Eee PC “violates open-source software licence”

Asus may be selling one Eee PC every six seconds, but it appears to be doing so while violating the licence for the Linux software that the ultraportable notebook runs.

Eee PC

Software developer Cliff Biffle discovered the violations while digging around in the Eee PC’s software – an entirely legal practice, he notes, since it is licensed under the GPL.

GPL is the widely used open-source licence and one of its key conditions is that the source code for any modifications made to software must be made freely available. Asus, Biffle says, has “extensively modified” the asus_acpi (advanced configuration and power interface) Linux kernel module so that it works with the Eee PC hardware.

In itself that is not a problem. But Asus has removed all attribution information about the module name, version, and author and, according to Biffle, its developers “appear to have attempted to hide what they were doing. (All references to “asus_acpi” have been removed, but other identifying features remain.)”.

Documentation supplied with the notebook includes a copy of the GPL and says that Asus “has exposed the full source code of the GPL licensed software, including any scripts to control compilation and installation the object code”.

But Biffle says that the code available from Asus is far from complete: “it contains a few .debs (not even the versions that ship on the machine) and some kernel headers.”

Asus was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

Asus has been fingered before for a GPL violation, after incorporating the netfilter/iptables into router hardware. The company made the source code available shortly after receiving a notice from the netfilter/iptables project.

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