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VidOn XBMC - GPL discussion & compliance analysis.
#1
EDIT - 09.Jan.2016

VidOn official partners:
  • Egreat
  • Tronsmart
http://www.vidon.me/vidon_xbmc.htm

Known Hardware devices distributing VidOn-XBMC:
  • Tronsmart S95
  • VidOn Box
  • Egreat A9
  • (More to come)

This thread started out as my own Open Letter to the Kodi foundation itself with the intention of questioning both VidOn's and MINIX GPL compliance for the custom versions of XBMC they distribute. Both GitHub code sources had been available for a while, but I was unaware of them, yes even after searching. Yes I should have searched harder. My Bad !
That is why the original Open Letter was withdrawn.

The Kodi Trademark was also discussed and VidOn's use of it legally.

Both GitHub code sources were again re-posted in this thread, and at first glance appeared to satisfy GPL XBMC modification and redistribution rules.
MINIX's satisfied the rules as it had been doing so for quite a while already.

However VidOn's did not check out, and this is when senior developers of the XBMC / Kodi project became involved, as they are the Authors of some of the code. (Koying and MrMC aka Davilla).

As a bit of background, MrMC actually originally did the very first Android XBMC port and is fourth on the XBMC / Kodi total commits (additions & coding mods) list, that is the level of experience we are talking about here.

GPL compliance needs some pre-reading before you understand it completely so, distilling it down:
(2016-01-06, 18:27)MrMC Wrote: GPLv2 code calling non-GPL libs.

When in doubt, I tend to look to the intent of GPLv2 ,
1) source code changes public and..
2) you can build and run it. If those pass, then there is no GPLv2 issue worth pursuing. If you review ALL the legal cases that have involved GPLv2 (and I have) 1 and 2 are the prime points of contention.

After a bit of further investigation:
(2016-01-07, 09:45)Koying Wrote: @Wolly (VidOn) Even scratching the details, if a user cannot build a Vidon XBMC apk from your sources, you are SURELY breaking GPL.
That's the whole point of open source, not outdated code browsing.
I also found it was impossible to compile and run successfully the VidOn.apk due to the essential closed source libs residing on VidOns protected servers. These were of course unavailable.

From this post onwards is where the detailed discussion took place:
Commits / changes by VidOn between the base of XBMC 14.x - Helix and the HEAD of VidOn XBMC 14.x - Helix

Experienced Kodi developers, moderators and users are seriously now questioning VidOn's GPL legal compliance status for their distribution of their modified VidOn-XBMC.
Some are even labelling them GPL Violators. Sad

So Warnings need to be provided to potential purchasers of products containing VidOn-XBMC, like the Tronsmart S95.
Support will not be provided here on the Kodi forums due to serious GPL concerns.
Also VidOn XBMC is currently at XBMC version 14.2 when Kodi version 16.x is nearly due for mainstream release.


Then there is also this matter unrelated to GPL.

Kodi Trademark problems contained within messges to joe public displayed as a sales blurb, before you upgrade the standard VidOn XBMC to the Pro version. Sad

A repost:
Quote:Welcome to VidOn Kodi

"VidOn.me offers for Android the most complete and reliable Kodi, with greatly optimized functions and features. On top of the traditional media management function, our Kodi has many unique features like Blu-ray menu navigation, HD audio output, and more."

https://github.com/xbmc/xbmc/commit/5000...0ecb6a85b9

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#2
Reserved for further legal discussion.

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#3
(2015-12-17, 03:51)wrxtasy Wrote: They way they advertise and market would fool consumers into believing they have an exclusive special deal with the XBMC / Kodi foundation.
Sorry if I'm being too much off-topic but I think that the part quoted above also raises another question other than complying with the GPL and other open source licenses when using the source code. This other related question is about protecting the brand of Kodi/XBMC, and to what ends the XBMC Foundation and Team Kodi needs to go to protect their branding in order for that brand to stand for a trusted and respectable product.

This not only goes for outsiders like VidOn who doesn't to care about any copyright or trademark laws, but also for sponsors and other affiliates who actually do have a real relationship with XBMC Foundation and Team Kodi or its members.

For example, does independent people, projects, or companies or even diamond sponsors like MINIX, WeTek, or Nvidia, get to release modified builds versions of Kodi/XBMC, like "XBMC MINIX Edition" with or without written consent from XBMC Foundation and Team Kodi , or is doing so a violation of XBMC Foundation branding copyrights or trademarks?

And in fact, this question actually comes from that I just read that MINIX too now releases modified XBMC builds, and they promote them as "XBMC MINIX Edition" and use the official XBMC logo instead of fully rebranding the builds to use their own branding with a new name and logos. So I now wondering if these "XBMC from MINIX" builds and similar non-rebranded releases from others also violate XBMC Foundation / Team Kodi owned copyrighted or trademarked brands?

See http://www.minix.us/minix_xbmc.htm and http://shop.minix.us/minix-neo-u1

Quote:MINIX has a special version of XBMC optimized to utilize the hardware in decoding video graphics for smooth performance. This provides the best and a cost effective solution for XBMC. Also, running it on MINIX means you get long term support and a service commitment.

How to obtain XBMC from MINIX
Register your product using your Serial No. (click here to go to the registration page).
You will be provided with a link for downloading the special version of XBMC that runs only on MINIX branded X7, X7 mini, X5, X5 mini and G4 players.

XBMC MINIX Edition

(Video Review of XBMC MINIX Edition - Original Beta Release)

Also, for those keen to use XBMC, all of our devices are XBMC compatible and streaming in both 720p and 1080p is possible. There are many different versions of XBMC currently available, though we recommend the XBMC MINIX Edition, which we have developed in partnership with XBMC. The XBMC MINIX Edition is pre-installed into our latest firmwares, and is available on all our MINIX NEO Series devices - including NEO X7, X7mini, X5, X5mini and NEO G4.

(XBMC MINIX Edition pre-installed on all MINIX NEO Series devices)
Our range of media hubs also offer music streaming, apps such as Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, Amazon Cloud Player and SoundCloud are all available to download from the Google Play Store (regional restrictions may apply).

Copyright 2015 MINIX All rights reserved.
Even if this specific case was approved by the XBMC Foundation and Team Kodi I would think it make more since to call an approved custom edition for "Kodi for MINIX" or "XBMC for MINIX" and then also make it perfectly clear who actually owns the Kodi/XBMC brand.

Putting all this in a simple question: Kodi does have official trademark policy, but is that trademark policy followed and enforced?

Official:Trademark_Policy (wiki)
Official:Trademark_Policy_FAQ (wiki)

To sum up; I think that it should be very important to take ownership if the Kodi/XBMC branding regulations and guidelines. Brand consistently and ownership will be important if it ever comes to a situation with more serious misuse than this.
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#4
As I understand it the name changed to kodi at least in part because xbmc wasn't a name / trademark / whatever that could be protected. So vidon-kodi would be something that could be acted on - which is probably why it's vidon-xbmc.

Disclaimer - the above may be total pish.
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#5
this thread should be removed.

the more you talk about vidon the more your giving them publicity.

im getting sick of hearing and reading about vidon personally.

.
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#6
Actually the foundation cannot approve GPL violation. Copyright belongs to the original authors, ie the devs past and present. The foundation cannot authorise gpl violations on behalf of the authors. Nor can it authorise violation on behalf of, eg, the authors of ffmpeg or the other gpl software that is incorporated into kodi.

The foundation can of course control use of it's trademark, but that is harder if it cannot be registered. 'Kodi' is registered, 'xbmc' is not. Which is my guess as to why vidon etc use the xbmc branding.
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#7
(2015-12-19, 00:52)nickr Wrote: Actually the foundation cannot approve GPL violation. Copyright belongs to the original authors, ie the devs past and present. The foundation cannot authorise gpl violations on behalf of the authors. Nor can it authorise violation on behalf of, eg, the authors of ffmpeg or the other gpl software that is incorporated into kodi.

The foundation can of course control use of it's trademark, but that is harder if it cannot be registered. 'Kodi' is registered, 'xbmc' is not. Which is my guess as to why vidon etc use the xbmc branding.

This about sums it up. The Foundation has never created one of those forms that makes the code authors sign over their copyright, so the copyright to Kodi code is owned by probably well over a thousand people, and by dint of the way the GPL2 is written, it's all effectively also GPLed. Any of those authors, at any time, is welcome to complain to Vidon or anyone else. We don't have a dedicated legal team or any kind of money to staff a dedicated legal team, so unless the problem is thrust in front of our faces, we just don't have the resources to constantly be dealing with Vidon or anyone else on the GPL front. If someone wanted to donate $120,000 (or more) a year to us to pay for a full legal staff, we'd happily accept it.

A major part of the reason we changed our name was because we were advised that it'd be difficult to really enforce any kind of trademark using common law trademark rules. Frankly, it's been difficult to enforce the trademark even with a full registration, but at least now companies like eBay and Amazon might actually listen to us. Trying to get those companies to pay attention to a common law trademark dispute is an exercise in frustration like you wouldn't believe.
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#8
One other point.

(2015-12-17, 03:51)wrxtasy Wrote: the Diamond Sponsors of this very forum and the wider Kodi developer and user community deserve an explanation of the action that the XBMC / Kodi Foundation are taking in this matter.

You might note that no Diamond sponsors have posted here. That is likely because they know that they absolutely do not deserve an explanation, and if they did deserve an explanation, that would mean that our Foundation was no longer an independent organization, which would be a violation of US tax law. Sponsorships are, by definition, hands off donations that provide no contractual benefit save whatever we choose to give sponsors. Anything else would be against the law. And anyway, while we are very appreciative of the amount donated, a full diamond sponsorship could maybe pay the salary of 1 and 1/2 lawyers for a month. That donation amount simply doesn't warrant big questions into why we aren't doing more to protect a hallowed place in the community.

With that said, my previous reply provided most of the answer anyway. The simple fact of the matter is that at the end of the day, we're all still volunteers. We don't have enough money or lawyers to start sending legal threats on a weekly basis. And unless the Foundation starts making really serious cash, like, several million a year, enough to pay lawyers and devs alike, we're simply going to be stuck with what volunteers can give.

edit: I should probably note that I'm not sure why this conversation is in Hardware, when it feels like more of a regular Kodi discussion.
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#9
And another thing, good luck enforcing copyright or trademark law in China...
If I have helped you or increased your knowledge, click the 'thumbs up' button to give thanks :) (People with less than 20 posts won't see the "thumbs up" button.)
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#10
Disregarding the heavy legal stuff, why don't you at least put that GPL violator list to use?
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#11
VidON does worldwide delivery from Benin (or any non-Madrid trademark system country). Now what?

Trademark rights are exhausted when a trademarked product lawfully enters the market. The trademark holder then normally can no longer act against resale of the trademarked product. I think trademarking FOSS software is therefor at least disputable since users have the right to fork. Besides, dilution of value of Free Software doesn't exists given the right to fork. So there always is a lawful entrance to a market.

Those who advised are the only winners.
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#12
You got it wrong. We did not trademark the software (makes no sense), we trademarked the "Kodi" brand.
You have full rights to fork and use the software, you have no right to publicly use the "Kodi" brand without the XBMC Foundation approval.

The trademark stuff and GPL have nothing in common.
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#13
(2015-12-19, 14:25)Robotica Wrote: VidON does worldwide delivery from Benin (or any non-Madrid trademark system country). Now what?

Trademark rights are exhausted when a trademarked product lawfully enters the market. The trademark holder then normally can no longer act against resale of the trademarked product. I think trademarking FOSS software is therefor at least disputable since users have the right to fork. Besides, dilution of value of Free Software doesn't exists given the right to fork. So there always is a lawful entrance to a market.

Those who advised are the only winners.

This is absolutely incorrect in so many ways I don't know where to start. People should pay attention Nate and Nickr's comments, they obviously have some legal background. The above is pure nonsense.
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#14
(2015-12-19, 14:25)Robotica Wrote: VidON does worldwide delivery from Benin (or any non-Madrid trademark system country). Now what?

Trademark rights are exhausted when a trademarked product lawfully enters the market. The trademark holder then normally can no longer act against resale of the trademarked product. I think trademarking FOSS software is therefor at least disputable since users have the right to fork. Besides, dilution of value of Free Software doesn't exists given the right to fork. So there always is a lawful entrance to a market.

Those who advised are the only winners.
You have misundertood. It is not the software source code that is the trademarked, (that falls under copyright and open-source licenses). What is trademarked is the Kodi / XBMC "brand", meaning the promotional (marketed/advertised) name, logos, symbols. Think the Star Wars movies verses Star Wars merchandise.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brand

If companies like the ones mentioned in the above thread only rebranded their products such as rename to to something else like "XYZ media player" and not use Kodi logos or designs then they would not violate the Kodi / XBMC trademarks.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebranding

But again, as noted, trademark violation and open-source license violation are two seperate matters, however a company must be compliant with both to be legal and stay on the good side of the Kodi community.
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#15
So, I received a PM from Wolly @ VidOn via their forum ... I'm hoping Kodi foundation members can comment. I labeled VidOn a "GPL violator" in my stickied 3D thread & recommend avoiding them as a result largely because of this thread and my own observations of the spat that occurred just before VidOn was removed as a sponsor. I also recall Wolly (or someone else @ VidOn) posting on Kodi forum using fake usernames. In any case, here are Wolly's comments ... does this change anything? Have we been unfair to them? He does have a point about Minix though. You guys decide... I'm posting here as it isn't for me to. Thanks.

Quote:Hey, hdmkv

Today I found out your post again because a Chinese user post it in our group, I saw you tagged Vidon as a kodi GPL violator.

I am afraid there are some mistakes. We have opened all the source code that related to the official kodi. We are not the violator.

We have wrote a lot of emails to Kodi, they never said that we violated the GPL, they just said we used Allwinner's SDK and because Allwinner is a GPL violator, so we may have a risk to be. So we stopped the sales of VidOn Box on our official website.

They never said we are a violator.

http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=221407

Best regards,
Wolly

Quote:If you still think we are a GPL violator, I hope you can remove Vidon XBMC from your table.
If we are a GPL violator, then do you mean that Minix and Tronsmart also violated the GPL? Because they preloaded Vidon XBMC on their boxes, so Kodi now accepts the money from a GPL violator?
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