Update: See Telstra’s response here.
Telstra could be about to receive an avalanche of complaints from the global open source software community, after a local developer accused the company over the weekend of violating the terms of the popular GNU General Public License in its T-Hub, T-Box and potentially T-Touch Tab products.
The telco launched the products this year and has already achieved a degree of success with the T-Hub integrated telephone and T-Box media centre products, selling a total of around 100,000 units combined by the end of September. The T-Touch Tab is one of a wave of tablets based on Google’s Android operating system to hit Australia over the past several months.
However, in an extensive blog post published yesterday, Angus Gratton — who appears to be an open source software developer and a technician at the Australian National University’s Department of Nuclear Physics — pointed out that all three products were based on the Linux operating system, which has substantial portions licensed under the GNU General Public License.
Gratton also posted a link to his claim to the GPL violations mailing list, which aims to track and rectify problems where companies are using the licence.
The GPL violations site interprets the GPL as requiring that companies who distribute products based on GPL-licenced software must make source code to the software available to customers — for example, include a zip file of relevant files on a documentation CD. In addition, a copy of the GPL licence should be included with licence documentation.
“I investigated the T-Hub and found it is built on a variety of open source software, including GPL licensed software like Linux and busybox. However, Telstra are not mentioning this anywhere and are not distributing source code, or notices to obtain source code,” wrote Gratton on his blog.
“By doing this, Telstra are violating the licenses and also robbing the authors of their rightful attribution. They appear to be regarding open source as a free-for-all that they can exploit without giving back even the small amount required legally by the various license terms … to the best of my knowledge, the T-Box is not GPL-compliant either, which gives me little hope for the upcoming T-Tab.”
The developer wrote that he had been attempting to contact Telstra about the issue, to no avail. Ultimately he said he was planning to notify as many rights-holders as he could for the software the telco was using, and encourage them to get in touch with Telstra themselves.
Telstra does not manufacture the T-Hub, T-Box or T-Touch Tab itself. The T-Box is made by European company Netgem, while the T-Hub is made by French electronics giant Sagem, and the T-Touch Tab by Chinese giant Huawei. The telco has not yet responded to a request for comment on the issue.
Image credit: Telstra