Dealing With Copyright Infringement – Calibre Being Ripped Off

*** Update: HamsterSoft has fixed the issue and is now in compliance with the GPL. They are no longer in violation of my copyright in regard to calibre ***

Introduction

Copyright infringement is something many creators come face to face with. Over the past two months it has been something I’ve been dealing with. A third party is using portions of calibre in their proprietary application in violation of the GNU GPL version 3 (GPL v3) that calibre is licensed under. I have been helping deal with this violation.

In early July it was brought to my attention that a new ebook conversion utility, the Hamster Free eBook Converter (HFEC) made by HamsterSoft, was released. Since I work on calibre, looking at other ebook conversion tools is of interest to me. I’ve worked with other people on developing conversion tools and I’ve found that collaboration typically helps everyone.

About the Company

When I started looking into HFEC the fist thing I found was an announcement on the calibre Facebook page that the HFEC is using calibre for conversion in a non-compliant manner. Again, calibre is open source and licensed under the GPL v3. Using calibre’s source code in other programs is fine. We want people to do that and I’ve even helped people with doing so. However, the choice of license was deliberate. Kovid Goyal (the original creator of calibre) chose the GPL v3 because he believes in what the license stands for. Calibre using the GPL v3 is a major factor in why I started contributing to the project. All we ask is that if someone uses portions of calibre in their own project is that they abide by the copyright terms calibre is licensed under (GPL v3).

I looked at HamsterSoft’s website and they offer a variety of products; HFEC is their fourth application. What I noticed is two of their earlier products are very similar in design to HFEC. HamsterSoft use open source projects as the basis of these products. They create a custom interface around an open source base and release their program under a closed source, highly restrictive, proprietary license. In the case of the previous two products the open source projects they used are licensed under weak copyleft licenses. In the case of these two applications there is a good chance that they have not done anything wrong and have properly complied with those projects licenses.

Calibre however, uses a strong copyleft license. While investigating HamsterSoft I noticed that they had calibre listed as being licensed under the LGPL. The big difference between the LGPL and the GPL is the LGPL allows for incorporation in a proprietary application. The GPL does not. Under section 5 subsection C of the GPL v3 it states, “You must license the entire work, as a whole, under this License to anyone who comes into possession of a copy.” Meaning HamsterSoft must release their entire work that incorporates calibre under the GPL v3 and the GPL v3 also requires access to source code.

Initial Contact

The announcement about the GPL violation was made on July 7th. That same day HamsterSoft responded in a a comment. They said, “@Calibre Got it! . We will fix this issues and ask you for your own acception. Thank you! Seems we mess much. Thank you!” I believe that by acception they mean exception. Kovid responded to them asking for an exception with, “@Hamster: Fix your GPL compliance. That means you have to make your product open source or stop using calibre. That much is required by the law.” It’s clear that Kovid has denied granting HamsterSoft a copyright exception to use calibre in HFCE without complying with the GPL v3. Also, even if Kovid had wanted to grant them an exception he cannot. Calibre does not practice copyright assignment. Each contributor retains the copyright on the work they contribute. To grant a copyright exception every contributor would need to agree and I for one would not agree to granting one. I purposely and knowingly put my work on calibre under the GPL v3 because that’s how I want my work licensed.

So, as of July 7th HamsterSoft was contacted in regard to the GPL violation in their HFEC program. Also, on July 7th they responded saying they undertand the issue and will fix it. Under the GPL v3 section 8 HamsterSoft has 30 days from receiving a notice of violation to cure the violation.

On July 11th HamsterSoft responded to their GPL violation via a FaceBook post. In this post they said, “Guys … seems we are much closer to the end of misunderstanding.” Closer is not fixed. Kovid responded to them with what needed to be done to come into compliance with calibre’s licensing (the GPL v3). This was the last communication from HamsterSoft that I am aware of.

Analysis of Steps Taken Toward Compliance

HamsterSoft appeared to make some effort to comply with the GPL v3. I cannot comment on motivations as they could be considered libel so I am only going to state facts as to the action HamsterSoft took. They clarified their licensed (EULA) that GPL components are not subject to their added restrictions such as disassembly, decompilation and reverse engineering. They modified their installer, website and Facebook page to make it clear that their product uses calibre. They uploaded some source code to their web site.

The source code that HamsterSoft uploaded was far from complete. It contains two non-complete binary builds of calibre. No mention if there are or not modifications. It is not clear if they modified calibre because the binary builds are only part of calibre not the entire program as it is officially distributed. No calibre source code, which they must supply (it’s not enough to point to the calibre project’s download page), was present.

Only a small amount of wrapper code that interfaces between calibre and their program was present. I found the following reference in the visual studio project file included in their source archive:

<HintPath>..\..\..\Bin\HamsterEbookConverterUI.dll</HintPath>

This is a reference to a linked, binary component. I’m assuming from the name that this is the actual graphical user interface (GUI). I will note that the GUI portions of HFEC are missing from the source archive. This component is clearly part of their application and was not included. Only portions that directly interact with calibre had their source included in the archive. The majority of the program was not released in a way that complies with the GPL v3.

No Answer Messages

With no response from HamsterSoft after July 11th Kovid sent an email to HamsterSofts support email address. Their support email is their only non-social network contact information.

On July 20th I sent them the following email and received no response:

Your web site says that the Hamster ebook converter program is based
on calibre which is licensed under the GNU GPL v3. This is request for
the all source code for the hamster ebook converter application. As
stated by you “Hamster Free eBook Converter made by HamsterSoft and
based on Calibre-engine created by Kovid Goyal and inherits all GNU
GPL 3.0 restrictions.” Under the GPL using part of a GPL application
in another application that application must be released under the
GPL. As such section 6 of the GPL requires that the corresponding
source code of a conveyed GPL application must be conveyed.

John Schember

With no response I sent another email on July 28th and again I received no response:

Hello HamsterSoft,

I am one of the copyright holders of calibre.

I noticed that you released the source code to the Hamster ebook
converter. While you did release some source code you did not release
all of the source code that links to the project. Specifically the
HamsterEbookConverterUI in by the .csproj file referenced by:

<HintPath>..\..\..\Bin\HamsterEbookConverterUI.dll</HintPath>

As of July 7th you said you would fix this situation. The above does
not fix the GPL compliance of the Hamster ebook converter. Under the
GPL all parts that link or create effectively a single program must be
licensed under a compatible license. The Hamster ebook converter is
effectively a single program and uses calibre (licensed under GPL) you
have released source code but only part of the source code. Other
parts are linked and used the HamsterEbookConverterUI. This needs to
be released in source form as well. The GPL does not permit the use of
a “wrapper” module that intefaces between GPL and non-GPL components.

I want to point out that under the GPL you have 30 days from the first
time you have received notice of violation to fix the issue. As of now
you have approximately 10 days until the deadline where all rights
granted to you under the GPL to use calibre will be terminated. The
deadline is Sunday August 7th.

Also, I want to point out that calibre is developed primarily by Kovid
Goyal but he is supported by a number of other developers around the
world. Due to the way calibre is licensed each individual developer
retains their own copyright. As such each individual developer can
claim copyright infringement if this situation is not rectified in the
allotted time.

John Schember

After having been given 30 days (as required by the GPL v3) from notification HamsterSoft has not brought themselves into compliance with calibre’s licensing. So, on August 8th I sent them the following email informing them that I am, as a copyright holder, permanently terminating any all all rights granted to them under the GPL v3 in regard to my work in calibre due to non-compliance of copyright terms.

Dear HamsterSoft,

You are using a work that I own the copyright of. The name of the work
involved is “Hamster Free eBook Converter”. It appears on a site
operated by you at http://ebook.hamstersoft.com/en/home,
http://ebook.hamstersoft.com/en/download, and via direct download at

http://stuff.hamstersoft.com/software/hamsterfreeebookconverter.exe.

You have built your program on the open source ebook tool called
calibre. I am a copyright holder of portions of calibre. Specifically
I hold copyright on portions of calibre relating to ebook conversion
for the following formats: TXT, HTMLZ, PDB, PML, PDF, and FB2. This is
in addition to other components of calibre.

My work on these components is available at

http://bazaar.launchpad.net/~kovid/calibre/trunk/files/head:/src/calibre/ebooks/.

Many of the listed components first appeared as part of calibre as of
2009.

Your copying and or use of my work, which appear at the link above, is
unauthorized. You have not received permission to use the piece nor to
make or distribute copies of them in the manner you have. Calibre is
licensed under the GPL version 3 and you have failed to comply with
the terms of this license.

You cannot incorporate GPL-covered software in a proprietary system.
The GPL states that any extended version of a GPL covered work must
also be released under the GPL if it is released at all. By embedding
calibre in The Hamster Free eBook Converter you have effectively made
them a single program. Also, the GPL does not permit the use of a
“wrapper” module that interfaces between GPL and non-GPL components.

As of July 7th 2011 you said you would fix this situation. As of
August 8th 2011 you have not fixed. As of now any all all rights
afforded to you to use portions of calibre under the GPL v3 are
terminated due to non-compliance with the license. The following
issues remain:

1) The component
<HintPath>..\..\..\Bin\HamsterEbookConverterUI.dll</HintPath>
referenced by your application has not had it’s source code released
under the GPL.

2) The source code for calibre and any modifications you have made to
it are not available by you. By being a distributor of calibre in
binary form you are responsible for also distributing it in source
form including any changes you have made to calibre.

Therefore, I believe you have willfully infringed my rights under 17
USC §101, et seq. and could be liable for statutory damages as high as
$100,000. Further, such copyright infringement is a direct violation
of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and International Copyright
Law.

I demand that you immediately cease the use and distribution of the
work and all copies of it, that you remove any further works you may
have stolen and that you desist from this or any other infringement of
my rights in the future. Furthermore, I demand that you post an
apology.

You have already been given 30 days as afforded by the GPL from the
time you were notified of infringement. At this time, I shall consider
taking the full legal remedies available to rectify this situation
including contacting my lawyer.

Sincerely,

John Schember

Termination of Rights

As of August 13th HamsterSoft has again not responded to any email I’ve sent them. They are also continuing illegally to distribute the application they have built (HFEC) using my copyrighted material. As of August 8th all rights to use my work were terminated by me per the terms of the license (GPL v3) I released my work under. Due to the way HamsterSoft handled this situation I have no intentions of reinstatement.

A Note About Copyright and the GPL

Copyright is copyright. It doesn’t matter if it’s software, a book, an article, or a magazine. The GPL is a copyright license granting rights under specific terms. Licensing a work under the GPL is not very different than an author giving a publisher distribution rights.

Just because calibre is open source does not mean it is freely available for everyone to abuse. As an author (including software) my work is still covered by copyright. The GPL is simply a way I have licensed certain works. If one does not comply with the license then they do not have the right to use or distribute my work.

Legal Research

Due to this entire situation being a copyright issue there are a number of legal options. These options apply to all authors (in the USA, I can’t speak for elsewhere) for any type of work that is covered by copyright.

Surprisingly I had an issue finding information on how to handle a GPL violation. The easy part is informing the party of the violation. I couldn’t find much information on what to do after. I tried reaching out to the Software Freedom Law Center for advice but I didn’t receive a response. Kovid reached out to GPL Violations and was told that our options are limited. Their research found that HamsterSoft is a Russian company and due to this there isn’t much they could do for us. They advised seeing about having HamserSoft delisted from Google.

The best resource I found is Plagiarism Today (PT). It is a website devoted to helping people deal with copyright issues. They provide some great resources including template letters. They have advice for all copyright issues not just ones dealing with software.

Really our options come down to filing a lawsuit or utilizing the takedown notice provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). At this point I opted for using DMCA notices. They are easy and exercising your rights under the DMCA doesn’t cost anything. Filing a lawsuit would require hiring an attorney and paying potentially a large sum of money. If HamsterSoft really is in Russia there is a good chance that a lawsuit wouldn’t go anywhere. Utilizing the DMCA does not mean that a lawsuit cannot be filled; it is still an option.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Takedown Provision

The DMCA has provisions for notifying hosts and having copyrighted material removed. Basically what happens is a host cannot be found liable for distributing infringing material posted by third parties or customers if they follow the notice and takedown process. I decided to target Google, Yahoo, Bing and Facebook. I think the GPL Violations advice of having the delisted will be the most successful route I can take. It’s also the most affordable first step to take.

When sending a DMCA takedown notice there are a number of requirements that must be met. What I found was not required is an account of what action was previously taken to stop the infringement. I included it anyway when possible because many hosts (and search engines) forward the notice to various parties. Google for instance sends the notice to Chilling Effects as well as the accused.

Google and Facebook both have a web form for submitting notices. Bing (Microsoft) has a number of ways to send them a notice. I chose email. I sent the notices on August 8th. Here is the email I sent to both Microsoft and Yahoo:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to you to avail myself of my rights under the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This letter is a Notice of
Infringement as authorized in § 512(c) of the U.S. Copyright Law. I
wish to report an instance of what I feel in good faith is an instance
or Copyright Infringement. The infringing material appears on the
Service for which you are the designated agent.

You are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office as the Designated
Service Provider Agent to receive notifications of alleged Copyright
infringement with respect to users of the Service for which you are
the Designated Agent.

1. The material which I contend belongs to me, and appears illegally
on the Service is the following:

Hamster Free eBook Converter

2. The infringing material appears at the website addresses:

URLs Redacted

3. The original material appears at these addresses:

https://launchpad.net/calibre

http://calibre-ebook.com

4. The infringing material is available through the following search results

“hamster ebook”

URL Redacted

5. calibre is licensed under the GPL version 3. The Hamster Free eBook
Converter program uses portions of calibre in a way that is
incompatible with the GPL. As of July 7th 2011 Hamster was notified
and responded asking for an copyright exception. An exception was
promptly denied. It has now been more than 30 days and HamsterSoft has
not made the necessary changes to comply with calibre’s license. By
embedding calibre in The Hamster Free eBook Converter HamsterSoft has
effectively made them a single program. HamsterSoft released partial
source code for their program but neglected to release all parts.
HamsterSoft released portions of their program that constitute a
wrapper module that interfaces between the GPL and non-GPL components.
This is prohibited under the terms of the GPL.

6. My contact information is as follows:

John Schember

Address redacted

Phone number redacted

john@nachtimwald.com

7. I have a good faith belief that the use of the material that
appears on the service is not authorized by the copyright owner, its
agent, or by operation of law.

8. The information in this notice is accurate, and I am either the
copyright owner or I am authorized to act on behalf of the copyright
owner.

I declare under the perjury laws of the United States of America that
this notification is true and correct.

Signed: John Schember

DMCA Response

Yahoo was the first to respond. They said they get all of their search results from Microsoft via Bing and referred me to Microsoft. So no luck there.

Microsoft responded with a request for more information. After a week I haven’t heard back from them.

Google responded on August 11th and said they would remove the urls listed in my takedown notice. However, as of August 13th some of the listed urls are still returned by Google. Only a portion of them have been removed from their index.

Facebook was the most troublesome. They asked for clarification three times. I had to explain that on the HFEC Facebook info page there is a big button that says “Free Download”. When clicked it downloads the program which illegally (rights were terminated by me due to non-compliance with the GPL v3) uses my copyrighted work. I ended up having to take a screen shot of the page and put big red arrows pointing to the button. After this Facebook responded saying that they’ve removed the user generated content I reported as a copyright violation.

Conclusion

Having your hard work ripped off is not any fun. It’s even more of a slap in the face when you put your work out under a license that encourages and allows reuse and remixing. The GPL v3 was chosen because it’s restrictions are designed to keep a work from being taken and locked down. If HamsterSoft doesn’t want to abide by these terms then they cannot use calibre as the basis of their program.

Fortunately, there are options for us to peruse. As of now we’ve started taking the easiest and cheapest. I don’t agree with certain parts of the DMCA, specifically the anti-circumvention clauses. However, the notice and takedown provision are very helpful when dealing with copyright violations.

I wish I could end this account with news of a crushing victory but I cannot. HamsterSoft is still distributing their proprietary application based on calibre and they are still able to market their program. I’ve been able to make some progress into stopping them and hopefully I will be able to make more once Microsoft gets back to me about the DMCA notice. At this point it looks like I’m going to have to explore other legal options.

Notes

  1. I am very much against Digital Rights Management (DRM) and it would not have helped in this case.
  2. I am not a lawyer and this is not intended to be legal advice. It is an account a specific situation of copyright infringement.
  3. I purposely did not include any links to HamsterSoft’s website.

*** Update: HamsterSoft has fixed the issue and is now in compliance with the GPL. They are no longer in violation of my copyright in regard to calibre ***

32 thoughts on “Dealing With Copyright Infringement – Calibre Being Ripped Off

  1. Calibre is great program which I support, its misuse by others for montary gain is wrong! I support Kovid and the rest of calibre developers.

  2. You know, don’t you, that the Software Freedom Law Center will act on behalf of free software project on a pro bono basis.

    One letter from a lawyer, and the chances are you won’t have any more problems.

  3. I wrote a review of this Hamster software, and praised it as it seemed to work pretty well, and it is free too, always a nice point. However, John has just left a comment on that review on my blog (www.ebookanoid.com) in which he drew my attention to the problem he describes so fully above.
    As a result of this, I shall be putting a new post on my blog, containing the article above, and a note and link to the original post pointing people at this blog as well.
    I have no desire to in anyway encourage the theft of intellectual property.

  4. @ Bruce, I do know that the SFLC provides free legal help to open source projects. As I said above I tried contacting them but I received no response.

    I emailed them, got a response saying that communications with them does not constitute a attorney-client relationship and will not be considered confidential. If I understand to respond by keeping the paragraph and adding “Understood”. I did so and so far (25 days) I haven’t heard anything back from them.

  5. @Jo, that FAQ section is about plugins.

    See, http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#GPLInProprietarySystem which applies to this situation. Specifically, “However, in many cases you can distribute the GPL-covered software alongside your proprietary system. To do this validly, you must make sure that the free and non-free programs communicate at arms length, that they are not combined in a way that would make them effectively a single program.”

    HamsterSoft has created effectively a single program because they cannot remove calibre and still have a working program. Also, they are still distributing a binary version of calibre without source wich itself is a GPL violation. There is a way they can use calibre in their application without being beholden to the GPL but that’s not the route they decided to take.

  6. They have domain registered in GoDaddy.com, Inc. (see ‘whois hamster soft domain’), so send GoDaddy DMCA letter, too :)
    …and they host theirs email in Google (see ‘host -t mx hamster soft domain’) ;)

  7. That is a terrible situation. We need to try and tackle this problem as he should not be able to treat skilled programmers thus.

  8. The HFEC is zilion light years ahead of Calibre. It seems that someone has put some effort to improve (maybe even start) user experience of “e-book conversion” application. I’m not suprised that HFEC takes users from Calibre.

    It is obvious that they have stolen Your work – as of this you can force them to stop publishing their work. Sue them and take thir money! It is obvious!!!

    Let liers err… lawyers take care of licensing, and try spen more chasing time on UX improvements!
    Sue them and spend money on UX improvements!

  9. Perhaps you could see what they make a profit from? If e.g. payment services are provided by a non-Russian company, you could perhaps use a DMCA notice for that.

  10. Calibre is a wonderful program, and an great example of how much a small group of people can contribute to opening up new technical markets to the general public.

    I hope that you are able to enforce its use in ways compliant to the spirit under which you contributed. Hopefully HamsterSoft will opt to completely comply with the letter and spirit of the GPLv3, and that at that point you would be willing to drop all charges. Best of luck!

  11. Dude… the source code is here:

    URL Redacted

    Hamster Free eBook Converter made by HamsterSoft and based on Calibre-engine created by Kovid Goyal and inherits all GNU GPL 3.0 restrictions.

    NOTE PLEASE: Everybody may use Hamster Free eBook Converter on any computer at home, in business and government organizations without any restrictions and any amount of hosts. You don’t need to register or pay for Hamster Free eBook Converter. No one needs to pay for any further updates and plugins.

    Source code

    U didnt click on that section right?

  12. @Alberto,

    You did read the section titled, “Analysis of Steps Taken Toward Compliance” didn’t you? I specifically mention that and analyze what’s in the source archive. Read that section starting with paragraph two and you will see that the source code they posted is only a few files and binary blobs of calibre. It also includes references to components that are used by the program but not included in the archive.

  13. Harald Welte has traced GPL violations in Europe for some time. His blog (http://gnumonks.org/~laforge/weblog/) gives some contact information – he should be in a position at least to put you in touch with people who in turn may be helping you. Moreover, it looks like these people reside in Russia – so there may be some cultural differences to consider. Even though you may feel rightly being “ripped off”, there may always be an amicable solution in the end. Maybe, getting in touch with advocates of free software in Russia may be a good idea, too.

  14. Sorry, I should have read your post more carefully – Harald is the guy behind ‘gpl-violations.org’. So you already have a realistic assessment of your situation. In my view, you have two options (IANAL and all that):

    1. Use the opportunities of US law to muscle ‘hamstersoft’ into compliance, because most of the channels they rely on for marketing and distribution are dominated by US companies.

    2. Try to establish a direct channel of communication in order to point out how to comply. If you have done so, the FSF might be glad to help – and they even may have someone who is in a position to break down the essentials of the GPL in a way that is accessible to people who have grown up outside the US legal system. In my view, cross-cultural communication should be a key qualification for anyone working there, anyway…

    In my view, it depends very much on whether you attribute non-compliance in this case to bad will or lack of knowledge. Your chances to counter bad will are slim, I guess. So maybe you should read the first attempts to comply with the GPL as a badly informed attempt to be in tune with the free software community rather than as a mere attempt to evade compliance. It might be worth another try.

  15. @clemenstimpler,

    I don’t think it’s an issue of lack of knowledge or cultural differences. It looks like they know exactly what their doing but made a mistake with calibre thinking it was LGPL licensed. Two of their other products are the same design as their HFEC. They just put a custom GUI on top of an existing open source program. They communicated with us for a total of four days and after that, nothing. When they stopped responding to us that’s when it started to look like ill will.

    I don’t plan on restating their rights to distribute calibre or a derivative of calibre. However, that doesn’t mean I would refuse to discuss the issue with them.

  16. Hello John,

    I have a couple of questions.

    How did you come across their source code in the first instance? You clearly state it was closed source and that any source code was only supplied at a later date. Hamster’s own licence restrictions say that you can’t “disassemble, decompile, or reverse engineer” their software. Without prior proof of the GPL violation (since you didn’t yet have the source code), did you or another contributor to Calibre break Hamster’s licence to check for violations?

    I know you say they are in violation of GPL (and I accept that from their attempts at compliance) but to make this story fair we need to know that without prior proof you respected someone else’s licence terms (suspicion of guilt does not give a regular citizen leave to suspend the law).

    If on the odd chance you never saw Hamster’s original source code then why are you acting on hearsay (even if it’s from a trusted friend).

    What do you think of due process? I.e. appearing before one’s impartial peers to be judged (by definition you have a vested interest, so everything you have done is biased).

    Similar to what clemenstimpler suggests, perhaps trying a little harder could have them contributing to Calibre both directly (by becoming contributors) and indirectly through compliance with GPL. I don’t think you should stop trying to help them achieve what you want – which is GPL compliance.

    You haven’t said what country you are in. Do you think foreign citizens are bound by their own sovereign territories laws or the law from another country? Does one overrule the other?

    To me, from my outside perspective, the issue seems complex.

  17. @Harley,

    You are correct that this is a complex issue. I’m very impressed with your questions by the way. So here it goes.

    How did you come across their source code in the first instance? You clearly state it was closed source and that any source code was only supplied at a later date. Hamster’s own licence restrictions say that you can’t “disassemble, decompile, or reverse engineer” their software. Without prior proof of the GPL violation (since you didn’t yet have the source code), did you or another contributor to Calibre break Hamster’s licence to check for violations?

    When they first released the application they publicly stated it was based on calibre. At this time they released HFEC under a proprietary license which is a GPL violation as calibre is licensed in a way that cannot make it part of a proprietary system. I was able to verify that they were in fact using calibre by installing HFEC and seeing that it installed files that are uniquely named and part of calibre.

    The second piece of this is when they released source code in a zip file for download. There is a reference to a binary component in the source archive that is not included in the source archive. They also neglected to release source code for calibre and as they are conveying calibre in binary form they are required to also convey a corresponding source version.

    I know you say they are in violation of GPL (and I accept that from their attempts at compliance) but to make this story fair we need to know that without prior proof you respected someone else’s licence terms (suspicion of guilt does not give a regular citizen leave to suspend the law).

    I hope that my above explanation is sufficient to answer this question.

    If on the odd chance you never saw Hamster’s original source code then why are you acting on hearsay (even if it’s from a trusted friend).

    I had no need to see their code because they publicly told the world what they were using calibre in a way that was in volition of the GPL. It’s easily verified by installing HFEC and see what files it puts onto your computer.

    What do you think of due process? I.e. appearing before one’s impartial peers to be judged (by definition you have a vested interest, so everything you have done is biased).

    I have no problem with this. At this point I have accused HamsterSoft of violating my copyright. They can counter this if they choose and present their side. But the fact still stands, when they first released HFEC they were in violation of calibre’s license. They publicly acknowledged that the issue was real and said they would comply in an acceptable manner. They were given 30 days to correct the issue and they did / have not corrected the issue. They have taken steps toward it and were reminded of the deadline. At no time did they ask for an extension. I don’t see where an impartial third party is necessary in this case as both sides have acknowledged that the issue is real and valid.

    Similar to what clemenstimpler suggests, perhaps trying a little harder could have them contributing to Calibre both directly (by becoming contributors) and indirectly through compliance with GPL. I don’t think you should stop trying to help them achieve what you want – which is GPL compliance.

    Multiple emails, multiple people, and after four days they simple stopped responding to anyone. I can’t verify but I’ve been told by a trusted friend they even started deleting comments on their Facebook page asking / talking about this issue.

    In this (referenced in the article) Facebook post they said, “Please wait a little. We are trying to prepare source code to share with the world, but it doesnot compile properly. Developer is on vacation on yacht. Please give us a time.” It’s hard to believe that their working program is having issues compiling because they already have released a compiled version. They then released source code for part of the application. It appears that during this time they were trying to move core parts of HFEC into the binary dll that is referenced as a build component in the Visual Studio project file. They never released the source code for this part of HFEC and it appears they were trying to hide it.

    At this point I can’t see how they want to work with us or truly comply with the GPL. But I would not refuse an open dialog with them. Other arguments could be made that are agreeable to all parties. However, I haven’t heard anything from them.

    You haven’t said what country you are in. Do you think foreign citizens are bound by their own sovereign territories laws or the law from another country? Does one overrule the other?

    I reside in the USA. That’s why I have used the DMCA (a US law) toward US based companies while dealing with this issue. HamsterSoft is bound by the laws of their country and any laws relating to trade agreements and treaties made between their county of residence and mine. That said most of countries in the world are member of the WIPO and most of the world has a very similar copyright system. The GPL for instance has been found valid in Germany. If the GPL is not valid is say Russia (where I’m told HamsterSoft is based), they are still conveying copies to countries where the GPL is valid and applies.

  18. John:

    Try phoning the Software Freedom Law Center. It’s usually much better about getting back to people.

  19. Thank you for the detailed and prompt reply.

    I tried to think up all the ways that you would know of their violation of the GPL. Blatant admission was not one of the ones I considered. As a side note, thank you for taking my questions the right way – they were not meant to be accusatory and you realised this.

    If they made public statements about their software being based on Calibre then is it possible that they were totally ignorant of the GPL?

    An impartial third party can very often see issues from a different perspective. As you’ve already written, this issue is fairly evident to both parties, but I do wonder how a third party would see the situation given the chance to talk to both parties.

    Is it possible that the developer or their proxy, after being emailed from so many different people now feel totally overwhelmed? A common action for people who feel this way is to ignore the other parties involved in the naive hope that it will all just disappear. Perhaps a single contact who represents the other Calibre parties will get a better result.

    Also consider if English is not their native tongue the language barriers both parties face. Age may also be a factor. If they are young they may not have a total grasp on all the important points or the consequences of their actions.

    I’m glad you are open to dialogue with them. It will be very hard to enforce the GPL if you are on a different continent. Seeking voluntary compliance is probably still the best solution.

    The DMCA has some sordid history against the fair use of copyrighted work. Do you think their usage could come under the guise of fair use, or a derivative work (from what I understand both of which are protected under US case law). Would fair use or a derivative work circumvent the GPL?

    I’m a big proponent of code not being closed up (or patented). Although I understand the gist of GPL/GNU I haven’t read the wording of the licence (which I might go do now that the topic is up).

    I hope you get word back from them and get this sorted out. Something good could come of this.

  20. On the other hand…
    Yes, the HFCE guys violated the GPL v3 license. But you did notice it only because they where honest enough to admit inclusion of and give credit to Calibre project.
    Furthermore (according to Harley) you have any what so ever viable legal evidence once again only because guys were trying to comply with you requests and published partial source code. Otherwise you would have needed to break their EULA and reverse engineer their code.

    Still it seems that you were trying to show some example here. Which you did. But only question is what will be lessons learned for the global developer community ?!

    In my opinion it could well be that next time yours (or someones else) project will be used w/o any credit or reference at all. And then good luck trying to catch and prove any infringements that might be out there.

    So I am trying to raise question whether it is reasonable to go so hard-ball after guys like these? e.g. does it do more good than harm…

  21. @Harley,

    If they made public statements about their software being based on Calibre then is it possible that they were totally ignorant of the GPL?

    They first stated the calibre was licensed under the LGPL which is a similar licence to the GPL. The terms of both licences are found in the same place (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/). They use other open source work under other licenses in their other products. Open source licensing isn’t new to them.

    Is it possible that the developer or their proxy, after being emailed from so many different people now feel totally overwhelmed?

    On their website they show a total of 10 people in their company picture. They are not a one or two person company.

    A common action for people who feel this way is to ignore the other parties involved in the naive hope that it will all just disappear.

    This is certainly possible and hopefully the way that this issue has escalated and become highly visible will make them realize that ignoring the issue is not going to make it go away. Ignoring the situation is making it worse.

    Perhaps a single contact who represents the other Calibre parties will get a better result.

    We started with this. Then they stopped talking to them. So I got involved to see if they would respond to me. The idea was if they’re going to ignore one person then they might not realize the seriousness of the issue. By having multiple people contact them about the issue they might realize that they’re are multiple parties involved. Now I can’t comment on how many third parties contacted them but we have no control over this.

    Also consider if English is not their native tongue the language barriers both parties face.

    Language barriers can be overcome. Their software (and I assume website) is translated into 40 languages (their claim).

    Age may also be a factor. If they are young they may not have a total grasp on all the important points or the consequences of their actions.

    They’re a 10 person company.

    The DMCA has some sordid history against the fair use of copyrighted work. Do you think their usage could come under the guise of fair use, or a derivative work (from what I understand both of which are protected under US case law). Would fair use or a derivative work circumvent the GPL?

    Fair use gives limited copying rights without getting permission from the copyright holder in in limited circumstances. Command examples are commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship.

    Fair use includes four factors: 1) purpose and character, 2) the nature of the copyrighted work, 3) the amount used in proportion to the whole, and 4) the effect on the market value of the work.

    1) They are a commercial entity. Their products are free to end users but it appears their business model is licensing to OEMs. I believe the purpose is to make money.

    2) This is the trickiest of the four factors. This looks at the merits of the work such as it’s societal impact, it’s artistic quality and what parts are rightfully in the public domain and are not under copyright (facts).

    Ebook conversion is not a something that having it tools under copyright would be a major determinant to the functioning of society. HFEC is not art. Parts of calibre could be considered public domain but only small parts not the entire work.

    3) Substantial portions of calibre were used. If we separate out their work and calibre it’s probably 90% calibre and 10% their own work. It’s an ebook converting utility where the entire conversion process is actually calibre. The only thing they’ve added is a GUI.

    4) Calibre is free and open source but that doesn’t mean there is no value in it. There is reputation value and their is monetary value. A competing tool is fine but a competing tool that is just your work being

    I don’t believe HamsterSoft’s use of calibre meet the necessary requirements for fair use. An analysis of calibre’s conversion process would. Using specific small parts of calibre’s conversion routines might. Using the entire conversion portion in its entirety is not.

  22. “I believe that by acception they mean exception.” I’m Russian too and I believe that their logic was to try to construct this word from the word “accept”. So they were not looking for exception from you.

    Of course I don’t think that imperfection of our laws grants us right to violate GPL.

  23. @Peter

    Furthermore (according to Harley) you have any what so ever viable legal evidence once again only because guys were trying to comply with you requests and published partial source code. Otherwise you would have needed to break their EULA and reverse engineer their code.

    I’m glad you brought this up Peter. In calibre we do this funny thing where we embed the copyright information in a way that it’s put into the modules themselves. Opening the file in say Notepad you will see the copyright holder’s name and information stating it’s GPLv3 licensed. Opening a binary file in Notepad would not constitute disassemble, decompile, or reverse engineer because the only thing you would get out of it is the presence of copyright string within the file.

    Also, calibre writes specific things to certain file types. Such as a reference that the file was created with calibre. In EPUB output for instance it also normalizes the CSS and renames every class to calibre with a number identifier. There are other ways than disassemble, decompile, or reverse engineer to determine if a work is using calibre.

    Still it seems that you were trying to show some example here. Which you did. But only question is what will be lessons learned for the global developer community ?!

    That if you rip off someones work they won’t be happy about it. The argument you’re making is someone who commits manslaughter should be let go without any repercussion because it’s not as bad as first degree murder.

    In my opinion it could well be that next time yours (or someones else) project will be used w/o any credit or reference at all. And then good luck trying to catch and prove any infringements that might be out there.

    This happens every day. Instead of going after the impossible in this case I’ve chosen to go after the possible.

    So I am trying to raise question whether it is reasonable to go so hard-ball after guys like these? e.g. does it do more good than harm…

    Doing nothing would normalize and encourage such behavior.

  24. First, I bet that link wasn’t there even 24 hours ago. Second of all, after looking through that zip file I’m not convinced that it represents the source code that would bring it into compliance.

    After further research, I’m nearly positive that link does not bring HamsterSoft’s software into compliance.

  25. I suggest you speak directly to Bradley M. Kuhn,

    “Executive Director & President, Software Freedom Conservancy. Director, FSF. Software Freedom advocate. GPL Enforcer. Occasional developer.”

    who I know from the Identi.ca microblog service where he can be found at: http://identi.ca/bkuhn

    If you aren’t on Identi.ca and don’t want to be, there are a variety of other ways to contact him here: http://www.ebb.org/bkuhn/

    Good luck.

  26. Thanks for answer John!
    At end of the day, I have nothing but to agree on points you make regarding questions I have raised.

  27. “We will fix this issues and ask you for your own acception. Thank you!”

    I think it’s far more likely that they were asking for your acceptance of their fix, not an exception. If they wanted an exception, why would they say they’d fix the issue?

  28. At that time there was no fix. They hadn’t fixed or done anything other than violate the license. That was said before after we pointed out that they were in volition of our licensing terms and before they started making any changes to comply.

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