[aur-general] Notification of GPL violation

Manhong Dai daimh at umich.edu
Fri May 21 17:16:48 UTC 2021

On Fri, 2021-05-21 at 09:50 -0700, Brett Cornwall via aur-general
> On 2021-05-21 11:54, Manhong Dai via aur-general wrote:
> > I know I will be the minority in this list. However, this statement
> > doesn't sound right to me if the patch file is applied to the
> > original
> > source code.
> > 
> > Unlike the file PKGBUILD, a patch file constitutes a modified
> > source
> > code because it does include some original code. No matter whether
> > the
> > modification is for use, or operation, or just even a typo fix,
> > GPLV3
> > section 5 "Conveying Modified Source Versions" [1] doesn't
> > distinguish
> > them.
> > 
> > I had a similar experience in terms of the AUR package SGE. I put
> > my
> > source code modification into a single patch file and put it to AUR
> > git. Without my modification, SGE won't work with latest Linux
> > anymore.
> > However, due to an AUR website bug confirmed by a TU, the package
> > was
> > taken over without any emails sent to me.
> > 
> > After a lot of back and force with the second maintainer, I finally
> > gave up re-owning the package or making the software better within
> > AUR.
> > Instead I asked the second maintainer to add my name to the single
> > patch file so I get the credit I deserve. However, the second
> > maintainer denied that. He split the patch into many small patch
> > files
> > without my name in any of them, and insists that it is enough to
> > have
> > my name as the first AUR package maintainer. Then I asked him to
> > remove
> > my code modification, also was denied.
> > 
> > Then I tried to ask TU to remove the package many times, all TUs
> > denied
> > my request, except the last TU deleted all those small patch files
> > after he understood this is a serious copyright violation issue.
> > 
> > Here is my understanding about those copyright conflicts. If you
> > modified any source code, then GPL license will be applied, you
> > have to
> > copy the original copyright without any modification and then add
> > yours, just as section 4 in GPL v3 says "You may convey verbatim
> > copies
> > of the Program's source code as you receive it"
> > 
> > It is understandable that many AUR maintainers, or programmers like
> > myself, don't know the details and often violates some copyright
> > law
> > more or less. We are lucky that most upstream programmers don't
> > mind
> > it. But, should such issue arise, I would do my best to make the
> > upstream programmer happy or just find another alternative
> > software.
> > 
> > I know I am the minority in this list because the AUR SGE got two
> > up-
> > votes ironically after it didn't work anymore, and the second
> > maintainer is even promoting the binary version based on my
> > modification on some other repos. But, life is too short, I can
> > live
> > with it. I am writing this email because I just hope my painful
> > experience can help this list know copyright better.
> I think that's a valid angle to bring up!
> FWIW, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ROM_hacking#Distribution and 
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unofficial_patch#Law may be of
> interest. 
> If a litigious company like Nintendo hasn't gotten courts to stamp
> out 
> romhack patches I'm not sure this little software project poses any 
> threat...
> The upstream developer merely has an axe to grind against those that 
> don't take openly-available code and use it in ways they intend. To
> that 
> end, beating their chest with vague legal threats is an attempt at 
> dominance rather than any pursuance of legal justice.

Very interesting links! I learned a lot. Here is my understanding after
reading the two links.

In terms of the first link about 'Rom Hacking', I would guess, if the
Rom patch tool uses something like dd, especially if it is something
like 'dd seek=', then the Rom patch doesn't use anything from the
original Rom. However, a patch file generated by diffing source code
files is very different as it does use the original source code.

In terms of the second link 'Unofficial_patch', the three cases are all
about if the user can modify a system he owns, more like a 'right to
fix' case, instead of how a user can distribute a modified source code.
In the Nintendo case, Game Genie sells a tool to modify Nintendo, but I
would guess the tool doesn't include any code from Nintendo.

Going back to the initial issue about this email chain, I would guess
the AUR maintainer can use 'dd' instead of 'diff'. But this will become
ridiculous and I personally won't do that at all, no matter I am the
package maintainer or the original programmer.

Just my two cents. I know nothing about law. If someone end up in jail
and point a finger to me, all I do is to visit him once to make fun of
him. :)


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