[sf-lug] Potential GPL violation, with the potential intent to victimize our Elderly loved ones

Chris Mason mason.christopher.thomas at gmail.com
Wed Nov 11 14:21:20 PST 2009

I am concerned about this project/company:

BBC Article Here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8352606.stm

They are selling computers preloaded with Linux, non-free Sun Java
JRE, and the non-free "Eldy" interface.

The non-free "Eldy" software is a central selling point of the system,
making it clearly a derived work - meaning that, under the terms of
the GNU GPL, the end result itself must be licensed under the GPL.

This is not the case, however. Eldy is non-free software, as is Sun Java JRE.

You can download a .deb for Eldy from here:

If you look at the .deb's "control" file, it self-identifies as
non-free software, and has non-free software (Sun Java) as a

If you play with the Eldy interface, you will see that it has a
locked-in association with a specific e-mail and chat protocol.
Currently, using that e-mail and IM provider is gratis, but that can
change at any time.

Essentially, in addition to my GPL concerns, this is also my concern:
After a target user (the slow-learning elderly person) invests time
and energy in learning the system, the company can decide at any time
to start charging $100/month or whatever figure they wish for the
continued use of their e-mail and IM. The target user may feel s/he
has no choice but to pay, as they may feel reliant on Eldy to continue
e-mailing and chatting with their loved ones.

As Eldy is non-free software, community efforts to break Eldy's
reliance on one specific e-mail/IM provider will not be possible. If
you want to check your e-mail using eldy, you MUST use them as the
e-mail provider.

ubuntuforums.org discussion here, if anyone wants to skim:
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1322661 (i am "earthpigg")

Are my concerns reasonable, or am I off the mark? Should I report this
to the FSF?


Chris Mason

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