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Naughton goes on to say, "I have serious doubts that Google's approach to the Bionic Library works under U.S. copyright law." But "what is potentially even more interesting is what happens if Google is right. If that is the case, Google has found a way to take Linux away from the open source community and privatize it."
If Google were sued and lost, however, Mueller claims that the development ecosystem built around the hugely popular Android mobile operating system would be at risk.
"If Google is proven wrong, pretty much that entire software stack -- and also many popular third-party closed-source components such as the Angry Birds game and the Adobe Flash Player -- would actually have to be published under the GPL," he writes. "A fully GPL'd Android would completely run counter to Google's Android strategy. Everyone would be free to use, modify and redistribute all of the affected software," and there would be "no more revenue opportunity for the developers of the affected applications, and the makers of Android-based devices would lose their ability to differentiate their products through proprietary add-ons."
Unless Google replaces the misappropriated Linux code with something else, it risks the "collapse of the Android ecosystem," Mueller writes.
Google has not yet responded to a request for comment from Network World. So far, the alleged violations are just opinions -- not lawsuits. But in an e-mail to Network World, Mueller says, "The way I view it is that there are literally thousands of Linux kernel copyright holders. Any one of them could pursue money or glory or be motivated by the defense of the copyleft principle."
Read more about software in Network World's Software section.