We live in an era of information and knowledge but in some aspects the ignorance of the general public is astounding! Amongst many things, one such issue is the blatant copyright infringement of the software by certain mobile companies.
“Any vendor distributing binaries must also make the human-readable source code available under the same licensing terms.” — GPL section 3a and 3b. Any GPL violation to the above condition should result in legal proceedings.
However companies like Xiaomi and Micromax, to name a few, are openly mocking these licenses by not releasing the Linux kernel source for their handsets. This partly explains the absurdly cheap prices of these handsets available in the market as the companies are trying to restrict users from making use of other software.
Recently, Indian Air Force released a warning against using Xiaomi mobile phones. The reasons cited were security based since the personal data was being auto-synchronized to Beijing servers, thanks to the software.
Bigger companies like Google and Samsung have faced the wrath of copyright infringement too in the past. However, they sorted the issue out since they sell their products globally. Xiaomi’s real business on the other hand is software and services. And being a Chinese company, most of its Android software is not official since Google is banned in China. Also most of its Android software is closed sourced as the government supports local companies even when they violate international law. Once it starts business in Europe and USA, it would have to adjust its software in accordance to Google.
It is also sad to see that most of the countries don’t have a strong copyright enforcement laws especially towards open source software like the Linux kernel. This is indeed very discouraging to those developers who have worked hard on bringing the best in technology to everyone’s reach. Since we are benefiting from these it is also our responsibility to make sure that the rules are being followed. This is more than just a copyright infringement; it is about the ethics of these companies. Some of these companies have ambitions of global domination, and we, as consumers should make sure that we support organizations with proper ethics.
All we can do now is spread the word and make everybody aware of these practices.
Hence, please share this information with your friends via social media. Let’s not be fooled by a company who is openly violating the GPL norms and distributing cheap handsets in the so-called ‘third world’. Let’s make sure that voice of reason is heard and such companies would release the software kernel in accordance with the law.