Brief background - my name is Matthew Garrett. I'm a Linux kernel developer working for Red Hat. I bought an original Nook back in 2009 and was responsible for getting Barnes and Noble to release the full kernel source code. When the Nook Color was released I did the same. I've been active in enforcement of the GPL and have a keen interest in helping (or making) companies comply with their obigaitons.
Having said that.
One of the significant differences between GPLv2 and GPLv3 is that GPLv3 makes explicit the requirement that signing keys be shipped. It has been argued that the GPLv2 implicitly requires the same, in the form of the requirement for the scripts required for installation. I'm sympathetic to that claim, and I will not personally distribute any code that requires a private signing key. But I'm not a lawyer and I'm certainly not a judge. Many people who are active in GPL enforcement will agree that vendors should provide the signing keys - but I don't think you'll find any who will actually make that the basis of a case.
B&N are not the only company to require signed kernel images. Many Android devices have locked bootloaders. I think this is a despicable anti-consumer design choice, but nobody's taking action against it. B&N have provided you with the kernel source code. They've done better than many by also providing you with the configuration file. They have a strong argument that by doing so they've complied with the requirements of GPLv2, and while you (and I) may disagree, that's almost certainly going to be as much as they'll be required to do. Consensus at the moment is that they don't need to do any more.
If it went to court then you may end up finding a judge who would rule that they're in violation, but I wouldn't put money on it. I think it's far too extreme to claim that they're actively violating.
Given the relative path, I'm betting that this is an error rather than malicious - they simply didn't tar it up with the other files. It should be fixed, but the fact that it isn't is not a showstopper.
Maybe I'm misunderstanding the complexity of the situation though.
This struck a cord with me.
I own an iPhone, and an Acer Iconia tablet, both of which are locked down. I've jail-broken, or rooted the devices, but the fact that I can't legitimately install custom roms, etc, frustrates the hell out of me.
One advantage I see (but don't agree with) for the iPhone being locked down is users locked into the app store, but for the Iconia?
1. He could not get the source they released to compile.
2. Quoted a GPL violations FAQ.
3. Told them they are doing a bad thing.
4. Told them to fix the problem.
How about actually giving them DETAILS about what failed to compile. From his complaint they have no idea if the problem is because they made a mistake in the source release, or if there is something wrong with his environment, or whatever.
"The source code for a work means the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it. For an executable work, complete source code means all the source code for all modules it contains, plus any associated interface definition files, plus the scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable. However, as a special exception, the source code distributed need not include anything that is normally distributed (in either source or binary form) with the major components (compiler, kernel, and so on) of the operating system on which the executable runs, unless that component itself accompanies the executable."
Agreed, but as far as the GPL goes, he's well within his rights to demand they follow their obligations. The fact that it was overlooked to begin with looks somewhat shifty..
Moreover -- correct me if I'm wrong -- GPLv2 doesn't require that the device manufacturer support software upgrades anyway. It's only v3 that introduced the "anti-TiVoization" clause, and the kernel isn't GPLv3.
They only GPL'd code on the Nook as far as I can tell is the Android kernel. So if they distribute the patches they made to the kernel to support their tablet then they are done. They have no obligation whatsoever to distribute source to their book display application, their UI, or their other 'user land' applications.
Its the same with Google, the 'Google Experience' applications (mail, maps, Etc) are neither GPL'd nor 'free' for manufacturers to put on their boxes.
Forum posts such as these have to get triaged by their forum managers, TT's cut to the appropriate groups responsible for the issue mentioned, accepted by the proper group, placed in a priority queue based on severity of end-user impact, and assessed along with all of the other work they are doing. At least this is how it is at the large company I work for.
Sure he has a lot of 'laurels' for his post, but a two day old post of one person not being able to compile their Nook sourcecode is probably not high on the list of things which must be addressed immediately. Chill out and give it some time to be addressed.
The solution is simple--don't release binaries without source. That's what the GPL requires, and what they signed up for when they used GPLed code.
I too would like Linux to be licensed under GPLv3, but a lot of companies wouldn't. I seriously doubt my TV manufacturer would be OK with me running my own code on it. Or my cable box.
Samsung use (used?) Linux as the base OS for a large number of their TVs so of course replacement firmware projects sprang up (e.g. SamyGo ). The project added additional functionality to their TVs like playing movies from a USB stick - features that Samsung had restricted to their higher-end TVs.
Within a few months Samsung had released an ‘official’ firmware upgrade that removed the ability to load unofficial (unsigned I guess?) updates.
As far as I could tell from that thread, there isn't, just a lot of ignorance. B&N has no legal obligation to tell them how to get a custom kernel to boot on the Nook.
Nor the obligation to make it possible. Signed boots are OK.
The original poster has not figured out how to build and run the source he got from B&N and asks for a solution without giving any information? Fail.
So net result: (at least) a misleading headline and PEBCAK all over the place. Nuff said.
When dealing with legal issues, detail is of course paramount.