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Meisteris
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MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Sat Sep 26, 2015 11:44 am

Hello,
My name is Egidijus Meištas and I am an IT enthusiast. I also work with some small businesses (mostly advise and implement various infrastructure solutions). Recently I have tested and started using MikroTik routers myself and recommended to some others. They are indeed very nice! I am here, however, because I have concerns about RouterOS compliance to GPL license.

First, let me apologize for my friend's lack of manners in This earlier thread.

It is clearly a wrong way to start a conversation. I think that MikroTik company has created nice things, there for should be given the benefit of a doubt.

The concerns expressed there, however, are very real and I would like to raise them here in a more civilized way. It would be very nice if someone from MikroTik could answer these questions, but everyone is welcome into discussion.

1st concern - GPL in a proprietary system
You distribute RouterOS with a proprietary license as a proprietary system. However judging from GPL listed components in your license. This system of yours seems to be based on a GNU/Linux (Linux kernel + collection of supplementary programs).

Whole point of GPL is to build a free (as in freedom) world. There for if you take free software, use it to build your system it is fine, it is freedom. But once you close your system (which is based on free software) down. It is a conflict of interests. You take the work of people who did it because of idea of freedom and you close it down. At the very least this is not nice.

GPL has something to say about this behavior:
A system incorporating a GPL-covered program is an extended version of that program. The GPL says that any extended version of the program must be released under the GPL if it is released at all. This is for two reasons: to make sure that users who get the software get the freedom they should have, and to encourage people to give back improvements that they make.
How do you justify?

2nd concern - obtaining sources
You MikroTik (further you) have a binary RouterOS download but GPL license states:
If you make object code available on a network server, you have to provide the Corresponding Source on a network server as well.
I do not see any options for source download. I've only heard rumors about ordering source CD for $45 somewhere, but absolutely no easy hint how exactly I am supposed to do this. Also, $45 for a source CD seems wasteful (of human work, my money and natural resources) compared to network download option.

Why can I get binaries easy, but obtaining sources are so complicated? Why do you think you are complying to this GPL requirement? Do you plan to do something about this in the future?

Sources of concerns:
* https://www.mail-archive.com/legal@list ... 00330.html
* http://blog.gmane.org/gmane.law.gpl.vio ... h=20091201
* http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-violation.en.html
* https://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licens ... .0.en.html

I am not a legal person and I am not going to pursue or escalate this matter. Basically I am interested how do you justify your actions, which raise my concerns. As a customer I do not want to buy products with "unclear origin" and your (MikroTik) answers definitely will be deciding factor if I'll implement solutions using MikroTik products or I'll check somewhere else.

Best regards,
Egidijus Meištas
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Tue Sep 29, 2015 7:13 pm

I can't advise on this directly, but it seems everyone's doing it. This doesn't make it right, but if the 'big boys' are doing it, how can Mikrotik compete if they do not?

Fortinet https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gpl-viola ... g#Fortinet
D-Link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gpl-violations.org#D-Link
Cisco https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Soft ... tems,_Inc.
Netgear http://legal.gpl-violations.narkive.com ... ear-dg834g
VMWare http://www.infoworld.com/article/289369 ... tions.html
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Meisteris
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Tue Sep 29, 2015 11:03 pm

Let me ask this way: how can MikroTik stand out if it is doing same things like everyone else?

Besides, those things does not become a tiny bit nicer just because everyone are doing them.
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Wed Sep 30, 2015 6:43 pm

Thus, it is not the intent of this section to claim rights or contest your rights to work written entirely by you; rather, the intent is to exercise the right to control the distribution of derivative or collective works based on the Program.

In addition, mere aggregation of another work not based on the Program with the Program (or with a work based on the Program) on a volume of a storage or distribution medium does not bring the other work under the scope of this License.
And herein lies GPL's ambiguity, and why so many companies end up, in some cases unwillingly, violate GPL (or else avoid it like a plague)...

I mean, is MikroTik RouterOS really "based" on the Linux kernel, or is it merely the "aggregation" of the Linux kernel with MikroTik's proprietary additions to it?
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Thu Oct 01, 2015 1:09 am

I always thought it was simple (I'm not a lawyer, that's probably why :)). If you modify GPL code or directly link your code to GPL code, and the result is not just for your internal use, you must give out complete source to anyone who gets the binary. If you don't like it, it's not like anyone forces you to use GPL code to start with. You can use something with different licence, or write it from scratch, and then you can keep the source for yourself. The basic idea is that if GPL code gives you huge advantage, you should give something back. And I think it's pretty clear if e.g. Linux kernel gives MikroTik huge advantage or not.

If MikroTik violates GPL or not, in a hard way, depends on what that source CD contains. Did anyone actually order it and check? Requiring to order CD, instead of just putting it on server, does not seem exactly friendly. On the other hand, why not, perhaps they do put some extra work into it, prepare pretty patches from current sources, write an extra documentation or something...

So the question is, does that CD contain all modified GPL sources as it should? For example, I've seen MetaROUTER patch released by MikroTik only for some older 2.6.x kernel. If I'm not mistaken, current RouterOS uses kernel 3.x and also has MetaROUTER support. So the CD should definitely include that.
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Fri Mar 03, 2017 11:25 pm

Joined simply to voice my opinion: I won't buy MikroTik products simply because they're violating the GPL... It's not rocket science. I can go and download source code from vyos.io and other GPL based software packages.

Shame on MikroTik.
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Thu Aug 17, 2017 1:35 pm

It's a long way between accusation of copyright infringement to an injunction preventing the sales of a product in the US or in another country to preventing sales of all future Mikrotik products in those countries until further.

In the meantime Mikrotik is free to pass on the expense of legal fees onto their products or to ship the products with an opensource bootloader only and a set of instructions on how to flash the firmware. (Same with other gpl violators)

Going back to the real world, I wish RouterOS was a bit more developer friendly, allowing me to deploy some of my own code onto the filesystem image to do things that would be awkward to write in the RouterOS built-in script language. As of today, I have to rely on other people's hacks to be able to do that. Being more open in terms of code that's running would allow for Mikrotik to kill two birds with one stone there - mitigate legal risk and provide more value to users.
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Thu Aug 17, 2017 2:03 pm

Please read the RouterOS license. We are giving the sources if you ask for them. The violation accusations are false.
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Fri Aug 18, 2017 5:19 pm

Where does one find the "RouterOS License"?
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Fri Aug 18, 2017 5:33 pm

You can find license here (replace x.x.x.x with your router IP address):
http://x.x.x.x/help/license.html
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Fri Aug 18, 2017 8:05 pm

The interesting part is what exactly you give out and I don't remember seeing that answered anywhere. The offer in license does not sound very reassuring:
This CD will only include the source code of the following programs and any non-proprietary programs distributed according to license requirements. This CD will not include MikroTikls proprietary SOFTWARE.
Obviously, one can't expect sources for clearly proprietary stuff like e.g. WinBox. And that's fine. But, simply put, nobody cares about sources of listed GPL software, because those are available everywhere for free. People are interested in your changes to them, things like kernel patches, etc. That's the idea behind GPL.
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Sun Aug 20, 2017 12:15 am

Purposefully making it difficult to obtain sources by hiding the license / offer of source code separate from the binary downloads and making people request a physical CD in 2017 is kind of against the spirit of the GPL. And as Sob points out, no one is interested in original source files. I'm sure Mikrotik has modified many parts of the GPLed software to make it fit in to RouterOS, those are the changes that should be made available to all.

I do wonder why they go out of their way to protect the modified sources - is the code very low quality and full of security holes :D? It's not like the modified sources will suddenly decrease RouterOS market share, there's no competitive advantage from keeping it secret and you open yourself to risk of lawsuits from GPL copyright holders if they find out their code is being misused this way.
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Aug 21, 2017 10:39 am

Of course you will receive the changes and Kernel patches. You will even get it online (no CD), if you ask for it.
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Aug 21, 2017 11:48 am

by hiding the license
Hidden, really? The link is on the front-page of WebFig of each and every router:
2017-08-21_113635.png
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Aug 21, 2017 11:57 am

I do wonder why they go out of their way to protect the modified sources -is the code very low quality and full of security holes ?
Quite unfair way of asking questions ... even with emoticons.
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Aug 21, 2017 2:38 pm

by hiding the license
Hidden, really? The link is on the front-page of WebFig of each and every router:
2017-08-21_113635.png
You shouldn't have to install the software before finding the license. Distributing the binaries without the source or an offer of source is a violation.
3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,
b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,
c) Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Aug 21, 2017 2:42 pm

Just curious, what do you need the sources for, if you don't even use the software? Just to ask?
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Aug 21, 2017 2:47 pm

You shouldn't have to install the software before finding the license. Distributing the binaries without the source or an offer of source is a violation.
I have not idea if it is a violation or not. I'm an engineer, not a lawyer, after all. I just pointed out that the license page is not hidden at all.
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Aug 21, 2017 3:01 pm

Just curious, what do you need the sources for, if you don't even use the software? Just to ask?
I want the sources to check that any modifications are implemented in an efficient and secure way to increase my confidence in the product (that I use). But the reason is not important, everyone has a right to the sources regardless of what they want it for, and they shouldn't have to install the software first to get to the license / offer of source.

After reviewing the license, I also found several conflicting terms. For example, the license restricts copying, but under the GPL users are free to redistribute binaries and source. The license also appears to make the offer of code only valid in combination with accepting the license, but again this is not something allowed by the GPL - users do not have to agree to anything for the offer to be valid.

All these little things - source code costing $45 for a CD (that CD had better be made of diamonds!), no offer of source with the downloads, conflicting license agreement terms, lack of the full GPL license text, etc make me believe Mikrotik is trying to avoid their GPL obligations. Of course I hope this isn't the case, but being a software developer and seeing how other companies have taken my GPLed code and then dragged their feet over GPL compliance, it all feels very familiar.

It's very easy to make all the GPL issues go away - simply distributing the modified GPL sources of each release on your downloads page will fix all of this (offer of code is valid, no need to agree to license terms, no need for $45 "request-the-source" fee). I am curious why there is so much resistance to this.
Last edited by R1CH on Mon Aug 21, 2017 3:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Aug 21, 2017 3:03 pm

I suggest you to ask these questions to MikroTik, not on public forums.
But it depends on what you want to achieve really
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R1CH
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Aug 21, 2017 3:09 pm

Public discussions are one of the only tools users have to fix GPL compliance (unless one of the copyright holders wants to take legal action). I only want to achieve proper GPL compliance, it's not like I want the collapse of Mikrotik that you seem to imply open source would bring :).
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Aug 21, 2017 3:14 pm

I can assure you, everyone who has asked, has received the GPL code and kernel patches. Only the public forum warriors are left with impression of violations, because they ask in the wrong places.

BTW if you click on the "Question / HELP" icon in the download page, you can also reach the license:
https://mikrotik.com/download
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Aug 21, 2017 7:07 pm

 
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normis
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Tue Aug 22, 2017 8:55 am

Thanks, probably due to site design migration, some things were not moved. I will tell the responsible people to fix.
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:50 pm

I have checked GPL text and RouterOS license and as an ordinary not juridically educated person I see almost no problems.

Quote from GPLv2:
3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it,
under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of
Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:
<...>
b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three
years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your
cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete
machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be
distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium
customarily used for software interchange;

Quote from GPLv3:
6. Conveying Non-Source Forms.

You may convey a covered work in object code form under the terms
of sections 4 and 5, provided that you also convey the
machine-readable Corresponding Source under the terms of this License,
in one of these ways:
<...>
b) Convey the object code in, or embodied in, a physical product
(including a physical distribution medium), accompanied by a
written offer, valid for at least three years and valid for as
long as you offer spare parts or customer support for that product
model, to give anyone who possesses the object code either (1) a
copy of the Corresponding Source for all the software in the
product that is covered by this License, on a durable physical
medium customarily used for software interchange, for a price no
more than your reasonable cost of physically performing this
conveying of source, or (2) access to copy the
Corresponding Source from a network server at no charge.

The only problem I see is that the price of $45 for mailing a CD seems to high.
I'd like to know how exactly the cost of distributing a CD exceeds $45.

However, normis says that they offer network downloads, too. Network downloads should be free according to GPL text. If they are, the only strange thing is why Mikrotik didn't state so in their RouterOS license.
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Tue May 29, 2018 1:18 pm

Of course you will receive the changes and Kernel patches. You will even get it online (no CD), if you ask for it.
How should I ask for it, by email or otherwise? When should I expect to be answered with links to source code and patches? What should I mention to not be ignored? Should I provide the proof of being an actual user of Mikrotik software?

Thank you in advance.
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Sep 24, 2018 11:37 pm

Of course you will receive the changes and Kernel patches. You will even get it online (no CD), if you ask for it.
Well, I asked and... I was ignored :). I tried it twice on email to mt@mikrotik.com 05/2018 and 02/2017. No respond. So what should I do to get the sources? I am curious to read them and also I had a fight with a friend who does not like Mikrotik because he says you are not legal with GPL. So with not responding for requests of source code, you are supporting him with his arguments and not someone who believe in mikrotik and is persuading everyone to Mikrotik. I am just having a feeling if I should not doing it.. :/
 
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normis
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Tue Sep 25, 2018 8:34 am

Of course you will receive the changes and Kernel patches. You will even get it online (no CD), if you ask for it.
Well, I asked and... I was ignored :). I tried it twice on email to mt@mikrotik.com 05/2018 and 02/2017. No respond. So what should I do to get the sources? I am curious to read them and also I had a fight with a friend who does not like Mikrotik because he says you are not legal with GPL. So with not responding for requests of source code, you are supporting him with his arguments and not someone who believe in mikrotik and is persuading everyone to Mikrotik. I am just having a feeling if I should not doing it.. :/
you should write to support@mikrotik.com instead.
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Tue Sep 25, 2018 8:56 pm

Of course you will receive the changes and Kernel patches. You will even get it online (no CD), if you ask for it.
Well, I asked and... I was ignored :). I tried it twice on email to mt@mikrotik.com 05/2018 and 02/2017. No respond. So what should I do to get the sources? I am curious to read them and also I had a fight with a friend who does not like Mikrotik because he says you are not legal with GPL. So with not responding for requests of source code, you are supporting him with his arguments and not someone who believe in mikrotik and is persuading everyone to Mikrotik. I am just having a feeling if I should not doing it.. :/
you should write to support@mikrotik.com instead.
Oh, OK, I will :). Thank you
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Nov 11, 2019 6:48 am

Thanks, probably due to site design migration, some things were not moved. I will tell the responsible people to fix.
Years later, still 404 errors:

https://mikrotik.com/gpl.html
 
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Re: MikroTik's GPL compliance regarding RouterOS

Mon Nov 11, 2019 8:41 am

Why do you think this page should exist? That link is not 404, it is just not there and will not be. License is on the RouterOS installation itself. It explains what you must do. Or are you one of those people who just wants the GPL code out of principle, never having even used the software?
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