In case you didn’t know Chromium OS and its derived Google’s Chrome OS are both using an open-source software named Portage to manage their packages, i.e. manage their software that is.
That in itself is certainly not a bad thing, not at all, in-fact it was one of the main factors to sparkle my curiosity over why use a Linux distribution named Gentoo as my main OS.
However, a problem arises when Chromium OS, and by extension any other derived OS which make use of the same licensing scheme, is re-licensing the packages it copied from upstream Portage without permission.
Automatically Terminating The Rights!?
To help clarify things out, take a look at the Chromium-written license which is set on top of the copied Portage packages tree:
“Copyright (c) 2011 The Chromium OS Authors. All rights reserved.
Use of this source code is governed by a BSD-style license that can be found in the LICENSE file.
This overlay contains Portage packages that are part of the Chromium OS build and are exact copies of upstream Portage packages.”
As you can see, the above specifies that the source code inside that repository is “governed by a BSD-style license” which in reality is wrong since most (if not all) the code inside that tree is actually already licensed under a different open-source license – GPL-2.
What’s even more is that the issue gets further problematic when considering GPL-2 license is automatically terminating the violating side rights over it:
“4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License.”
The person who recently discovered this issue, a Gentoo developer named Patrick Lauer, has voiced the problem inside Gentoo’s project mailing list, mentioning he couldn’t find a proper contact to resolve that issue with.
In turn, Gentoo has forwarded the message to “the correct people at Google” which should be willing to quickly resolve the problem.
Presumably, this is all just a naive human mistake and once the message reaches the appropriate person, it would all be resolved without the need to enforce GPL-2 implications.