[E3-hacking] Amstrad E3 GPL violation.

Jonathan McDowell e3-hacking@earth.li
Fri, 22 Apr 2005 17:57:28 +0100

The Amstrad E3 is a Linux based videophone; see:


It runs MontaVista based Linux:


There is no source provided with the device, nor mention of the
availability of it. However when the device is registered with Amstrad
(which is required to make use of it), they send an email which

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Under the GNU GPL (see www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html), E3 owners
and third parties are entitled to the source code of the Linux
Kernel in the product. Should you wish to obtain this, please send
a cheque for 25 payable to Amserve Ltd (to cover administration
and distribution costs) to Amserve Support, Brentwood House,
169 Kings Road, Brentwood, Essex CM14 4EF. This offer is valid for
three years.

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I sent off for this and received a CD containing:


(23M tarball of the contents of the CD)

Firstly, this only contains the kernel. There is no provision of glibc,
busybox or any of the other MontaVista components used. When I asked
Amstrad about the other source they said:

| The CD provided included GPL'd code that we are using and not unmodified
| GPL'd code that we are not.  You are correct in that we perhaps should
| have included it on the CD.  We are correcting this now, but you might
| like to note that our original Linux source was Montavista, as per our
| joint public statements.  The original source, which includes those
| items mentioned in your mail is to be found at
| http://www.mvista.com/previewkit/index.html. You will need to follow the
| instructions for OMAP 5910.

I'm not entirely sure about this - could it possibly count as passing on
a written offer and thus be ok?

Further investigation however revealed that the kernel on my actual
device reports a different version - "2.4.18_mvl30-ams-delta" vs the
"2.4.18_mvl30-E3" of the source. Also there is mention of an MFS-DFD /
dfdblk driver that is compiled in (certainly dmesg output about it from
before the filesystem is mounted). The boot log can be seen at:


A copy of the kernel taken from the device is at:


In response to my complaints about this Amstrad eventually said:

| While Amserve are looking into this matter, we are prepared to offer
| you the return of the 25 paid to us.
| Should you wish to accept this offer, please return the CD for my
| attention and I will arrange that a cheque be posted to you by return.
| However, as I have stated in my previous email, Amserve are
| investigating this matter, and will contact you in the near future. We
| are sorry for any inconvenience caused.

They did indeed accept the CD back and return my 25, but they have
failed to contact me again since my last contact with them on 8th Feb.

I believe Amstrad are taking advantage of the fact that it's not easy to
verify exactly what is running on the device - at the current point in
time I don't have shell access to Linux running on the device. The
kernel image above was obtained by someone removing the flash and
copying the contents off. Given that Amstrad's business model involves
the device having to make a daily premium rate call I believe they are
stalling to protect their investment, but this is no excuse for the
copyright violations involved.

Can someone with appropriate copyright ownership apply some pressure


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