Telstra have issued a PR statement about their GPL compliance. The statement is a promising sign, but I’m afraid it is somewhat misguided.
Update 9/11: Today Netgem have posted a new version of their GPL source, labelled “T-Box”. I’ve also been contacted personally today by a Telstra representative about the T-Hub product. Both things are excellent to see, Telstra do appear to be taking this very seriously. Will post any more developments as they occur.
However, now I know. If you want an answer from a massive multi-billion dollar company like Telstra, you don’t waste your time with customer service. You carefully research and publish a blog post shaming them, then hope that the tech media will pick it up and bring it to their attention.
I’m so glad that’s clarified.
Actually, the follow-up to yesterday’s “Telstra violating GPL in their T-Hub product” post has been awesome. Big thanks to Renai LeMay for noticing and reporting on it via his news site Delimiter this morning, from where it seems to have spread.
The follow up was so awesome that this afternoon Telstra released a PR statement. To my knowledge they haven’t released it publicly, and they didn’t send it to me (*sadface*), so I can only quote from Delimiter:
â€œWeâ€™re currently talking with our T-Hub vendor to work out whether software used in the product is subject to [the] General Public License (GPL),â€ said the company. â€œShould we find a lack of compliance, we promise to work with our supplier to correct it.â€
This is excellent. I think it’s commendable that Telstra have reacted to this, and I eagerly await news of further progress.
Clearly, I would have rather that they (a) checked well before they launched the product back in April, and (b) had an effective customer service system so I could have gotten this answer when I first tried to contact them privately about it. However, nonetheless, it’s excellent news.
Telstra also weighed in on their T-Box, a set-top box & IPTV product which is manufactured by Netgem but branded and sold by Telstra:
â€œT-Box owners can find licensing information about the open source software incorporated into their device by visiting the settings menu,â€ Telstra said. â€œThe source code for the open source material is available from our vendorâ€™s website and we believe all GPL code is identified and is available to customers.â€
To verify this, I detoured home from work via my local Telstra Shop and took a look at the demo model. Sure enough, you can select Menu -> Settings -> Information -> Licensing & Copyright.
Apologies for my crummy photos:
FFMPEG License LGPL: Detailed licensing information is available at http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html.
GPL License: libstdc++ (GPL with run-time exception), dhcpd, iptables, pppoe, madwifi, wpa-supplicant, iwtools, busybox, dosfs tools, e2fs tools, insmod, drivers i2c (partially), USB Sigma.
Detailed licensing information is available at
I’m not a lawyer, but this doesn’t look like GPL compliance to me.
In order for this section to constitute GPL compliance, I think it would need at least three things:
- Actual source code included with the product, or alternatively
“a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code”
- The full text of the License, as per GPL Sections 1 & 2, rather than a plain URL.
- To be accompanied by “an appropriate copyright notice”. The only copyright notice in this document is “Â©Netgem”, which conveniently ignores the fact that large parts of the product are, in fact, not copyright by Netgem.
In fact, all three of these errors are listed as common mistakes in GPL-Violations’ excellent Vendor FAQ, which I linked to yesterday.
“available from our vendor’s website”
OK, so nothing indicates yet that the T-Box is technically compliant. Maybe Telstra & Netgem have still made an effort at compliance. Let’s check out the assertion that “source code for the open source material is available from our vendorâ€™s website”.
Update 9/11: Today Netgem have posted a new version of their GPL source, labelled “T-Box”. This is excellent to see.
Netgem does have a GPL download page. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually mention T-Box anywhere. The product on that page is a “Netgem HD”. Are they the same?
I searched Netgem’s site for T-Box, but all I could find were press releases. I searched Telstra’s web site for Netgem, and all I found was a comment written by a customer suggesting a T-Box is a “Netgem 8000”. Not sure how that relates to the “Netgem HD” source, or even if it is true that the two products are 100% identical.
Adding insult to injury, the latest firmware download on Netgem’s site is v5.1.08 (January 2009), and users are reporting T-Box versions like 126.96.36.199 (03-Aug-2010). As my favourite Vendor FAQ reminds us, “The source code has to be 1:1 corresponding to the executable (object) code actually shipped.”
I also looked in the T-Box User Guide, which is available via download from Telstra.
The user guide contains no reference to the “License & Copyright” section that is available in the user interface. It does, however, contain a “Legal Notification” section. This section has completely different text, and no open source mentions. Ironically, it does contain the following passage:
In using your T-Box, you must not violate any intellectual property rights concerning a brand, design, photo, licence, software program, audiovisual work or any other form of intellectual property.
Any violation of these intellectual property rights and, in particular, any act of piracy, will be subject to the penalty applicable within the legislation put in place.
Hmm, yes. OK then.
Conclusions on T-Box
Without physical access to a T-Box it is not possible to say conclusively if it violates GPL. However, I think I can safely say that Telstra’s PR statement is completely misguided if it means to imply that this meager offering constitutes GPL compliance.
From what I have seen, I believe that Telstra and/or Netgem should immediately take the following steps:
- Amend the “License & Copyright” section of the product so it contains GPL compliant text. For examples of how to do this, look at any Android mobile phone and also read the wonderful Vendor FAQ.
- Amend the User Guide “Legal Notice” so it contains the same text as the “License & Copyright” section, removing ambiguity.
- Provide source code under the name “T-Box”, rather than under an obscure OEM name not associated with the product in any way.
- Provide source code that is up to date with the currently released firmware version.
By the way, if anyone from Telstra would like to talk to me about this, my email address is gus at this domain name. Although you already have my name, phone numbers (twice), email address (twice) and home address somewhere in your databases – courtesy of my attempts to contact you via customer service channels.