Is Kogan violating the GPL?



blog Ah, Kogan. That bastion of Australian dodginess. We used to love Ruslan Kogan for his over the top attacks on consumer electronics industry dinosaurs like Gerry Harvey and his charming attempts to achieve gainful employment at McDonald’s. Now we just chronicle the ongoing series of stuff-ups. There was the disastrous Kogan Mobile episode. There was the spectrum stuff-up around the first Kogan Agora smartphone. There was Ruslan Kogan’s loss of his personal driving licence. And now there’s a wide-ranging number of largely unanswered allegations that Kogan has breached the terms of the GNU General Public Licence in using open source software in its own-manufactured gadgets. Ausdroid has a comprehensive story on the issue. A sample paragraph:

“Ben is a software developer by day developing mobile apps for both Android and iOS and by night is the Co-Founder and a Director of Glass Echidna Pty Ltd. … in his post on [XDA-Developers] Ben named 8 other devices that he believes Kogan are infringing upon the GPL aside from the 3 him and his friend own. If your maths are as rusty as mine, before you reach for the calculator, that’s 11 devices that Kogan has not provided the source code for their respective kernels, which they must do in following the GPLv2 licence.”

Note: I sent an email to Kogan’s Australian PR agency a few days ago inviting comment on this issue, but haven’t heard anything back. ZDNet has a little more reaction from the big K … but nothing really conclusive or that specific, to be honest. We think Kogan can do better here and really come clean on this issue. After all, why not? If Kogan is directly profiting from the use of open source software in its products, then it has an obligation to met the terms of the licences for that software.

I want to apologise to reader, by the way, for not getting to this story sooner. I was forwarded the link to the XDA-Developers posts on this topic by a few readers, but I didn’t get the time last week to look into the issue. Given I’m late to the story I thought I would just link to Ausdroid’s version — after all, they did a stellar job on investigating the issue.

Image credit: Kogan


  1. (IANAL) Well as far as the GPL goes Kogan only have to provide the GPL source code that they have modified to their customers if they request it. This means they don’t have to release it up on the web for anyone to use. They don’t need to release it if they haven’t modified it.

    So unless you’ve bought the device with the modified GPL software on it you have no right to request the source code.

  2. Kogan is a shonk, has been since he became ‘popular’ and I think he decided that meant he could do no wrong… Many of his products are cheap, rubbish copies, and most have no user experience metrics applied. As long as his description is accurate, he doesn’t care if it works or is dog of a product. Even products of reputable manufacturers are being tarnished because they are side imports and come with all the baggage that creates.

    Recommendation: AVOID anything from Kogan like the plague.

  3. I had an unsatisfactory experience with Kogan that ended up costing them a sizeable fine from NSW Fair Trading. They provided an European power adapter with a Samsung phone. When I complained that they need to provide an Australian power adapter they then sent me a travel adapter.

    This travel adapter, apart from not being approved for sale in Australia (no approval number), placed users at risk of electrical shock….

    1) Pins were not insulated
    2) No earth pin, but a earth socket is provided on the ‘international’
    socket side. If a product is designed to be earthed, this would allow
    it to be plugged in without actually providing an earth connection.
    3) The case itself seems to have a bit of play at the seam.
    4) There was not enough of a flange around the adapter socket to prevent reversed or incorrect insertion of a plug, allowing a pin at active potential to be exposed and touched.

    I completed to Fair Trading NSW, who brought Kogan to task. Kogan initially claimed that I hadn’t contacted them to complain prior to me contacting Fair Trading (journal and archived emails and phone calls proved otherwise).

    Then they claimed that they didn’t need to provide an Australian adapter (Australian consumer law says they do for sales in Australia).

    Then that I had purchased the product from a retailer overseas (funny, my invoice shows a purchase from an Australian addressed company, and my credit card charged by an Australian account. Oh, BTW, if you have noticed that they have removed reference to Australia on their invoices and website, that might be why).

    The investigator for NSW Fair Traiding told me that he indicated to them that their fine would continue to increase in magnitude the more BS they tried to spin. I got my Australian adapter shortly after that :)

    The scary thing is that your average consumer would have accepted Kogan’s ‘replacement’ without understanding the safety risk (having a B Eng helps). If it seems odd, give your state’s Fair Trading a call, they are here to protect you. Kogan’s actions demonstrate they think they can flaunt the law and consumer rights.

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