered by former Linux Journal publisher Don Marti on a web forum.

Marti wrote: "If you're a copyright holder, and the manufacturer exports to the USA, you can start an administrative proceeding with the US Customs Service. It looks much easier and less expensive than a court case.

"You don't get money damages, but the shipment doesn't get through Customs. The importer has to ship it back, destroy it, or turn it over to the copyright holder."

Garrett has contributed code to the kernel and thus qualifies as a copyright holder.

The kernel is released under the General Public Licence (version 2) and if anyone makes changes to the code and distributes it, then source has to be provided either along with the binary or else on request.

On June 24 this year, Garrett described his initial experience with the Joojoo tablet, concluding "they're distributing Linux (stock Ubuntu with some additional packages and a modified kernel) without any source or an offer to provide source."

He said he had sent an email to Fusion Garage, the company which makes the Joojoo and is based in Singapore, and elicited a response to the effect that active changes were still being made to the software used for the device and that the source would be released once the company felt it was ready to do so and had the necessary resources.

On September 9, Garrett wrote that he had decided to act on Marti's suggestion, even though, "I'll admit that I have absolutely no idea how seriously these cases get taken, and so I've no great expectation of any sort of interesting outcome."

Contacted by email, Garrett refused to say anything further. "I'm afraid I won't be providing you with any comment on this," was his response.

Fusion Garage's PR people said there was nothing further they could add to the details available on the web.

"We don't have anything new to add to this right now, but we are more than happy to follow up with you when we do have information for you," Megan Alpers replied.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.