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    There’s a lot of ideological language there, but I don’t see the actual point, I.e. how winning this suit would benefit users.

    How does access to the GPL’d source code used in Vizio TVs make it possible to repair the TV? It doesn’t make it any easier to modify the proprietary software in the TV, and it doesn’t provide access to the build system or docs of the specs of the internal hardware.

    And how likely is a TV to fail because of a flaw in the firmware? Usually it’s a hardware failure, or else network-based services fail because the manufacturer turns off the servers they talk to, neither of which is related to this.

    The most likely outcome seems to be that Vizio will just avoid copyleft software in the future.

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      IANAL, but if successful, it would set a precedent allowing for companies violating software licenses to be sued by or on behalf of their users, as opposed to the current situation where only the copyright holders themselves are considered to have standing.

      This would be a Good Thing.

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        There are some other good comments about direct benefits to users, but I think it’s worth keeping in mind that these kind of enforcement actions can have really positive indirect benefits as well. For example, a successful enforcement action against Cisco/Linksys years ago laid the groundwork for the OpenWRT project, an open-source wireless router firmware project that supports a wide range of devices today. OpenWRT, in turn, fueled a bunch of important work on low-cost wireless radio equipment in the years since, and shows up routinely in mesh networking and long-distance WiFi projects that support efforts expand low-cost access to the Internet today (as, of course, one small piece of a larger, mostly non-technical, puzzle).

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          Users are entitled to the source code. You shouldn’t have to justify the benefits - they are entitled to it, because that’s the license terms and Vizio is not living up to them.

          If Vizio would rather take on the costs of maintaining another set of software rather than live up to the terms of the license, that’s on them. Their use of GPLed software doesn’t benefit the community if they don’t live up to the license, so there’s no loss if they decide to go that route.

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            How does access to the GPL’d source code used in Vizio TVs make it possible to repair the TV?

            The article says so:

            Copyleft licensing was designed as an ideological alternative to the classic corporate software model because it: allows people who receive the software to fix their devices, improve them and control them; entitles people to curtail surveillance and ads; and helps people continue to use their devices for a much longer time (instead of being forced to purchase new ones).

            “run this same nice software, but without ads and data grabbing” is already a very nice proposition for many customers I would say. And having a way to keep the TV (and more importantly, its apps) functioning properly is important as well if you don’t intend to buy a new TV every 5 or so years or however soon the manufacturer decides to stop providing software updates.

            The most likely outcome seems to be that Vizio will just avoid copyleft software in the future.

            I agree that’s probably the net effect of all these GPL law suits, and the GPL in general. If a company doesn’t have good intentions, copyleft vs non-copyleft isn’t going to make much of a difference in the end.

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              The article answered “why” — I’m asking how technically. What is necessary to allow someone to rebuild a TV’s firmware? It seems likely it would require Vizio to make public some of their proprietary code, which I bet they wouldn’t do. They’d just pay damages instead (assuming that’s an option; IANAL.)

              “run this same nice software, but without ads and data grabbing” is already a very nice proposition for many customers I would say

              Again, ain’t gonna happen. There was a news story a few months ago about how Vizio is making more money from ads and data grabbing than from hardware sales. Making their TVs hackable would imperil their biggest revenue source.

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                It seems likely it would require Vizio to make public some of their proprietary code, which I bet they wouldn’t do.

                This was spoken to in a previous post: https://sfconservancy.org/blog/2021/jul/23/tivoization-and-the-gpl-right-to-install/

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                  The article answered “why” — I’m asking how technically. What is necessary to allow someone to rebuild a TV’s firmware?

                  Ah, I misunderstood. Well, that’s a good question. Typically though, there are always tinkerers willing to take apart the TV and figure out how to access the flash memory that stores the firmware. But you’re right, Vizio is not likely to tell you how to do it.

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                Most smart TVs I’ve ever worked with were rendered useless by unmaintained apps no longer working, especially the browser/YouTube apps. With access to replace the firmware we could put Kodi, Firefox, chromium, whatever is needed on the TV and make it usable again.

                The most likely outcome seems to be that Vizio will just avoid copyleft software in the future.

                I hope so.

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                  My LG smart TV purchased recently (last 2 years) does not have support for Lets Encrypt’s new root certificate, so the situation is much worse than imagined.

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                    not have support for Lets Encrypt’s new root certificate

                    Oh gosh. Does that mean the TV just can’t open an HTTPS connection to any site using a Let’s Encrypt derived cert anymore?

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                      Yeah, I get a whole bunch of SSL handshake failures in my server-side logs. It’s extremely infuriating!

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                  How does access to the GPL’d source code used in Vizio TVs make it possible to repair the TV? It doesn’t make it any easier to modify the proprietary software in the TV, and it doesn’t provide access to the build system or docs of the specs of the internal hardware.

                  If the code is GPLv3 (the article doesn’t say), they would have to provide instructions for installing modified versions of the software.

                  If it’s an earlier GPL version, it would still let consumers know what the software is doing, which could be relevant to privacy concerns or developing external tools to interface with the TV.

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                    If the code is GPLv3 (the article doesn’t say), they would have to provide instructions for installing modified versions of the software.

                    This is also true for GPLv2

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                      No, it’s not - see Tivoization, a problem which GPLv3 was explicitly designed to address.

                      Perhaps you’re thinking of GPLv2’s provisions that (at least IIRC) require distributing any build systems, etc. needed to build the software? Just because you can build it doesn’t mean you can install it on the actual device.

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                        https://sfconservancy.org/blog/2021/jul/23/tivoization-and-the-gpl-right-to-install/

                        Tivoization unfortunately is widely misunderstood. It’s understandable, I’ve never seen a TiVo and I have seen a locked Android bootloader, and the way many people talk about it these sound the same on the surface.

                        What TiVo did was use technical measure to ensure that if you did install your own versions of the freedomware components, their nonfree components would stop working. They did not, it turns out, wholesale block installation of modified freedomware components. This is not a violation of GPLv2 (or, arguably, GPLv3).

                        What many manufacturers do now is block installation entirely. It’s not that the nonfree components will stop working but that the device will reject the installation attempt (or brick itself in some cases). This is a violation of both GPLv2 and GPLv3.