The Rise And Fall of Maui X-Stream
May 24, 2005 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Bogart not the OSS Open Source is cool. Not only is it free-for-you, but you're also entitled to commercialize it as long as you follow some fairly simple rules. Software company Maui X-Stream seems to have run afoul of not just one OSS project but many, cobbling together entire product lines out of free software and branding them as their own -- and then heartily denying it. (More Inside)
posted by Ogre Lawless (12 comments total)
This is a gross overgeneralization, but commonly Free and Open Source projects generally allow one to freely modify the project code pretty much any way possible including branding it and reselling it under one's own label. To do so under the GPL and most similar licenses, one must usually do two things:

1) Release the source code of the changes you've made in a similarly licensed manner.

2) Give proper attribution of the authors and the projects which are contained inside or served as the basis for further code.

This serves to foster the project itself and continue efficient development -- it is truly rare when functionality desired by party X would not also be desired by some other party. There's also a quid-pro-quo utility to this as well: I have given you this software gratis, therefore you must redistribute it likewise.

While this philosophy often becomes the platform for zealots it has been responsible for some pretty amazing efforts. Its fragility lies in the fact that these licenses are mostly untested in the courtroom and the developers themselves, being either sole entities or small adhocracies, are not in a position to make of themselves a test case. At best, developers can raise a hue and cry and hope that community opinion will force infringing companies to do the right thing.

Maui X-Stream is a nightmare example. The company appears to have exploited a number of fairly well-known products. Their now-defunct CherryOS, a PowerPC emulator for Intel architectures, was demonstrably based upon PearPC.

Similarly it appears that their flagship product, VX30 makes liberal use of free projects XviD, LAME, Media Player Classic, Shoutcast, LibJPEG and others.

The tale takes on a number of incredibly bizarre twists and turns as covered by DrunkenBlog's Michael Bell. His in-depth investigation churns offshore developers, major media companies, the Golden Globes and a number of cease-and-decists into a truly gothic tale that's well worth the read and free of much of the hyperbole one commonly encounters in OSS "outings".
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:11 PM on May 24, 2005

Yeow, that's some kickass investigative reporting going on at drunkenblog. This is what makes the internet great.
posted by mathowie at 12:31 PM on May 24, 2005

This promises hours of schadenfreude when I can spare the time. Thanks.
posted by OmieWise at 1:00 PM on May 24, 2005

It's a pretty interesting FPP, but I haven't encountered "Bogart" as a verb in so long (like, since Jimmy Carter was President) I wasn't sure what it meant.
posted by alumshubby at 1:02 PM on May 24, 2005

deepak pahtak has an interesting take on this

Phatak thinks U.S. programmers' open-source approach has changed the world. "Americans may not realize this, but the [general public license] is one of their greatest contributions to the world," he says, explaining that the GPL allows open-source software to coexist with proprietary software.

He considers the coexistence crucial. "The whole world can't depend on open source," the scholar acknowledges. Moving forward, the software world will consist of both those who develop proprietary code and those who develop open-source code. The success of this model depends upon two things--what he calls the "g-factor" and the "j-factor."

"Proprietary vendors should avoid the g-factor and not become too greedy, otherwise people will choose open source," Phatak says. "And open-source developers should avoid the j-factor and not become jealous that someone else might be profiting from their work. They should be delighted that people are using it."
posted by three blind mice at 2:37 PM on May 24, 2005

Profiting from Open Source isn't what makes the developers jealous (in general), it's blatant theft of code. Quite a lot of people make a living off of linux and they're not necessarily developers. They're consultants, hardware vendors etc. They obey the rules though, if they actually base something on the GPL'd project then they release the sources. Some companies legally get around the source release requirement by buying a non-exclusive agreement.

Maui X-Stream just takes the code without attribution, releases it and doesn't obey the license that the plundered code came with.
posted by substrate at 3:35 PM on May 24, 2005

"And open-source developers should avoid the j-factor and not become jealous that someone else might be profiting from their work. They should be delighted that people are using it."

And they are certainly delighted when people are using it, usage is not the problem. And if people profit from open source/free software (selling it, offering support, saving money,...), great, as long as they play by the rules. Which, for GPL licensed software, means offering the source code when distributing it. If you don't like that, you are free to base your products on BSD licensed software or simply write your own. I don't get what jealousy has to do with that.
posted by ltl at 3:38 PM on May 24, 2005

That's for sure, Matt. That article is a thing of beauty.
posted by Songdog at 7:53 PM on May 24, 2005

wow, i just spent a loooong time going through the fpp, and man those maui guys are assholes.
posted by puke & cry at 8:29 PM on May 24, 2005

Shit, I can't bloody stand it when people use the term moving forward at the start of a sentance. That's ruined my whole day (which was, until now, actually fairly good). What ever happed to "In the future this will happen". Moving forward is a clause without a subject, and people who use the term should be tied up and forced to endure 18 straight months of Powerpoint-presentation filled management training seminars, with parole available for good gramatical behaviour.


Okay, back to the OSS discussion.
posted by Jimbob at 9:39 PM on May 24, 2005

In the future 'sentence' will be spollen 'sentance'.
posted by TimothyMason at 12:46 AM on May 25, 2005

Heh... "spollen"
posted by crawl at 8:33 AM on May 25, 2005

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