UPDATE - Florian Mueller: Copyright-infringing material in Android codebase

UPDATE - Florian Mueller: Copyright-infringing material in Android codebase

Summary: Intellectual property activist Florian Mueller has been trawling through the Android codebase and discovered a number of examples of what appears to be copyright infringement.

SHARE:

Intellectual property activist Florian Mueller has been trawling through the Android codebase and discovered a number of examples of what appears to be copyright infringements.

- Two months ago I took a close look at Exhibit J to Oracle's amended complaint, which contained a synopsis of source code shipped by Google and Sun's original Java code. I have since found six more files in an adjacent directory that show the same pattern of direct copying. All of them were apparently derived with the help of a decompiler tool. Those files form part of Froyo (Android version 2.2) as well as Gingerbread (version 2.3), unlike the file presented by Oracle.

- In addition, I have identified 37 files marked as "PROPRIETARY/CONFIDENTIAL" by Sun and a copyright notice file that says: "DO NOT DISTRIBUTE!" Those files appear to relate to the Mobile Media API of the Sun Java Wireless Toolkit. Unless Google obtained a license to that code (which is unlikely given the content and tone of those warnings), this constitutes another breach.

Mueller has documented his findings in nine separate PDF files, seven of which (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) compares the decompiled version of a file from Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) version 5.0 to the corresponding file in the Android source code tree. The differences, as Mueller states, as small and insignificant:

In those synopsis files, lines with differences (in content, not just layout) are marked up in red. The amount of differences is minuscule. In most of the files, those differences are limited to comments or to a few lines having a different position without any impact on program logic. In OwnerImpl, a small code segment has a slightly enhanced logic in the Android version (for which there could be different explanations), and in PermissionImpl, a small hash code function is outcommented (and therefore inactive) in the Android version. But for most of the code, there's no difference whatsoever between the two columns.

Not looking good for Android on this score.

[IMPORTANT UPDATE: Or maybe not ... This in from the guys at AndroidCentral:

All the fuss, all the hysteria, and most importantly all the cries against Google proclaiming them as thieves aren't what they seem.  There are two sets of files in question -- a series of seven (PolicyNodeImpl.java, AclEntryImpl.java, AclImpl.java, GroupImpl.java, OwnerImpl.java, PermissionImpl.java, and PrincipalImpl.java) that contain proprietary code from Sun, and do exist, but they are in the unit test area of the AOSP source tree.  This means they are only used to test software after it's built, and before it's shipped.  To be clear -- these files are not used to build Android, nor are the shipped with Android.  To take things a step further, these files were published by Sun on their own website to assist developers to test and debug -- exactly what Google is using them for.

Seems like Android dodges the bullet. I'm curious as to what the response will be from Mueller now ...]

[UPDATE 2: Nilay Patel on Engadget thinks differently:

"From a legal perspective, it seems very likely that these files create increased copyright liability for Google."

Interesting stuff!]

Topics: Enterprise Software, Android, Google, Legal

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

21 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Copyright-infringing material discovered in the Android codebase

    Where are our phandroids on this board? Donnieboyo where are you? "It's Linux Advocate" where are you? What happens to the future of free Android? I hope Google has to charge makers to pay Oracle, so eventually it will be the same as Windows Phone 7. At least with Windows Phone 7 they pay between $8 to $15 per license and get full support from Microsoft all the time including the updates. Google, right you are paying for Google Apps and also you would eventually pay for Java. Either Google has to pull out java totally from their Android or license it properly and distributte. I think Steve Jobs did right by not allowing Java after looking into issues of what Microsoft has gone through with the Java settlement. Of course, Microsoft will not go back to Java anytime because they have more powerful .NET. Yesterday shift in the executive branch of Google and now this. I think makers like Motoroal and HTC already have their own set of patents litigations with Android handsets and now this, I think it is not good for Google in the long run.
    Ram U
    • Rama.Net

      Rama... OPENS MOUTH
      ....... STICK FOOT IN

      What do you have to say now Rama?
      Uralbas
  • this Florian Mueller should shut up

    and stop spreading M$ FUD.
    Even Oracle does not claim infringement on those files.
    Linux Geek
    • At least not yet.

      @Linux Geek Oracle is lawyer happy. Expect the files to become part of the claim soon.
      wackoae
      • almost as lawyer happy as google

        @wackoae! oh wait a minute I forogot - google is ALLOWED to steal code from other companies its M$ and Apple thats not allowed!!

        sorry I forgot there for a minute!
        Ron Bergundy
      • Never claimed anything to the contrary

        @Ron Bergundy In fact, I believe Oracle is in the right on this one.
        wackoae
  • One place Google has very little leverage is

    in their patent portfolio which is quite weak. That's bad...like having only one bullet in your six-shooter.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2011/jan/20/google-android-patent-lawsuits-battle
    CowLauncher
  • This ain't close to over.

    But finding stuff like [i]"PROPRIETARY/CONFIDENTIAL by Sun and a copyright notice file that says: DO NOT DISTRIBUTE!"</i>" doesn't look good. <br><br>I'm thinking Ellison is going to have a very good weekend, while Eric Schmidt's may suck. Oh, wait-he just sold $335 million worth of Google stock. Never mind.
    matthew_maurice
  • Do No Evil.

    Has officially lost all meaning. Not that it had a leg to stand on anymore to begin with.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Seriously.. didn't Thou shalt not steal..

      @Cylon Centurion 0005 ..make the top ten on that other famous tablet..
      doctorSpoc
  • Man.. lol.. at least they could have done search &amp; delete..

    of Sun's Copyright statements in the code... if you're going to steal at least be thorough.. lol..
    doctorSpoc
  • PolicyNodeImpl is GPL code

    Well lets grab one and have a look, e.g. document 6.

    Unfortunately the links you give are down, but I can see it relates to PolicyNodeImpl, which in turn seems to have come from Open-JDK-6.b17-src.tgz.

    Open JDK is under GPL.

    So if the JDK version was copied by Sun Israel, as part of Sun Java Wireless Toolkit, it makes little difference if they tweaked the header. The code was GPL'd.

    My guess is this is a red herring. Simply code Sun has marked as proprietary that it also has issued under GPL.
    guihombre
    • ACLImp is VMWARE?

      Looks like ACLIMP (document 2) is similar, but again I can't see Floriens claims the link doesn't work for me.

      http://static.springsource.org/spring-security/site/apidocs/org/springframework/security/acls/domain/AclImpl.html

      Looks like SpringSource (now owned by VMware) contributed it to java, it's not even Suns if this is the same code.

      aclentryimpl, appears to come from BEA systems, which is now owned by Oracle. Now that's more interesting.

      But again, it does not look like these came from Sun Java Wireless Toolkit, rather that Sun incorporated them in and someone changed the header on mass to make them appear to be Sun's.

      But that would weaken Oracles case, not strengthen it, since it's claiming to own files it did not write.
      guihombre
  • Slightly different take on the matter

    From ars technica
    http://arstechnica.com/open-source/news/2011/01/new-alleged-evidence-of-android-infringement-isnt-a-smoking-gun.ars
    30otnix
  • I've seen disagreeing opinions such as AndroidCentral or Ed Burnette

    And I will of course comment on them soon. So far I haven't seen anything that disproves the things I showed. I've only seen positions that dispute the relevance of the findings. But I will check into everything carefully and will do a follow-up post very soon.
    FlorianMueller
    • We'll look forward to reading your follow-up retraction very soon

      @FlorianMueller
      If you know what's good for you, make it VEHEHERRY soon.
      Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
    • The new Florian is not the old Florian

      @FlorianMueller I knew about Florian Mueller. You're not Florian. Florian knew stuff. Florian had vision and passion, he cared about progress. He hated software patents. You might have the rights to his name now, but you're no Florian Mueller.
      symbolset
  • Muller stands for desinformation

    Everyone in the industry knows that Florian Muller is a lobbyist paid by MSFT to spread fear uncertainty and doubt about patent dangers of open source platforms and insult honest people. Android is an example but there are many more. The lobbyist Muller has zero credibility.
    magachet
  • About five sentences?

    Is all your brain cells could muster for this article? Get some rest, you must be exhausted.
    james347
  • Groklaw has an interesting article on this subject now

    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20110122054409107

    One salient paragraph reads:
    <i>"It's complex analyzing copyright infringement claims, in other words, and no one with the necessary expertise at this point has done that analysis. No one without that expertise has done it either, but that's because they don't know it needs to be done. They find a file, see a copyright notice, and consider it "proof". It's not. I don't believe Florian is a lawyer, but it wouldn't matter even if he was. What's missing is the analysis."</i>
    Zogg