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Linus Torvalds: Android copyright violation claim is "bogus"

Linux creator casts doubt on claim that Android violates GPL

Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds has said new claims that Android violates the Linux license are "totally bogus." 

Intellectual property attorney Edward Naughton argued last week that with Android, Google improperly took Linux code and passed it on in a derivative work without using the GPLv2 license. But it seems that no lawsuits have been filed on the issue and several open source observers have disputed Naughton's argument.

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You can add Torvalds to that list. Torvalds objected to Naughton's conclusion that Google's use of the Bionic Library resulted in a deriviative work that had to be licensed under GPL.

"It seems totally bogus," Torvalds told IT World's Brian Proffitt. "We've always made it very clear that the kernel system call interfaces do not in any way result in a derived work as per the GPL." 

A statement made years ago by Free Software Foundation creator Richard Stallman also seems to cast doubt on the argument that Android violates the Linux license. In an email written in 2003, he said it is "not the FSF's view" that "including a header file always makes a derivative work." A more "substantial amount of code" is needed to create a derivative work, he wrote. 

Naughton has some ties to Microsoft, which he defended in a class action suit regarding the use of cookies with Windows, Network World reported last week.

That wouldn't disqualify Naughton from judging whether Android violates any copyright requirements, but the statements from Torvalds and Stallman do make his claims seem unlikely. In any case, Microsoft isn't shy about attacking Android - it doesn't need a third party to do that. Microsoft, in fact, just launched a patent infringement suit against Barnes & Noble regarding the Nook e-reader, which uses Android. 

Google is still dealing with that pesky lawsuit from Oracle too. While it seems Naughton's Android infringement claim may not lead anywhere, Google isn't completely out of the woods yet.

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter.

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