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Something positive to take from the OS 5 ROM licensing saga

Published: 14th Dec 2008, 16:57:41 | Permalink | Printable

Public show of affection among ROL and ROOL staff

Editorial - Amid the controversial opposition of ROL to an 'unlicensed' RISC OS 5 ROM image for RiscPC-class computers, there are some positives that should not be overlooked. Soon after publication, some within the ROL and ROOL camps were quick to reassure everyone that the relationship between RISCOS Ltd and RISC OS Open Ltd is pleasantly civil - and we can all expect cooperation between the two teams.

Aaron Timbrell, a ROL director and boss of emulation software publisher VirtualAcorn, said: "A lot of people have invested their time, their money and their hopes in ROOL. It is imperative that this investment gets its due return, for the good of everyone. In order to ensure this RISCOS Ltd has already written to the ROOL directors.

"This letter quite specifically states that RISCOS Ltd support what ROOL is doing, in particular RISCOS Ltd supports (quoting from the letter): The release of the source code by RISC OS Open Ltd either via the website or sold on a CD; RISC OS Open Ltd (releasing) RISC OS ROMs without having to pay a licence fee to RISCOS Ltd and RISC OS Open Ltd (offering) a commercial licence to potential RISC OS 5 users and to profit from such a licence."

Steve Revill, of RISC OS Open, added: "RISC OS Open and RISCOS Ltd are not waving their fists at each other. We've enjoyed open and clear communications from the outset and are continuing to talk. Finding the best way for all parties to co-operate for the good of RISC OS has always been one of our aims."

And if that wasn't enough, another ROL director, Dave Holden, said: "There is no problem, disagreement or conflict between RISCOS Ltd and ROOL. RISCOS Ltd are happy with what ROOL are doing and have made offers to them to ensure that their work can continue."

All good stuff. To add some balance to the proceedings, following Pete Wild's claims, ROL's Paul Middleton commented: "We want to continue to work with everyone still involved in the RISC OS market, and contrary to various claims we have done nothing belligerent to anyone in the RISC OS world.

"We are only maintaining our rights that were clearly set out in our licence [to develop and distribute RISC OS]."

The big question for some reason is why did Drobe run the earlier news story? Was the article sensationalist or irresponsible, as some have cried? Not at all.

It is amazing how fast problems are cured when they are illuminated by the public spotlight. Against a backdrop of fresh public assertions of OS ownership by ROL directors and other dirty linen being washed from the sidelines, there is a groundswell of interest in emulating RISC OS-compatible hardware. People are particularly looking forward to running RISC OS 5 for free using the free emulator RPCEmu on an entirely free platform, GNU/Linux - which would broadside the ROL-backed and Windows and Mac OS X-only VirtualRiscPC. If ROOL's project was in danger of being put at risk, surely it is in the public's interest to know the full reasons why?

Plus with everyone's cards now out on the table, this tedious long-running dispute should be in its final stages, thankfully. There should be no more threats, no more quiet grumblings and whispered briefings. Just cooperation, please.

• Finally, some other positive news: an effort to produce an Iyonix emulator capable of testing and running RISC OS Open ROM images has reached the point where the OS can boot and reach the start-up banner. This work is still on-going.


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So there was some method to your madness of reigniting the old licensing argument after all!

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 15/12/08 7:37AM
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More weasel words from ROL. If they want to get on so much why are they 'offering' ROOL a licence to RISC OS IPR based on their bogus claims? Are they hell bent on becoming the same sort of bottom feeding blackmailers as SCO?

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 15/12/08 9:16AM
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"This letter quite specifically states that RISCOS Ltd support what ROOL is doing, in particular RISCOS Ltd supports (quoting from the letter): The release of the source code by RISC OS Open Ltd either via the website or sold on a CD; RISC OS Open Ltd (releasing) RISC OS ROMs without having to pay a licence fee to RISCOS Ltd and RISC OS Open Ltd (offering) a commercial licence to potential RISC OS 5 users and to profit from such a licence."

Just a minute, selling RISC OS was never in ROOL's plan or remit, was it? They're just distributing sources given to them by Castle under the same licence anybody can receive them under.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 15/12/08 9:51AM
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Druck, can you point out where in the letter to ROOL, RISCOS Ltd are 'offering a licence' to RISCOS Open Ltd. As I read the article, ROOL will offer a commercial licence and profit from it.

 is a RISC OS UserRamsgatonian on 15/12/08 10:34AM
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It says that RISC OS ROMs can be released without having to pay a licence fee to RISCOS Ltd, but doesn't use the same language for the commercial licence.

Reading between the lines, it looks like ROL would take a portion of the ROOL's income from commercial licences. ROOL would make their profit from the remainder. That would require RISCOS Ltd to offer a licence.

As long as they have the right to do that, it seems completely reasonable.

 is a RISC OS UserStoppers on 15/12/08 10:55AM
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But again, ROOL was never going to licence RISC OS for commercial purposes; they always directed people wishing to do so to Castle.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 15/12/08 1:43PM
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Check the Update, added by Dave Holden, at the end of the oriqinal report "New RISC OS ownership claim may derail ROOL RiscPC ROM release".

 is a RISC OS Userajb on 15/12/08 11:57AM
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IIUI, the ROL claim goes something like this. Under the terms of their original licence from Acorn/E14/Pace, they were required to submit source code changes back to Acorn/E14/Pace for the first few years of the agreement. They did this, and so some of the code that Pace later sold to Castle has ROL-contributed bits in it. Now that the requirement to send source code back has lapsed, ROL are claiming that their licence gives them complete control over their version of RISC OS, and any derivatives of it. It's on this basis that they're claiming control over ROOL's version of RISC OS.

The strange part of this seems to be interpretation of 'derivative'. According to the CVS logs, ROL-contributed sections of the current RISC OS 5 are pretty small. Even if their version of history is right, only a moderate proportion of the RO5 codebase uses their work. Most of it was written by Acorn/E14/Pace/Castle/Tematic/Others independently of ROL.

So even if ROL's claim about which licences are still in force is right (and Peter Wild clearly disputes this too), then I just don't see how ROL's claims add up. RO5 is surely not realistically a 'derivative' of ROL's OS, just a different branch with a small amount of intermingled code. So ROL have no business issuing a licence to, or otherwise interfering with, ROOL.

All of which is not to say that there might not be other issues which cloud the ownership question. Just that the 'derivative' point seems spurious to me.

 is a RISC OS Userlym on 16/12/08 11:42AM
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Derivative aside. I always thought ROL's main point of contention is that regardless of who holda the IPR to RISC OS, only ROL are allowed to operate in the desktop market(later extended to other areas by Pace). Any other company wishing to peddle another version of RISC OS in the desktop market must be sanctioned by ROL, nodoubt with suitable fees.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 16/12/08 12:31PM
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Indeed. That is a separate issue, and one over which ROL and Castle clearly still disagree. But the derivative point is the one which ROL directors have recently raised in public, and which has caused the current controversy wrt ROOL.

 is a RISC OS Userlym on 16/12/08 1:08PM
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Paul, I'm sure by now you are getting an idea of invalidity of ROLs interpretation of their licence. Ask Pete Wild to clarify that one for you.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 16/12/08 1:25PM
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I'm sure he'll be around later to add his "clarification", which will nodoubt be "re-clarified" by a rep from ROL. Sorry state of affairs we are in once again over the latest round of licensing re-readings.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 16/12/08 1:30PM
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I just hope this disagreement gets sorted out. I've nothing against ROL/VA wishing to make some money out of RISC OS, but they need to accept and appreciate that the ROOL initiative has re-energised the market in a way that neither ROL nor Castle for that matter were able to do on their own; the last thing we need is for this new energy to be frustrated, or dissipated in a futile argument. The desktop IPR issue is clearly not amenable to a zero-sum, winner-takes-all solution, otherwise it would have been settled one way or the other 4 years ago. A 'live and let live' attitude therefore is the only helpful one.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 16/12/08 6:40PM
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If there was any prospect of making money out of RISC OS licensing I might be able to understand the motivation for such underhanded and deceitful claims, given the conduct of other players in the wider industry. But there isn't,there is no remaining commercial interest in RO before this nonsense, and it would be absolute commercial suicide for it to ever be contemplated in future.

Meanwhile ROL are desperately scraping the bottom of the barrel offering the OS to owners of ancient 3.6 & 3.7 machines and freeware emulators for next to nothing, and ROOL are opening the sources and offering them for absolutely nothing. The only use of the OS is by a small number of enthusiasts, and to be honest, mainly due to familiarity and resistance to change rather than any real advantages over alternatives.

So what is the point of making such claims which could never be anything other than divisive and highly damaging? Did Aaron decide to start a swinging dick competition just of the hell of it? Or did he see some healthly competition in the forum of freeware emulators and ROOLs open source code threatening his nice cosy Virtual Acorn franchise?

That would be the end to sitting back and raking in money from a very over priced product, especially now the real cost of the RO4 ROM images has been revealed, and can't be used as an excuse. New emulation techniques will rapidly outclass the VRPC code which has very little development since it came from Red Squirrel over 6 years ago. Importantly other emulators cater for the growing number of Linux users, which Aaron has always point blank refused to sell to, despite VRPC creator Adrain producing a Linux version many years ago.

If that's so, some investment in improving his product and market coverage would be the sensible option, rather than crassly announcing to the world that he now owns all of RISC OS, black is white, and we need his permission to do anything. Carry on like that, and soon no one will be disputing these claims, because there will be no one left to listen.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 17/12/08 3:15PM
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