Lineo Had a Tool to Search for GPL Code -- Why Didn't It Use It?

Monday, October 13 2003 @ 06:59 PM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

The Lineo story Groklaw wrote about yesterday wouldn't be complete without mentioning that Lineo, which Yarro admits used GPL code in an infringing manner, had invented a GPL compliance tool, the Lineo Embedix GPL Compliance Toolset, that checks your code and lets you know if any GPL infringing code is in your product. That raises a question. If they had this tool, why didn't they use it? Or check the code in some other way? Surely a company that would invent such a tool was aware of the need to check the code. And if they did use it, was their infringement innocent? What exactly is the game here? And one more thing: if there was an allegation of infringement, and Lineo knew they were guilty, why didn't they just say they were sorry and fix it rather than make it go to a lawsuit? Make up your own mind after you read this description of the tool from 2001:

"Lineo has an answer: the Lineo Embedix GPL Compliance Toolset. It's a set of tools that check your program to see how it complies with the GPL. It can analyze a developer's project and ascertain whether you need to modify a part of your project or not.

"The toolset consists of three parts: the Code Review Wizard, The Library Check, and the License Report Wizard.

"The Code Review Wizard will analyze the developer's coding habits and reveal any areas of exposure to the GPL that might need attention. It interviews the developer to determine the intent of the project and finds out which areas the company wants to keep secure from the GPL. This part is basically a large decision tree that takes you through all the possible situations that can be affected by the GPL and other licenses."

The tool was designed by Tim Bird, then senior vice president of research and development at Lineo. If the Canopy game was to make it look like the GPL is problematic for companies, I'd say the existence of this tool answers that. And if that isn't the game, the existence of the tool begs the question: why weren't steps taken to avoid the infringement and the lawsuit?