FORUMS
Remove All Ads from XDA

Kogan Intentionally Violating the GPL

843 posts
Thanks Meter: 599
 
By Benjamin Dobell, Inactive Recognized Developer on 23rd October 2013, 02:50 PM
Post Reply Email Thread
I would like to bring to the attention of the community, and seek your help with respect to, Australian online reseller Kogan, who I recently discovered are knowingly and intentionally infringing on the copyrights of many by copying and commercially distributing GPL'd software on a variety of Android devices and refusing to comply with their licenses, by not providing the source-code to product owners. The software in question includes both the Linux kernel and U-Boot, but most likely other software too.

I have of course contacted Kogan support and was responded to by a staff member; who I believe is their job to illegally dismiss and mislead customers who make legitimate legal requests for GPL'd source-code and the such. I have thus far endured a lengthy exchange from August 24th, 2013, up until my most recent message to Kogan support member Arun, on October 21st, 2013. I suspect it is Arun's job to dismiss GPL requests and the such because during this two month period, a friend of mine also purchased a different Kogan branded Android product and subsequently requested the source code; only to receive near identical responses from none other than Arun.

Devices that we (myself and my friend) personally bought from Kogan and have requested (and have been denied) source-code for include:
  • Dual-core Kogan Agora Smartphone - http://www.kogan.com/au/buy/agora-50...re-smartphone/
    Quote:

    Entering the exciting world of Android handsets has never been easier or more affordable than right now with Kogan’s Agora Smartphone.

  • 42" Agora Smart 3D LED TV (Full HD) - http://www.kogan.com/au/buy/42-agora...ed-tv-full-hd/
    Quote:

    Packed full of features and running the powerful Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean), you will soon be accessing the newest video content, browsing the internet, checking your Facebook, posting to Twitter, managing your emails and making use of the rapidly expanding range of Android apps and games, all of which are easily accessible via the Google Play store.

  • 47" Agora Smart 3D LED TV (Full HD) - http://www.kogan.com/au/buy/42-agora...ed-tv-full-hd/
    Quote:

    Packed full of features and running the powerful Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean), you will soon be accessing the newest video content, browsing the internet, checking your Facebook, posting to Twitter, managing your emails and making use of the rapidly expanding range of Android apps and games, all of which are easily accessible via the Google Play store.


I believe the following are also a list of infringing devices:
  • Agora HD Smartphone - http://www.kogan.com/au/buy/agora-50...re-smartphone/
    Quote:

    Packed with a powerful 1.2GHz Quad Core processor, a dazzling 1280×720 IPS screen, high quality 8MP rear camera and running Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean), this smartphone is unbelievable value!

  • 32" Agora Smart LED TV (HD) - http://www.kogan.com/au/buy/32-agora...-smart-led-tv/
    Quote:

    Featuring High Definition 720p for HD Broadcasts and HDMI devices, while supporting crystal clear HD 720p playback via built-in Agora Smart TV.

    Using Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) you can access video content, browse the internet, check up on your friends via Facebook, keep up to date on Twitter, manage your emails, watch the latest trending videos on YouTube and make use of an ever expanding variety of Android apps and games, which are all easily accessible via the Google Play store.

  • 55" Agora Smart 3D LED TV (Full HD) - http://www.kogan.com/au/buy/55-agora...ed-tv-full-hd/
    Quote:

    Packed full of features and running the powerful Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean), you will soon be accessing the newest video content, browsing the internet, checking your Facebook, posting to Twitter, managing your emails and making use of the rapidly expanding range of Android apps and games, all of which are easily accessible via the Google Play store.

  • Agora Smart TV Quad Core HDMI Dongle - http://www.kogan.com/au/buy/agora-sm...e-hdmi-dongle/
    Quote:

    There is always something great on TV with the Agora Smart TV HDMI Dongle.

    Plug it into the back of the television, complete the 3-step set-up and be greeted by a menu that will revolutionize how you spend your time on the couch.

    Android Operating System delivers never-ending possibilities.

  • Agora Mini 8" Dual Core Tablet (8GB) - http://www.kogan.com/au/buy/agora-mi...re-tablet-8gb/
    Quote:

    The Kogan Agora Mini 8” Dual Core Tablet PC is perfect for anyone who wants to experience Android on a bright and responsive multi-touch screen with illuminated soft-keys, while maintaining the portability thousands of happy customers have loved in the Kogan Agora Tablet Series.

  • Agora Mini 8" Dual Core Tablet (16GB) - http://www.kogan.com/au/buy/agora-mi...e-tablet-16gb/
    Quote:

    The Kogan Agora Mini 8” Dual Core Tablet PC is perfect for anyone who wants to experience Android on a bright and responsive multi-touch screen with illuminated soft-keys, while maintaining the portability thousands of happy customers have loved in the Kogan Agora Tablet Series.

  • Agora 10" Dual Core Tablet (8GB) - http://www.kogan.com/au/buy/agora-10...re-tablet-8gb/
    Quote:

    The Kogan Agora 10” Dual Core Tablet PC is perfect for anyone who wants to experience Android on a large, bright, and responsive multi-touch screen with illuminated soft-keys, while maintaining the portability thousands of happy customers have loved in the Kogan Agora Tablet Series.

  • Agora 10" Dual Core Tablet (16GB) - http://www.kogan.com/au/buy/agora-10...e-tablet-16gb/
    Quote:

    The Kogan Agora 10” Dual Core Tablet PC is perfect for anyone who wants to experience Android on a large, bright, and responsive multi-touch screen with illuminated soft-keys, while maintaining the portability thousands of happy customers have loved in the Kogan Agora Tablet Series.


Yes, that's a lot of infringing devices! These are only the Android-running devices. I suspect their other TVs, their routers, and perhaps other embedded devices are also running Linux and other GPL'd software.


I am seeking the community's help in rectifying this situation. Kogan must provide the source-code to owners' of the above products upon the owner's request. In fact they must (and are definitely not in all cases), distribute the GPL license with these products along with a written offer provide (or instructions to obtain) the source-code for the GPL'd software running on these devices. As such, I would like every one of you to blog, video blog, write about, yell about, or otherwise make publicly known, that Kogan are knowingly and intentionally violating these licenses.

If by the off chance you are a contributor to the mainline Linux kernel, you can also send Kogan a legal complaint that they are infringing on your copyright. If you are a Linux contributor and willing to help, please do not hesitate to contact me.

If you are the owner of one of the products mentioned above, please contact Kogan support and request the source-code for the device(s) you own. Feel free to include in your contact messages the GPLv2 license (as it pertains to the Linux kernel).


Exchange with Kogan

Below are a few excerpts of my lengthy exchange with Kogan support staff member, Arun. Please excuse the typos, when I get frustrated and offended (yes as developer I find this offensive) I find it very difficult to write!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Myself

Hi Arun,

Sorry, I'd did try to be explicit in my request, but it does look as though you may have misinterpreted me.

I am after the source code for any open source software that runs on the the Kogan Agora 47 (and the Kogan Agora Smartphone as well actually) specifically as these are both products I've purchased from Kogan. What you've linked to is the source-code for the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) which is used as a basis for Android manufacturers. On it's own AOSP will not run on third-party devices. Every device is unique and has its own modifications to Android. Some of this software is licensed under the GPL[1] of which manufacturers (and resellers) are legally required to make available to owners of devices running the software.

I don't know precisely what GPL (or LGPL) licensed software runs on my Android TV (KALED473DSMTZA) and my Android phone (KHPHN05ANDA) because the licenses weren't included with the devices (which is actually a violation of the licenses). However, I do know that at minimum they both run a modified version of the Linux kernel, which is a core component of Android and licensed under GPL. I'd be inclined to think that the bootloaders running on the device are also derivatives of GPL licensed source code. I haven't bothered investigating on my own because I would have assumed you at Kogan already has access to this information and would be able to provide it to me.

As such I'm requesting the source code and a list of open-source software that run on the following devices that I own and operate:

- KALED473DSMTZA: 47 inch Android Smart TV

- KHPHN05ANDA: 5 inch Android Dual-Sim Smartphone

I do understand that any potential GPL (or other open source license) violations may be accidental on Kogan's behalf. I do also understand that Kogan works with Chinese manufacturers to provide these products and may need to chase this up with individual manufacturers. However, if this is going to take some time I would appreciate it if you could provide me with regular updates so that I can ensure that you're trying to address this. Otherwise I will need to report any violations of licenses to their respective copyright holders (and GPL Violations[2]) whom, hopefully it wouldn't come to this, may need follow up with legal action.

Thanks,

Benjamin Dobell

[1] GPL - http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html...enses/gpl.html

[2] GPL Violations - http://gpl-violations.org/http://gpl-violations.org/


Arun claims:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arun

We have thoroughly investigated this issue of GPL.
Now as we understand we have not made any changes to the Kernel source code.
Thus we are not required to publish or share anything and are fully complaint to GPL.

We have added the interface on top and are covered by Android licensing which is licensed under Apache 2.0.
http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0.html
We don't need to give source code for the product, as we are entitled to modify Android base system and not release those changes to customers.

Android source is 100% available for everyone to download from Google.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arun

I have already explained, the Kernel is not changed and it is available for you to download online.

Drivers have been added to support the hardware and we have built an interface that goes over the top of Android, just a skin/theme.
We are not required to publish or share this information.
We are not violating any license agreement and not intending to do so.

This is despite the fact that I had explicitly pointed out, and explained, the exact relevant portions of the GPLv2. The GPLv2 makes it very clear that the exact source code for each software release distributed to customers/consumers must be made available, which is entirely irrespective of whether the source-code is actually modified. This is because simply stating an embedded device runs Linux kernel is entirely ambiguous/useless; as there are plethora of versions, variants and even forks that one could be referring to. GPL violations FAQ (http://gpl-violations.org/faq/sourcecode-faq.html) summarise this requirement nicely:

Quote:

What version of the source code do I have to release?

For each and every version of the executable program, you have to release the precisely corresponding version of the complete corresponding source code.

So if you have distributed ten different versions of firmware for an embedded product, and this firmware contains GPL licensed software, then you need to release ten different source code packages, each one corresponding for each executable version.

Please note that if you chose GPL Option 3b (rather than 3a), then the obligation only lasts for three years. This means that you do not have to provide source code for any executable code that was last distributed more than three years ago.

Please also keep in mind that both distribution on physical storage medium and distribution via data networks such as the Internet count as distribution.

Of course, the "unmodified Linux kernel" argument, despite being entirely wrong, is also a complete and utter lie on Kogan's behalf. The mainline Linux Git repository most certainly does not include the necessary source-code and install scripts to build and install a version of the Linux kernel that would run on any of Kogan's Android devices.

NOTE: Arun is completely correct with respect to any modifications to the Apache 2.0 licensed components of Android; Kogan are under no obligation to release them. Which is why at no stage did I ask for the source-code to this software. This is simply Kogan intentionally trying to confuse matters in order to avoid their obligations.
23rd October 2013, 04:36 PM |#2  
dhiru1602's Avatar
Inactive Recognized Developer
Thanks Meter: 13,698
 
More
Kogan seems to be a smaller player, but on Android Platform, there are bigger players who are violating the GPL intentionally.

Micromax, Karbonn and Celkon are 3 brands which manufacture budget phones in India. Micromax is a very popular brand and it is currently the top selling phone company in India provided they sell phones at very cheap prices encouraging everyone to purchase them. The market is huge and Micromax would no more translate to a Local brand. The phones are being reviewed on Gsmarena and Youtube too making them more and more popular.

http://www.gsmarena.com/results.php3...sName=micromax

Micromax was making budget phones in India based on Chinese OS earlier. Most of their phones were rebranded Chinese phones and few of them still are. They made a move to Android, cutting down the Software Development cost for obvious reasons and reducing the price of the device. There have been numerous petitions and requests for source releases but none have been paid off so far. We all know that most of the Android AOSP code is not released, but all the major players atleast release the kernel sources, which is not the case for these brands. I have contacted them numerous times, but they have blindly refused to do anything about it stating that GPL doesn't exists and is not enforced in India.

Myself being a Recognized Developer and Contributer from India, I have been receiving a lot of PMs from other forum members asking me if there is a way to use the generic kernel source code and port it to the device, which I regard would be a lot painful and definitely not worth the effort.

Most manufacturers only know how to sell their phones, but they give a damn about the Software crime that they are committing. I haven't contributed to mainstream kernel myself and I could imagine how frustrated could one be when their intellectual property is shamelessly stolen.
23rd October 2013, 08:06 PM |#3  
PlayfulGod's Avatar
Inactive Recognized Developer
Flag Dalton
Thanks Meter: 3,075
 
Donate to Me
More
Quote:
Originally Posted by dhiru1602

Kogan seems to be a smaller player, but on Android Platform, there are bigger players who are violating the GPL intentionally.

Micromax, Karbonn and Celkon are 3 brands which manufacture budget phones in India. Micromax is a very popular brand and it is currently the top selling phone company in India provided they sell phones at very cheap prices encouraging everyone to purchase them. The market is huge and Micromax would no more translate to a Local brand. The phones are being reviewed on Gsmarena and Youtube too making them more and more popular.

http://www.gsmarena.com/results.php3...sName=micromax

Micromax was making budget phones in India based on Chinese OS earlier. Most of their phones were rebranded Chinese phones and few of them still are. They made a move to Android, cutting down the Software Development cost for obvious reasons and reducing the price of the device. There have been numerous petitions and requests for source releases but none have been paid off so far. We all know that most of the Android AOSP code is not released, but all the major players atleast release the kernel sources, which is not the case for these brands. I have contacted them numerous times, but they have blindly refused to do anything about it stating that GPL doesn't exists and is not enforced in India.

Myself being a Recognized Developer and Contributer from India, I have been receiving a lot of PMs from other forum members asking me if there is a way to use the generic kernel source code and port it to the device, which I regard would be a lot painful and definitely not worth the effort.

Most manufacturers only know how to sell their phones, but they give a damn about the Software crime that they are committing. I haven't contributed to mainstream kernel myself and I could imagine how frustrated could one be when their intellectual property is shamelessly stolen.

Yea Micromax definitely refuses to comply with the GPL. I've only dealt with a couple of Micromax devices on request from users to build CWMR for them and then asked to build CM* for them and various other mods. Which w/o kernel src, it makes things alot more difficult, if not impossible. I just ended up declining to work on the devices.

Huawei and ZTE dont fully comply with the GPL on all their devices either. They like to only release src for a few devices and we dont want to get into their awful coding. lol
23rd October 2013, 09:46 PM |#4  
Inactive Recognized Developer
Flag Los Angeles
Thanks Meter: 640
 
Donate to Me
More
Quote:
Originally Posted by PlayfulGod

Yea Micromax definitely refuses to comply with the GPL. I've only dealt with a couple of Micromax devices on request from users to build CWMR for them and then asked to build CM* for them and various other mods. Which w/o kernel src, it makes things alot more difficult, if not impossible. I just ended up declining to work on the devices.

Huawei and ZTE dont fully comply with the GPL on all their devices either. They like to only release src for a few devices and we dont want to get into their awful coding. lol

It is unfortunate but also true that they are all doing it. For instance, Vizio gave me answers, regarding the Co-Star, that are almost verbatim what OP got from Kogan: "no they are not obligated to release anything; if I want to see their kernel I can ask Google for the GTV source code, etc."
23rd October 2013, 10:14 PM |#5  
PlayfulGod's Avatar
Inactive Recognized Developer
Flag Dalton
Thanks Meter: 3,075
 
Donate to Me
More
Quote:
Originally Posted by cyansmoker

It is unfortunate but also true that they are all doing it. For instance, Vizio gave me answers, regarding the Co-Star, that are almost verbatim what OP got from Kogan: "no they are not obligated to release anything; if I want to see their kernel I can ask Google for the GTV source code, etc."

Dont know to take their answers as just being defiant or ignorant. lol

How do they think they are except from complying to the GPL for using/modifying the kernel src in which we all know they have to do to get it to work with their devices. lol

My vote is ignorance on behalf of the human relations depts, which dont have a clue wtf they are even talking about.
4th November 2013, 02:35 AM |#6  
poondog's Avatar
Inactive Recognized Contributor
Flag Melbourne
Thanks Meter: 12,992
 
More
@Benjamin Dobell

How is progress going? I just saw this in an article on ausdroid

As utterly ridiculous this is, being a supposedly 100% google kernel (which it 100% can't be to run on this hardware etc) and how you are correct, there are big violators out there and frankly the "GPL" is nothing. It is kind of like threatening someone with no intent of hurting them: GPL are not going to do much. When HTC release broken kernel sources, 80 days after official OTA is out (when the new base is already out) people are just happy they release it. And while HTC, Samsung, Sony etc are legally supposed to provide kernel source, the main reason imo they release is to keep this xda/hacking community happy. If HTC didn't release kernel sources anymore, most of the community would leave the HTC devices, and buy a samsung or something. It might even make the news, so HTC would get bad publicity.
What does Kogan care, they are selling very small volumes of these phones compared with the big guns, and there are even less people interested in the sources. While I agree that you are correct and Kogan need to release source, not much can be done

Just my 2 cents
4th November 2013, 04:45 AM |#7  
Senior Member
Flag Gold Coast
Thanks Meter: 60
 
More
Good catch on the Kogan issue, but it will be hard to make a difference by going it alone. Best if you can get friendly with some journalists, perhaps the APC Mag guys or whatever to build up some buzz. Once you have someone interested you can fan the flames from there, to get the word out. You'll probably be surprised what they are willing to run on a slow news day As an idea, if you look at a number of the Kogan stories running in the news recently you might also find some interested journos.

BTW, I suspect Kogan could fix this quite easily by requesting that their Chinese suppliers also supply the kernel source along with the hardware/software deliverables. Might be hard to do that retrospectively but they should do that for all future devices.
4th November 2013, 05:54 AM |#8  
Senior Member
Thanks Meter: 508
 
More
Post this on the gpl-violations mailing list.

http://lists.gpl-violations.org/mailman/listinfo/legal/

It wouldn't be the first Android violator they've dealt with this year.
4th November 2013, 06:21 AM |#9  
Senior Member
Thanks Meter: 196
 
More
Kogan and the GPL http://ausdroid.net/2013/11/04/kogan...ausdroidnetapp

Kogan have been emailed twice re this but haven't responded at all. Hopefully this Might make them get their butts into gear.

Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk 4
4th November 2013, 06:49 AM |#10  
poondog's Avatar
Inactive Recognized Contributor
Flag Melbourne
Thanks Meter: 12,992
 
More
Quote:
Originally Posted by LLStarks

Post this on the gpl-violations mailing list.

http://lists.gpl-violations.org/mailman/listinfo/legal/

It wouldn't be the first Android violator they've dealt with this year.

Just out of interest how many times has a violator been dealt with?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MontAlbert

Kogan and the GPL http://ausdroid.net/2013/11/04/kogan...ausdroidnetapp

Kogan have been emailed twice re this but haven't responded at all. Hopefully this Might make them get their butts into gear.

Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk 4

If it makes it to sites other than ausdroid and portrays Kogan in a bad light... yeah I do see it evoking change. To get rid of their bad image if they want to keep selling phones
4th November 2013, 07:42 AM |#11  
Senior Member
Thanks Meter: 508
 
More
Most violators tend to comply when confronted by GPL organizations like the Software Freedom Conservancy and Free Software Foundation. Samsung partnered with the SFC recently to peacefully come into compliance over their exfat implementation which used a lot of GPL-licensed Linux filesystem code. Going to court is very rare.

And yes, most of these violations are discussed in the mailing list by people responsible for enforcement. Armijn Hemel and Brad Kuhn of the SFC especially.

I'd be willing to bet that Kogan is also using a GPL-licensed Busybox along with their Linux kernel.
Post Reply Subscribe to Thread

Tags
android, gpl, kogan, linux, violation

Guest Quick Reply (no urls or BBcode)
Message:
Previous Thread Next Thread
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes