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Sothink Violated the FlashGot GPL and Stole Code

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the gentlemen-do-not-do-that dept.

Software 312

ShineTheLight sends in news of two Firefox plug-ins: FlashGot, the original, and Sothink, the GPL-violating come-lately. "People at Sothink decided to violate the GPL by stealing a piece of core code from FlashGot and using it without even the decency of covering their tracks. It is an exact copy of a previous version of FlashGot. This deception came to light when users reported to the FlashGot support forum that their software was not working right. Some digging led to the discovery that the older module that Sothink stole and used verbatim was overriding the more recent engine on the machines of those who had both installed and it was causing the issue. It has been reported to AMO and the FlashGot developer is aware of it. The Sothink people have completely ignored and been silent on the subject. This is why most good programmers will stop contributing to the global community because there are those who will steal their work, pass it off as their own, never acknowledge or give credit, and then shamefully stick their head in the sand and ignore the consequences." The three most recent reviews of Sothink point out this plug-in's dishonest nature. A number of earlier, one-line, 5-star reviews — expressed in a similar style — sound suspiciously like astroturfing.

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312 comments

Firefox extension source? (5, Informative)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412617)

It's not like firefox extensions are compiled.

Proof of that Statement? (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412643)

This is why most good programmers will stop contributing to the global community because there are those who will steal their work, pass it off as their own, never acknowledge or give credit, and then shamefully stick their head in the sand and ignore the consequences.

[citation needed]

I really don't agree with that sentiment. I mean, there have been a few recent cases (BusyBox) where the company is making money off of it but I don't think SoThink is making a ton of cash off of their plugin. I am not defending SoThink in any way and hope that FlashGot takes action but instead of opting to sue SoThink, I hope he first tries to force them to open up their own tool under the GPL if it is tangled into his code or at least realease all the modifications they have done to his code. He could always turn it over to the EFF for help if he really wants to prosecute to the fullest extent. I doubt that lawsuits are going to help this situation or deter others. They'll just get more crafty about it if they feel the need to.

Re:Proof of that Statement? (3, Insightful)

whiledo (1515553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412665)

Dear lord. I was waiting for the story to post (seeing the un-commentable preview subscribers get) so I could quote that block and reply with the exact same "citation needed" cliche.

It's an opinion, but it's one that's hard to justify. My own opinion is that open source programmers contribute to a project because they want a program that does a thing they need done, and because they want it done "just so." Witness the history of forking on certain projects.

Re:Proof of that Statement? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412683)

From my personal experience, most of the really good programmers that I know don't contribute to open source for one main reason:

They don't have the time to.

Re:Proof of that Statement? (5, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412797)

From the summary:

This is why most good programmers will stop contributing to the global community because there are those who will steal their work, pass it off as their own, never acknowledge or give credit, and then shamefully stick their head in the sand and ignore the consequences."

THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS.

Re:Proof of that Statement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413579)

GPL... you keep using that word. I don't think that it means what you think that it means.

This is why most good programmers will stop contributing to the global community because there are those who will steal their work, pass it off as their own, never acknowledge or give credit, and then shamefully stick their head in the sand and ignore the consequences.

I'm sorry, but you dont understand the GPL. That is not stealing. In fact, it is exactly what the GPL intends. It encourages me to take/modify/use your code however I see fit. It does not require attribution. In fact, it has labeled other licenses (Apache) as being "incompatible" because they do require attribution. The GPL does not require credit be given. If you release something under GPL, then I can do ANYTHING that I want with it, so long as whatever I use it in is also GPL. TFS does not indicate that the other code was not released under GPL as well, so it further demonstrates that the submitter does not understand the GPL, or what "open source" means.

Re:Proof of that Statement? (5, Interesting)

dstar (34869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412911)

That's funny. From my personal experience, most of the really good programmers that I know _do_ contribute to open source. That's how they got to be really good programmers, in fact. They had the chance to do things right, rather than being pushed to meet some arbitrary marketing deadline, or simply being too busy fighting fires to spend time improving their skill.

At $employer[-1], we had a suite of software which put any commercial SRM suite to shame (not just my opinion -- we evaluated all the ones we could find, as we were being pushed to use a vendor-supported system), but it could have been much better if we'd had time to go in and clean up parts of it that had been written over a decade ago. On the open-source stuff I write, I don't _have_ that problem. I can do it right. (I also have that luxury at my current job, at least so far, which is _really_ nice.)

If all you're doing is writing the same sort of code the same way, you aren't going to improve your skills, at least not in a reasonable timeframe. You have to stretch yourself, _and_ you have to be exposed to better (or at least different) practices. You have to have people pointing out not just where you've done things wrong, but where you could have done them better, and even -- no, especially -- where you could have done things 'better', even though 'better' is a matter of opinion and theirs differs; having to defend _why_ you think your opinion is right makes you think about it. It certainly does me, anyway. Heck, sometimes I even change my mind!

I've found that the best way to get that sort of exposure and criticism is by contributing to open source software. At work, I'm being paid to get things done, not to sit and argue the merits of one approach over another if either is 'good enough'; a little of that is reasonable, because it helps make sure they _are_ both 'good enough', but at the end of the day, I'm being paid to produce, not study. I'm being paid to write software to get things done, in a manner that other people on the team can maintain, not learn Erlang or Haskell to broaden my understanding of programming.

And I think that's perfectly reasonable. Improving my programming skill benefits _me_ primarily, and my employer secondarily, just as exercise benefits me primarily (by improving my health) and my employer secondarily (by reducing the number of days missed to illness). They don't pay me to exercise, and they don't pay me to improve my programming skill. They pay me to get things done.

Re:Proof of that Statement? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413317)

My experience is that the open source programmers are the same ones that couldn't find real jobs. The good programmers are usually the ones that can find work and that can actually meet arbitrary deadlines set forth by restrictions in amount of money to be spent.

Re:Proof of that Statement? (2, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413441)

All right, I'll feed the troll.

The good programmers are usually the ones that can find work and that can actually meet arbitrary deadlines set forth by restrictions in amount of money to be spent.

"Good" is such a vague term. Good for whom? If you're talking about "good" for quality of software in general, then clearly, the open source coders win.

On the other hand, if you're talking about "good" in terms of business, when the executive hiring the programmer will cash out his options in less than a year and doesn't give a damn about long-term maintenance costs, then you're correct.

Now, let's suppose you're right, and that the "good for [short-term] business" coders can find work more easily, and presumably earn more money. Would that extra value be worth working for a soulless entity, not caring about the quality of your work, and reading about some bug hurting people? Would it be worth giving up on learning new ideas, or receiving meaningful peer feedback, or doing something for the first time ever?

Maybe for you, it's wroth it. Me, I'd rather do what I love.

Speaking of Astroturfing (5, Insightful)

Filter (6719) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412735)

If my code gets 'stolen', used without my permission, breaking the terms of the license; what difference does it make as to the license I chose to release it under.

Re:Proof of that Statement? (1)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412873)

I am not defending SoThink in any way and hope that FlashGot takes action but instead of opting to sue SoThink, I hope he first tries to force them to open up their own tool under the GPL...

I don't think the SoThink people are interested in being civil as you imply:

Someone previously mentioned the fact that this add-on sends you to a third party site IN CHINA to download the videos. Well, shortly after installing this add-on I was surfing the net, chose a site and was "hijacked" to an IP in CHINA. Imagine that! Not a good sign if they have included a nice trojan horse for you to have sitting on your computer with this add-on. Be Careful!

- Ref. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/reviews/display/6541 [mozilla.org] .

Re:Proof of that Statement? (1)

abigor (540274) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413139)

Their contact numbers are also Chinese - gee, what an amazing surprise. So I doubt suing them is even an option.

Re:Proof of that Statement? (0)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412959)

"I really don't agree with that sentiment. I mean, there have been a few recent cases (BusyBox) where the company is making money off of it but I don't think SoThink is making a ton of cash off of their plugin."

BusyBox [wikipedia.org] ??? You mean the GPL'd small footprint re-write of various UNIX/Linux utilities for use in embedded systems that is now, and has always been GPL'd? The same company that has successfully sued numerous companies for GPL violation, and was the first to bring one in a US court [softwarefreedom.org] ? I think you are confused.

Re:Proof of that Statement? (2, Informative)

belmolis (702863) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413767)

I think he means that Monsoon Media, the company that was violating the Busybox license, was making money off it.

Re:Proof of that Statement? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413013)

I also thought that this was a very false and stupid statement.

I will not stop contributing, just because someone steals my credit. First I will ask him friendly and fairly, that I think what he did is wrong, that I want it fixed, and that we should work it out. (Ex clarify misunderstandings.) But when he is ignoring me for too long, acting stubborn, or just being an asshole, I will kick his ass. Hard. I then have no problem with suing him, driving over there and storming the building, or DDOSing his servers, if I have fair proof that what he did was illegal/wrong. (But not when I have any doubt.)

Stopping contribution because of something like this is weak and proof of a poor character, that caves on aggressive dominant others. We are by far not all like that. :)

Re:Proof of that Statement? (4, Interesting)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413479)

But when he is ignoring me for too long, acting stubborn, or just being an asshole, I will kick his ass. Hard.

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter [wiki365.info] .

I then have no problem with suing him, driving over there and storming the building,

Storming the building? Seriously?!

(Let's be honest... no.)

or DDOSing his servers, if I have fair proof that what he did was illegal/wrong.

Make up your mind. Are you going the legal route, the Hollywood fantasy "opening a can of whupass" that'll (at best) land you in the shit in real life and solve nothing route or the Internet geek vigilante route?

FWIW... this sort of thing is a PITA, as the legal route (#1) isn't always practical for jurisdictional and financial reasons, and the thieving, weasellish pricks might get away with it if relying on that alone. But suggesting #2 is just downright silly and makes you look like an ITG.

#3 has a lot of problems, mainly related to vigilantism in general. But yeah, I appreciate why people might be tempted to go down that route if legal recourse wasn't practical.

Anyway, you're right that people shouldn't cave in in the face of bullshit like this, but you're not doing yourself any favours with the ITG nonsense.

RIAA (1, Offtopic)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412657)

Sic the RIAA on them, then they'll have to pay a million bucks too.

Re:RIAA (1, Flamebait)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412739)

Really, I've been on /. for a while now I I though it was OK to crack MS products, to install OSX on non-apple hardware, download copyrighted music, and don't care for breaking any possible commercial EULA. But violating the GPL????? Death to those suckers. How dare them?

Re:RIAA (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413151)

Are you kidding? There's absolutely no double standard here, and I'm sure everybody agrees that they should get fined 80,000 times the retail price of that GPL code in order to punish them. After all, no doubt everybody here agrees that copyright infringement equals theft.

Cheap shot at GPL... ignoramous (1)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412661)

To quote the quote; "This is why most good programmers will stop contributing to the global community because there are those who will steal their work, pass it off as their own, never acknowledge or give credit, and then shamefully stick their head in the sand and ignore the consequences." Bullshit. Show your source. The advantage here with open source... violators can easily be found. Since the code is GPL there is zero risk of legal repercussions.

Re:Cheap shot at GPL... ignoramous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413459)

So the assumption is that you belong to the group of thieves that steals people's work because there is no recourse? Now if M$ was to take public code and make it their own, there would be a shit storm but some Chinese thief takes it and passes it off as their own, its ok? I think you are full of shit and need to show your source. Its ignorance like yours that leads to situations like this.

heh, there web page looks like a parked domain (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412663)

Why would you even download this? Their web page and blog looks like it was created from an SEO program for selling viagra.

Re:heh, there web page looks like a parked domain (5, Interesting)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412941)

Why would you even download this? Their web page and blog looks like it was created from an SEO program for selling viagra.

And I noticed all of the 5-star reviews I've read are all in broken English. All of the 1-Star negative reviews are in perfect English. It's only a correlation, but it (the positive reviews) is an indicator of spam.

Oh Slashdot... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412667)

I love the double-standard so much. Piracy is fine but GPL violations ? OH GOD STOP THE PRESSES. "Yes but you see, it is not the same... Sothink as a company is making money off it." Yeah, maybe. In most case of GPL violations tough, the percentage of the new work work in violation is so small as to be insignificant. And still, if it were another freeware app, people would still complain and scream "TRIAL !" I wonder what the copyright abolitionist would say when copyright is abolished and the GPL stops to be enforceable... Oh well.

Re:Oh Slashdot... (-1, Offtopic)

KasperMeerts (1305097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412767)

Moderators, please don't mod trolls like these as 'Interesting'. Thank you.

Re:Oh Slashdot... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413663)

Who the fuck do you think you are?! Don't agree with the post? Grow a pair and take issue with it. Want to abuse the moderation system? Abuse it with your own mod-points.

Re:Oh Slashdot... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412805)

You're obviously new here...

Piracy and GPL violations both hurt workers in the field of computing/entertainment/etc. However, there's a big difference between a random Joe copying an mp3 and a corporate entity stealing a product and re-marketing it as their own.

Yet we live in a society where surveillance is a double-edged sword. It's more favorable to our freedoms to let someone get away with copying a Miley Cyrus song rather than letting bureaucrats crush us and turn daily life into red-tape + TSA-like conditions.

Does this shift everything in favor of the little guys? Sure. Life isn't fair, but we hope to improve society (even if it's a slow process). Given the proclivity of human nature, it's FAR safer for smaller crimes to go unpunished than grant corporations overwhelming powers and let LARGE crimes go unpunished. Case in point: Recent housing & banking economic scandals.

Re:Oh Slashdot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413167)

However, there's a big difference between a random Joe copying an mp3 and a corporate entity stealing a product and re-marketing it as their own.

Try this instead:

However, there's a big difference between tens of thousands of potential customers stealing a copyrighted mp3, and a small software company infringing the license of a software product to save on development costs for their Firefox plugin.

The logic is the same, isn't it? But the effect is markedly different. That's the power of language, what Orwell warned about in 1984 and what marketers, governments, and other self-promoters use every day.

Re:Oh Slashdot... (2, Interesting)

HiThere (15173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413377)

In a kind of a way, you're correct. Unfortunately, the way that you're correct doesn't help your argument any.

The way that you're correct is that it requires a finer analysis to actually determine which is better for society. Unfortunately, after the final analysis...well, the RIAA paid to have laws passed which favored them and which many consider to be blatantly unconstitutional. (I know, the courts agree with them that the laws are constitutional. This doesn't convince me.)

Since the RIAA & it's member companies wrote and paid for the laws that benefit them, I don't believe that there's any justice in anyone else being obliged to obey them. As a practical matter, I'll agree that it's dangerous to act on that belief, under the presumption that we live in a just world.

To my mind this puts the RIAA & it's member companies in the same category as other criminal conspiracies.

OTOH, neither the FSF nor any other Free Software organization has successfully lobbied for laws supporting it's stance. So if it takes advantage of existing laws, they can't be blamed if someone else finds the laws unjust.

I'm sure that better arguments could be made, but this one suffices for me, so I've never felt obligated to dig deeper.

Re:Oh Slashdot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412847)

I wonder what the copyright abolitionist would say when copyright is abolished and the GPL stops to be enforceable... Oh well.

"Yipee"?

Re:Oh Slashdot... (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412877)

>GPL stops to be enforceable.

When has the GPL, in particular, been enforced by any agent of any government?

Re:Oh Slashdot... (3, Insightful)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412897)

I wonder what the copyright abolitionist would say when copyright is abolished and the GPL stops to be enforceable... Oh well.

If copyright were abolished, we would be free to copy and modify software without legal repercussions, so we wouldn't need to rely so much on the GPL. Of course, no modifying could be done unless programmers voluntarily published their source code. But in a theoretical world without copyright, there would be no reason not to publish your source code - because you wouldn't be able to profit off of software sales in a world where anyone could legally copy your program for free. It would be advantageous to publish the source code, to ensure quality and make bugs and security holes visible.

In short, if copyright were abolished, we would have no use for the GPL.

Re:Oh Slashdot... (2, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413177)

If copyright were abolished, we would be free to copy and modify software without legal repercussions, so we wouldn't need to rely so much on the GPL.

That's a bit like saying that a person without arms wouldn't rely so much on gloves.

Re:Oh Slashdot... (2, Interesting)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413251)

The difference is, arms are useful.To the copyright abolitionist, copyright stopped being useful when computers empowered individuals to copy and distribute information as many times as they wanted at no cost.

Nobody wants to lose their arms. Copyright abolitionists want to lose copyright. Thats the point.

Re:Oh Slashdot... (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413603)

I think you should re-read my post. You're reading into it a point I'm not trying to make.

Re:Oh Slashdot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413631)

Makes perfect sense.

Re:Oh Slashdot... (4, Insightful)

Kaboom13 (235759) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413559)

In a world without copyright, all commercial software money would be made off support contracts. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it means the exact opposite of what you intend will happen in a lot of cases. Developers will clamp down as tight as they can on their source, protecting it as a trade secret. As long as they are the only ones with the source, they have a huge advantage in giving support. It is a hundred times easier to patch a bug, or add a requested feature, when you have the source. Currently you can make the source available if you so choose, without licensing it like the GPL. In fact, Microsoft does just that for Windows. If copyright ended today, do you think they would just shrug their shoulders and gpl everything? No, they would do everything in their power to consolidate as much knowledge of of Windows and it's source with them, so competitors can not quickly create their own windows distro (for lack of a better term) and claim a piece of the support contract pie.

Re:Oh Slashdot... (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413645)

But in a theoretical world without copyright, there would be no reason not/i> to publish your source code - because you wouldn't be able to profit off of software sales in a world where anyone could legally copy your program for free.

That shows a lack of insight for a start.
They couldn't copy your software if no-one but you had access to it in the first place. You could sit on the software, using it for what it was intended for yourself (i.e. giving yourself an advantage in providing an end product, or possibly carrying out a service on behalf of others) and not letting anyone else have it at all.

Or you could force everyone to use the software through your servers (i.e. they only get access to the interface and the output, not the underlying code- just like a server-based web app or service).

No, you're probably not going to make as much money that way. But it's still a flaw in your idealised, lack-of-thought regurgitation of "in a copyright-free world, no-one will have reason to hold on to their code" argument.

And that's disregarding the fact that some worthwhile code *might* not be written in the first place if people couldn't make money off by selling it with the protection of copyright.

Now, one could argue these points in more depth. I'm not saying that I agree with them or that they couldn't be rebutted. (Because I know from experience that at least one kneejerking idiot will otherwise assume that I'm taking the opposite position to your argument rather than simply pointing out the glaring holes and omissions in it).

My issue was that you didn't even consider either of these rather obvious issues in the first place, which pretty much negates the value of your argument.

Re:Oh Slashdot... (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413771)

That would be a good reason to publish only binaries and fill them up with all sorts of hard-to-defeat DRM-like piracy countermeasures and arcane tactics like remote identifying and banning computers from running the SW.

Someone might manage to defeat them at some point, but if they didn't buy the software legitimately, they don't get bugfixes, upgrades, or addon packages.

Illegal Copyleft Infringement. (5, Interesting)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412729)

"People at Sothink decided to violate the GPL by stealing a piece of core code from FlashGot and using it without even the decency of covering their tracks."

Stealing? A digital artifact?

Re:Illegal Copyleft Infringement. (1)

isilrion (814117) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412879)

Stealing? A digital artifact?

Now, while I agree with you that "stealing" is a horrible word to use in that context (as nothing was stolen), I tend to rationalize this usage by considering that the "stolen" thing is not the digital artifact, but the rights over derivative works that the author's gave to the users.

So, it would not be "stealing code from the authors", but "stealing rights from the users". Still, I'd rather not use that rationalization, at least to stop the trolls, that will certainly come claiming that it is the same thing as "stealing" music.

Re:Illegal Copyleft Infringement. (1)

dstar (34869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412929)

No, stealing, as in taking something and claiming they wrote it. That's really not the correct term, however; the term the original writer wanted was 'plagiarizing'.

Re:Illegal Copyleft Infringement. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413409)

Actually, the term has always been plagiarism - which has always been fraud, not theft.

dogs (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412741)

Dogs are quadripedal mammals that are not in any way related to cats. Dogs are natural politicians, are athletic, and have super intelligence dcapacititites.

Ahem *cough* dogs and cats ARE related (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413059)

You just have to go back to the primordial soup to find their most recent common ancestor.

*joke*

Dumb and pointless. (0, Troll)

petrus4 (213815) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412745)

Refactor, relicense.

They should rewrite the whole thing if they can be bothered, and use the BSD license; that way they get what they need, and it would help the rest of us out as well.

Remember, kids; GPL violation is only an issue with code that uses the GPL. If you don't use the GPL, you won't have its' drawbacks.

Re:Dumb and pointless. (1)

isilrion (814117) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412933)

Remember, kids; GPL violation is only an issue with code that uses the GPL. If you don't use the GPL, you won't have its' drawbacks.

No, the GPL violation is only an issue if you use code that is only licenced under the GPL and is not yours. If you are the owner, GPL is not an issue. And if you are not the owner, then you can't relicence to BSD unless you rewrite the GPL portion from scratch.

So, if you don't use code covered by the GPL, you won't have its drawbacks... Unfortunately, you won't have the code either.

That's what he said (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413081)

When he said refactor it, I read that to mean study it, learn how it works, and write new, fresh code that has the same end-user outcome.

You may have read "refactor" to mean move bits and pieces around, unwind loops, change some orders of operations, but by and large re-use the low-level code as written. While that is a legitimate use of the term "refactor" it doesn't work in the context of "how can we stay legal without having to comply with this messy license."

Re:That's what he said (1)

isilrion (814117) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413547)

I initially thought that was what he meant, until I read the "If you don't use the GPL, you won't have its' drawbacks" part - as the problem is not using the GPL, but using the code covered by it. He shifted the blame from the code, to the licence (and thus, minimized it... as rewriting functional code from scratch is not always feasible)

Anyway, without that nitpick and with your clarification, I agree with him. If one doesn't want to respect the GPL, one should avoid GPL code and redevelop ("refactor") every GPL library that he uses.

Sigh (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412751)

People at Sothink decided to violate the GPL by stealing a piece of core code from FlashGot

It's not theft, it's copyright infringement and plagiarism. It's not theft when the RIAA are the victim, and it's not theft when programmers are the victim. Two completely different illegal actions. It's also not a number of other offences - it's not murder, it's not speeding, it's not jaywalking, and it's not theft. Different names for different offences. Get it?

Re:Sigh (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413025)

Faggot.

(different names for different pedantic anonymous cowards, mmkay?)

it's stealing (3, Insightful)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413159)

You're right, it's not exactly the same as other forms of stealing. But the general term for this is stealing. Presumably this would be listed as another definition in a dictionary.

If you can steal someone's heart, if you can steal a kiss, if you can steal cable, if you can steal an identity, there's no reason this cannot be stealing also.

It has been this way a long time too, stealing cable started in the 70s.

Re:it's stealing (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413337)

Stealing requires you to be taking something away from someone else. "Stealing" code doesn't take it away from the programmer.

Re:it's stealing (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413425)

No. Stealing cable started when the telegraph operators started stringing cables between different locations.

Re:Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413765)

When the RIAA is the victim, the uploaders are not claiming to have written the song themselves. In this case, the infringing programmers are.

Stop complaining, babies. (4, Insightful)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412763)

This is why most good programmers will stop contributing to the global community because there are those who will steal their work, pass it off as their own, never acknowledge or give credit, and then shamefully stick their head in the sand and ignore the consequences.

This is not a bad thing. It's a good thing. It's a good thing that code can be borrowed from one program and used in another. Why re-invent the wheel after all? I thought that's why we wrote open source software - not to receive credit, but because we want to share our work with the world.

The crime here is not that one programmer "stole" the work of another. The crime is that one programmer took advantage of an open resource, but kept their modifications closed.

Re:Stop complaining, babies. (1)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412989)

Exactly. People who use the GPL and then use the term "stole" to refer to violations of it are to me far more vile than even the RIAA claiming copyright infringement is "stealing". Doing so makes us all look bad; how can us sane open-source developers argue against the misapplication of that word when a strange fringe of us really are the hypocrites that we are usually called?

If you want to ever make these dishonest claims, do the people who actually understand open source a favor: don't use the GPL. Or the BSD and creative commons, for that matter; I'm sure advocates of those are just as unhappy to see you ruining their image as we are.

Re:Stop complaining, babies. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413083)

Are you a programmer? Do you write GPL code? I'd bet you don't. Don't speak in the name of other people. The GPL is very clear what you can do and what you can't do. And if people are violating it, they are committing copyright infringement and the developers have the right to complain. Among the thing that it says it's clear that you can't "take a piece" and pass as it was yours.

Re:Stop complaining, babies. (2, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413183)

Yes, if anything, it's this dramatized "he's a meanie" kind of Slashdot article that puts programmers off. I feel like I'm in a primary school playground again. When I release my code open-source, it's to make the source code available to others. The only way to prevent my primary goal is by taking down the server the source code is hosted on. Using it in violation of its license is minor in comparison.

Project A's code was licensed under the GPL. Project B used A's code in violation of the license (they didn't steal it). Make it known that project B is violating A's license and that project B's members have not responded on the matter. This public knowledge will harm project B's reputation, perhaps enough to motivate its members to acknowledge and come into compliance. Or it might motivate users to stop using project B and let it die off. But leave the name-calling for your inner circle of friends who will put up with that crap.

Re:Stop complaining, babies. (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413371)


I thought that's why we wrote open source software - not to receive credit, but because we want to share our work with the world.

I think there's a lot of different reasons people write open source software. That's the core reason there's so many different versions of open source licenses. Some people DO write it for credit and feel cheated when it's not given.

The rest of your post I agree with. The original author calling this "stealing" adds nothing to the argument, and only serves to inflame.

Wrong crowd for this (5, Insightful)

dissy (172727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412773)

This is why most good programmers will stop contributing to the global community because there are those who will steal their work, pass it off as their own, never acknowledge or give credit, and then shamefully stick their head in the sand and ignore the consequences

It's not stealing, it's a copyright violation :P

Re:Wrong crowd for this (1)

onefriedrice (1171917) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412935)

So... can we more accurately say that it was a copyleft violation?

Re:Wrong crowd for this (2, Funny)

dstar (34869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413005)

No, wait. If it's a copyright violation, doesn't that mean it's a copyleft... um... anti-violation?

And if a copyright violation and a copyleft violation collide, do you get mutual annihilation and a burst of BSD particles?

You know, now that I think about it, that would explain what happens in most debates about the GPL...

Re:Wrong crowd for this (1)

MooUK (905450) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413569)

I think you just end up with mutual violation. Which sounds potentially painful.

Re:Wrong crowd for this (4, Informative)

trifish (826353) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413047)

> It's not stealing, it's a copyright violation :P

Actually, it's copyright infringement. The word violation is used with the word license (as in GPL violation).

Re:Wrong crowd for this (1)

st0rmshad0w (412661) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413103)

This is why most good programmers will stop contributing to the global community because there are those who will steal their work, pass it off as their own, never acknowledge or give credit, and then shamefully stick their head in the sand and ignore the consequences

It's not stealing, it's a copyright violation :P

It's $80,000,at least, one would imagine.

Re:Wrong crowd for this (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413687)

Ah, but it's a broken business model. The developers of Flashgot should find a rich duke in Scotland to pay for the first copy, so the rest of use can use free copies of that paid for copy, or something. I'm sure someone will explain it.

Let's slashdot them (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412781)

Let's tell these thieves what we think about them. Not just online and by mail, but by phone and fax as well.
TEL: +86(27)67848991
FAX: +86(27)67848990

A friendly reminder. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412815)

Since copyright infringement is not theft, logically it follows that GPL violation is also not theft. Please, try to be consistent. Otherwise you look like a bunch of frothing, hypocritical idiots.

At least give the right URL to "slashdot" (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412865)

Ok here is the correct URL to slashdot Sothink [sothinkmedia.com] . Don't bother the Mozilla server linkeded above.

And how is th different from the RIAA and MPAA ?? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412867)

Inquiringmindswanttoknow !!

If it's okay to download movies and CDs and herpes, what is all the hoopla about gpl ?? Either it's okay to STEAL or it's not okay. If you want it both ways, just say you're BI and get on with the rest of your life.

Fact is, NO CODE WAS STOLEN !! It still exists right where it was before. Only, maybe, somebody has a COPY of this. NOTHING WAS LOST !! IP is a figment if COPYRIGHT HOLDERS imaginations !! NOTHING TO SEE HERE !! Move along !!

Re:And how is th different from the RIAA and MPAA (3, Insightful)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412951)

Mod parent up. You're absolutely right. No code was "stolen". Code can't be stolen. This is just a small license violation. Not a big deal. The perpetrators are at best ignorant, and at worst, selfish, yet the summary paints them out to be the scum of the earth.

Re:And how is th different from the RIAA and MPAA (5, Insightful)

dstar (34869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413017)

No, the perpetrators committed a crime much worse than theft -- plagiarism. Don't believe me? Go ask any tenured professor at your nearest university.

Steal something from a lab where you work, you'll probably lose your chance at tenure and the job. Commit plagiarism and you'd best start looking for a new career.

Re:And how is th different from the RIAA and MPAA (1)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413131)

So you think whoever made Flashgot is fuming right now, saying "HOW DARE THEY TAKE CODE OF MINE WITHOUT GIVING ME PROPER CREDIT FOR CREATING IT?" Honestly, I'm sure they care more about their code being closed than whether or not they got credit.

It's different in the academic world, where your job depends on your reputation. If people discover that you plagiarized a journal article, they won't be able to trust anything you write. How can you be sure a source is credible if the author can't even be bothered to do their own research? On the other hand, reputation plays little role in firefox extensions. I don't care who programmed it. I only want it to work.

Re:And how is th different from the RIAA and MPAA (1)

st0rmshad0w (412661) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413345)

Commit plagiarism and you'd best start looking for a new career.

Didn't Joe "I 3 the media companies" Biden have a big problem with commiting plagerism?

I think your presumption is tenuous at best.

Re:And how is th different from the RIAA and MPAA (1)

dstar (34869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413433)

I should have said 'a new career outside academia'. Politics, of course, is the sort of cesspool where plagiarism seems perfectly normal....

Re:And how is th different from the RIAA and MPAA (1)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413675)

The difference that you are not seeing is that:
in one case the theft is occurring for personal non-profit use, in the other, the theft is occuring for profit.

Its the difference between downloading a movie from the internets to watch at home, and downloading a movie on the internets and getting people to pay to come over and watch.

GPL or not, doesn't matter. (3, Interesting)

marcansoft (727665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412881)

There are all kinds of unscrupulous people who will happily take other people's work and pass it as their own. For example, there's an entire bunch of websites devoted to bundling free Wii homebrew utilities with warez-loading apps and a torrent client and selling it as the ultimate Wii softmod get-all-your-games-for-free package. Examples: homebreware.com, playbreware.com, homebrewinstaller.com, mywiidownloads.com... the list goes on. They have sales numbers that are a sizable chunk of total homebrew users and mainly cater to the clueless, earning large amounts of cash for basically nothing.

Our "core" software (specifically, the Twilight Hack, Homebrew Channel, DVDX, BootMii, HackMii Installer, etc) is mostly distributed under a closed-source restrictive "download it from our site and use it, don't redistribute it" license precisely due to these kinds of websites. For example, ordinarily we wouldn't care at all about people mirroring these apps, but one of the favorite excuses from the aforementioned scamsites is that "they're just linking to some third-party mirror". the I've tried to get some of them taken down but it's damn near impossible and their payment processors (Plimus and ClickBank typically) move very slowly and do nothing at all (which is not surprising; after all, they get a cut of the profits). These sites tend to work on affiliate programs and therefore there are dozens of "affiliates" happily buying Google Ads and setting up spam blogs just to promote the scams.

What's even worse is that the warez utilities work backwards too - they let the scammers "pirate" our freeware and sell it for money. For example, our installer includes a large full-screen "if you paid for this you were scammed" warning, but the scammers have now used tools for Wii Channel piracy to distribute the Homebrew Channel without the installer, bypassing that screen. Every time this happens they get a nice 3-6 months until Nintendo puts out another update that would force them to use updated hacks and tools.

This is one of the reasons why I gave up on Wii development. And I don't have plans to touch any console or system where piracy might become a big incentive to run homebrew. Piracy brings in hordes of clueless idiots who just want free games, generally poisons the homebrew community, divides it due to the differing opinions on it, and also comes with dollar-eyed scammers who want to make a quick buck of it all.

Re:GPL or not, doesn't matter. (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413091)

Why doesn't the HBC have a warning like that the first time you launch it, instead of at the installer?

Re:GPL or not, doesn't matter. (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413647)

Then they would just distribute a version that was already run once.

Re:GPL or not, doesn't matter. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413223)

This is one of the reasons why I gave up on Wii development. And I don't have plans to touch any console or system where piracy might become a big incentive to run homebrew. Piracy brings in hordes of clueless idiots who just want free games, generally poisons the homebrew community, divides it due to the differing opinions on it, and also comes with dollar-eyed scammers who want to make a quick buck of it all.

Okay, boo on those trying to scam the ignorant, but I can't see why any of that made you quit. You still made the software you made, it was still available just like you wanted it. Is it purely an ego thing, not wanting to be associated with scammers and pirates?

Underestimation (4, Insightful)

FrankDrebin (238464) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412925)

This is why most good programmers will stop contributing to the global community because there are those who will steal their work...

That's rather a bold statement. It might even be true if there were no possible redress. But publicizing the wrongdoing and ousting the offenders is quite a powerful part of the community. Of course any similarly-wronged author, proprietary or open-source, also has the law on their side. Hardly an abject situation.

MARE (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412977)

Not to throw cold water on the outrage... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413021)

...but has the copyright owner confirmed that this was not done with permission? I doubt that it was, but you really should make sure before making accusations of copyright infringement. After all, enforcement is entirely up to the copyright owner.

Re:Not to throw cold water on the outrage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413271)

the FlashGot developer is aware of it.

The summary seems to think so.

Re:Not to throw cold water on the outrage... (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413355)

Actually, the owner HAS indicated that it was done that way in one of the linked items from the summary.

Re:Not to throw cold water on the outrage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413445)

Of course he has. From one of the linked pages, Giorgio wrote (emphasis his):

I'm quite mad at those idiots: they're illegally and brainlessly reusing the main components of FlashGot 1.1.9...I said "illegally" because FlashGot is open sourced under the GPL license, and this means that anybody incorporating code from FlashGot (which is otherwise freely reusable) must release their code/modifications under the GPL as well, which they're not doing...

Lots of ffmpeg gpl violations (5, Informative)

BeardedChimp (1416531) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413073)

Over the last few years a lot of companies have sprang up using ffmpeg as a backend while shoving some putrid gui over the top which somehow justifies the pricetag (in this case "Video Encoder Engine for Adobe Flash" costs $600!).

They tend to fall into two camps, those who attempt to use the lgpl parts of ffmpeg and publish the license; and those who outright ignore the gpl or pretend they've followed it.
ffmpeg keeps a "Hall of shame" [ffmpeg.org] for these violaters but sothinkmedia have not yet been added.

I downloaded their videoconverter and ran it through wine. It gave me a eula with some non-gpl/lgpl terms which I duly said yes to "You may not make or distribute copies of the Software, or electronically transfer the Software from one computer to another or over a network. You may not recompile, reverse engineer, disassemble, or otherwise reduce the Software to a human-perceivable form".

Program installed what's this, avcodec.dll oh dear. Compiled in with x264, xvid etc. so GPL rather than LGPL. For a token gesture it created a folder called xvid with the GPL placed in there even though they violate most of it.

Stealing code from flashgot is a minor issue compared to that of ffmpeg.

Re:Lots of ffmpeg gpl violations (1)

kiss7 (1501315) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413655)

I thing you are wrong. If they are just using the dll -s, then they are not violating the GPL license. (I mean if they just created a GUI for it without any need to modify the ffmpeg source)

FlashGot = NoScript Malware Author (1, Informative)

NoName Studios (917186) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413119)

FlashGot is made by the same author that writes NoScript. The same NoScript that had malicious code that interfered with AdBlock Plus' functionality. Karma is a bitch, basically. I am really not feeling any sympathy for him. Flame on!

Lock and load, lawyers (4, Interesting)

Qubit (100461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413187)

Fifty comments in this thread and no one has mentioned the Software Freedom Law Center [softwarefreedom.org] ? Amateurs!

The lead developer for FlashGot needs to contact the SFLC. Right. Now. The SFLC has lawyers on staff who eat companies like this for breakfast. Or at least, you know, they'll give them a very stern talking-to.

He shouldn't contact the supposed violators (that could cause legal murkiness), he should not go fishing around for evidence of the violation (again, more lawyerly problems), he should not pass Go, and in no way shape or form should he try to collect $200 from anyone.

Once he talks to the lawyers then he'll know what steps he should take to document the violation and then to approach the violators. By putting his ducks in a row first and by communicating with a lawyer, he'll have a much easier time approaching the Sothink company and getting the violation resolved.

Pro tip: The last time I emailed the SFLC it took 13 days for them to respond, so in order to get the ball rolling on resolving this problem I'd suggest picking up the phone and calling them.

I like wordpress their system more... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413365)

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/about/ GPL compatible or gtfo.

Firefox should step up and remove the plugin from the plugin page, i believe it is against the GPL license to distribute binary copies / ripped source in the first place.

Get over it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413399)

I don't understand how people can broadcast source code and at the same time be shocked stunned and amazed as their code is used in ways they didn't explicitly bless.

I fail to see how this is any different than leaving a bunch of gold coins on the street with a sign next to each "I made this, please don't take my gold coins".

Obviously sooner or later the coins will disappear. Some people will cash them in as-is others will melt them down and sell off the gold.

unzip sothink.xpi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413423)

Afaik, all firefox extensions are just zipped javascript files, therefore it is impossible to violate the gpl.

Re:unzip sothink.xpi? (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413657)

you can encode/obfuscate the code, which violates GPL as you're not distributing/making available the source code

Re:unzip sothink.xpi? (1)

emurphy42 (631808) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413707)

I just downloaded one of their other things (swfcatcher.xpi [sothink.com] , it's the first one I found a bare URL for) and unzipped it, and the main part (chrome/swfcatcher.jar) is Java, not JS. I assume the one in question here is similar.

Does it matter? (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413541)

If there is no native code in Sothink, then it's effectively source-available. So, the only question is one of license. But if it incorporates GPL code, it automatically falls under the GPL.

Someone used my "free" software, kill them! (3, Insightful)

BlueKitties (1541613) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413567)

One of the reasons I've never been a fan of the GPL -- you can use GPL code and get in trouble over it; software isn't truly free until anyone can use it freely, without worrying about legal trouble. The forced reciprocation, IMHO, has hurt the open source movement severely. Companies actually have good reason to fear "free" GPL software, because unlike speech, GPL comes with strings attached.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413627)

Wait just a minute!

Let me get this straight - a company well known for their REVERSE ENGINEERING tools,
decides to take someone else's code and re-release it without even changing a darned thing?

I'm shocked, I say! Shocked beyond all belief!

http://www.sothink.com/product/flashdecompiler/index.htm

Use the De Raadt Method (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413773)

But, but, but, he didn't mean to and you're calling him a thief!!!! You have no understanding of how humans operate! You stupid, nooby asshole!

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