Someone Started a Huge Kernel Source Campaign Against HTC on Facebook


Have you checked HTC’s Facebook page out lately? Tons of users are making it their duty to let HTC know that they’re violating GPL requirements by not releasing source code for new devices and updates. Here is the message being tossed HTC’s way every five minutes:

Please release the kernel source for the EVO 3D, EVO 4G, EVO Shift, Sensation, and Incredible 2. I love HTC devices, but am saddened that HTC refuses to follow GPL requirements to release source code.

If you don’t know, Android phones use code that the GPL requires be open-sourced if used in a commercial product. With this source, developers at XDA, and the likes can create custom kernels and make better ROMs for those who love rooting and hacking their devices.

An HTC representative had something to say after someone called them out for deleting users’ posts. While we never like seeing criticism deleted, we’re siding with HTC here – this is just downright spam. Thankfully, the representative took that time to explain why the source for several phones have yet to be released:

I completely understand your concern regarding the lack of source code, Nick, and I would be more than happy to clarify this for you.

Unfortunately, I cannot confirm whether these comments were actually being removed, or whether they were automatically removed due to being reported as spam, which is against Facebook’s ToS — we definately hear you guys, and we’re not deliberately withholding the code from you, and we absolutely plan on making it available, as soon as it’s ready.

We are still working on the source code for some devices. We are unable to provide it to you at this time as it is not currently in an easily accessible format. Sure, it works on the phone just fine; but, for development purposes, that same software also needs to be able to function with the SDK provided by Google. For it to be flawless for our customers, it’s going to take some time. As for a time frame, our usual estimate is within 90-120 days of the device’s release. Sometimes (read: most of the time) we can have it sooner than that. I assure you we are working towards having this software available to our customers as soon as possible.

And that’s that. Apparently, HTC isn’t stepping outside of the boundaries set by GNU. And yelling at them and spamming their Facebook page isn’t going to do much to help. Just be patient, folks – HTC’s usually good about this stuff. [Facebook, Thanks philosophics!]

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. correct me if i’m wrong, but shouldn’t all source codes be in an “easily accessible format” throughout the entire development phase?

    1. It should be, but the question is, Do we want it to be?

      Then people would get their hands on unfinished code, and possibly release it. Not-so-techy people could get their hands on it, and try putting it on their device, and damage their device.

      They may then think it is HTC’s fault, and hate HTC for making crappy phones and never buy an HTC again.

      1. I think by “easily accessible format”, they meant organized and readable code, not easy to download and compile.

    2. I’m too Google+-ized, as I was looking for the +1 icon and completely passed over the “like”. Sigh.

    3. you are wrong. it’s not funny

    4. hahahaha lol you are absolutely right…….apperantly they dont want to expose they crap code to others and are cleaning up…..

  2. I say I’m pretty sure they deleted the comment themselves. I posted something against htc before. I didn’t spam them. Just one comment. It was deleted.

  3. Yeah, because groups of people uniting and publically bombarding large organisations with a clear message has never once in history of being successful….

    This is 2011. HTC is in Korea and completely inaccessible to most people. This is the modern day answer to a peaceful protest.

    Really, the source code should have come out with the device. They must have used it to produce the damned thing! HTC are almost certainly bending the terms of the GNU and should expect loyal customers who have signed up to their product for 2 years to be miffed.

    1. HTC is a Taiwanese based company….

  4. I take exception with the statement in this article that “HTC isn’t stepping outside of the boundaries set by GNU”. Actually, they are.

    Just because they want to make more changes to the kernel, doesn’t mean they aren’t required by the GPL to distribute the source to any changes to the kernel that they have shipped. Since these devices have shipped, they need to produce the source. The GPL doesn’t say “You can wait until you feel it is presentable”. It says you can distribute object code, but only if you provide the source as well.

  5. “Apparently, HTC isn’t stepping outside of the boundaries set by GNU.”

    Yes they are.

    “The GPL does not require you to release your modified version, or any part of it. You are free to make modifications and use them privately, without ever releasing them. This applies to organizations (including companies), too; an organization can make a modified version and use it internally without ever releasing it outside the organization.

    But if you release the modified version to the public in some way, the GPL requires you to make the modified source code available to the program’s users, under the GPL.

    Thus, the GPL gives permission to release the modified program in certain ways, and not in other ways; but the decision of whether to release it is up to you.”

    This source code offer (GPL clause 6) does not say ‘within a reasonable time’. HTC admit they are withholding the source, and obviously have it to be able to make the binary. It’s a straight up GPL violation, and an admitted refusal on record by the spokesperson to release the source code that the binary was built with. They are explicitly stating they are not going to release the source that was used to make the binary. This is an obvious violation, and I’m quite tempted to discuss it with the FSF.

    1. This is correct. You simply cannot release (a “release” meaning given to someone outside of the organization) a binary build with GPL code without also making the source code available simultaneously. It’s a blatant violation, and claims that the code isn’t ready for release are irrelevant.

      1. but, for development purposes, that same software also needs to be able to function with the SDK provided by Google. For it to be flawless for our customers, it’s going to take some time.

        biggest BS I’ve heard this month, everyone knows it’s because of competition…

  6. No mention of Thunderbolt.

    Attention HTC: gzipped tarball is an acceptable format. As is CVS. Don’t you use those tools?

  7. “…EVO 4G, EVO Shift…”

    “As for a time frame, our usual estimate is within 90-120 days of the device’s release.”

    Too bad the Evo 4G came out almost 400 days ago.

    LOL. You so funny HTC.

    1. They’re referring to the source for the latest update to Gingerbread

  8. Bet Veruca wants it noooooooooow, Daddy!

  9. This is stupid, HTC has always released the source code but just do after 90 or so. In some cases it has taken longer but they by no means deny it they just drag their feet.

    1. Sorry, but the GPL doesn’t allow 90 days, whenever they feel like it, or when they feel the code is “clean”. If they ship a product with GPL code, they MUST also release the source at the same time. ANYTHING else is a violation.

  10. It wasn’t originally spam. Only because they deleted the first comments asking for it did it become spam as retaliation for the censorship.

  11. I wish they would hurry up with it so I can have 720p recording and 2.3 on non-sense ROMs.

  12. Source code must be released. It’s a mantra. If they don’t it must be compulsorily reverse engineered by the GPL community.

  13. Odd how Samsung can get the source out in 2 or 3 weeks of release in most cases.

  14. This is absolutely a violation of the terms of the GPL. Section 3 is extremely clear on this, and doesn’t allow for any grace period. Nor is this onerous to comply with. HTC are only required to distribute whatever source code they used to build their kernel. They already have this, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to build the kernel. There is no additional preparation work required on their part. In fact, any modifications they made to the source code after release would violate the GPL, as it would not be the same as what they shipped. I can only assume the delay is for misguided marketing reasons.

    More likely than not there is a behind-the-scenes effort to bring them into compliance, but until that happens they are violating the copyright of every other kernel contributor. That last is an important point: HTC have certainly contributed to the Linux kernel, but their overall contribution is a rounding error. All contributors do so under the terms of GPL. Not obeying its terms not only displays a profound lack of respect, but also opens them up to the possibility of a copyright lawsuit from any one of those thousands of contributors.

  15. How is the source not ready? What about the kernels in the phones that are already in stores? What were those built from?

  16. how shady HTC. I’m glad everyone in the comments sees this for what it is

  17. “developer friendly” and “accessible format” refer to something else:
    if you studied the htc kernel releases, you’d find that htc maintains mostly a monolithic build tree, which means that they keep the source for a large number of devices in 1 tree, and compile accordingly, by just compiling different defconfigs.

    The aforementioned comment meant patching/removing traces of other devices except than those which are supposed to be found in the source release for a specific device.

    They made a mistake once, forgetting to remove a patch in the 2.6.29 kernel source of the hero cdma; reversing this patch allowed a kernel build for a lot of additional devices.

  18. These people are retarted. Never does official source code get released the same day as the device.

    1. Maybe not on HTC but Samsung releases source code BEFORE the device launches.

  19. Know what’s awesome? I don’t remember this being such a big deal last year. It’s great this is getting the attention it deserves.

    HTC, you seem like you care to listen: Lip service isn’t the answer.

  20. It probably has more to do with the level of understanding about free software by HTC’s management (a.k.a. decision makers) than anything else.

  21. Me and a few people tried doing it to Acer months ago. They took their sweet time and ended up releasing some incomplete bs. And the idiots who run the Acer facebook page do not know what a kernel source is LOL. HTC community is probably way bigger and it should work out better.

  22. HTC is stepping outside the boundaries — of the law.

    And if they continue, I hope one or more copyright owners sues them.

    That is just downright offensive.

    Creators build something great enough to be used in a hundred million handsets (and TiVo, Garmin, Tom Tom, TVs, home security, DVRs, and God knows what else). They generously grant a free license with easily complied with terms.

    Then we get people defending them brazenly infringing upon the very copyrights of those creators who granted them the license they are in breach of.

    1. Kindle runs Linux. Sony TVs since 2003 run Linux. Most home office routers and WiFi routers run Linux. The list goes on and on. And all of these companies are able to comply with the license. Why not HTC?

  23. This is where Android will get in trouble. Whiny free software people.

    1. only Apple will benefit from this.

  24. The sooner Android moves completely away from the GPL virus, the better. It’s much cleaner than the typical linux distro but it is still a problem.

  25. So type in something new, and it’s definitely not spam. I posted the following a few minutes ago. Let’s see how long it stays up:
    “I am an Evo 4G owner, and a Free Software user. I am deeply disappointed that you are violating the Gnu Public License by not releasing the changes that HTC made to the operating system source code for the Evo 4G. You cannot simply say you’ll eventually release it when it’s nicer — that is a violation of your agreement. You have shipped the binaries on my phone, you agreed to release the source with all binaries, and I want to see the changes. Please release the HTC modified source code now, so that I can be a *proud* Evo owner.”

  26. At this rate it looks like the EVO may be the last HTC device I buy.

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