March 2011

Oh Noes -- teh Angry Birds GPL'd! Google's Alleged GPL Violations in Android

Two commentators, Florian Mueller and Edward Naughton, have recently claimed that Google is violating the copyleft obligation of the General Public License in distributing the Android mobile operating system used in millions of smartphones all over the world. Android consists of a combination of the underlying Linux kernel, licensed under GPLv2, wrapped with a C library known as Bionic, and topped off with an application framework. Google has released Bionic under the permissive BSD license. Naughton's and Mueller's thesis is that Google's Bionic library is a derivative work of the Linux kernel due to the amount and type of code Bionic lifts from the kernel, and therefore is required to be licensed under GPLv2. If Bionic is required to be licensed under GPLv2, that means Android applications would also have to be licensed under GPLv2 in source code form, they claim. Google would lose control of the entire platform, the argument goes, and Android as a viable and profitable ecosystem would collapse.

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