[webkit-dev] Using WebKit (or KHTML/KJS) and LGPL violation

Noh Taegil tailblues at mobilus.co.kr
Thu Mar 8 06:34:01 PST 2007

This maybe not an exact place to ask this question but, I'm still  
confused and would be very happy to get any advice at all.

One of our customer's IP/Legal team informed us that putting LGPL  
library in a closed system which prohibits any form of reverse- 
engineering, or which is lack of ability to install library, is a  
direct violation of LGPL. And they also told us that, they don't  
understand how Apple would use LGPL library in their (to be) closed- 
system. (namely , iPhone)


I'm working in a small software company that helps a mobile phone  
vendor (lets call them company S) We developed and shipped DRM, MMS,  
and OMA(wap) browser for them. We have failed to make a decent web  
browser, and that's where WebCore came in.

Recently I could almost convinced my boss and the company S into  
using WebCore as default web engine for their new mobile platform. We  
could actually made a working demo on their system, and they agreed  
to open the modified source code themselves, but they frowned at LGPL  
section 6 :

My (possible) business model using WebKit, was something like this ;

1) Let's maintain a WebCore Windows Mobile port : On Windows mobile,  
still you only have NetFront3 or Opera. They cost quite some amount  
for individual users (something over $20 to register) . Let them use  
top notch browser freely. Put "notice" clearly that we are quite  
expert on porting browsers on "things".

2) Wait for more embedded device vendors to "aware" us. Made a good  
abstraction layer, port webcore and a decent UI on any device they  
want. (IPTV, PMP, portable DVD players, etc)  Get some service fee  
and customize the browser for them. If they need WAP2.0, terrific.  
Sell our old browser with it.  Get Maintenance contract with them.

3) Drop our own Web Browser development, it's going nowhere.


I though this scenario could be quite valid; Nokia N series devices  
are already a successful example. But it seems that this goes very  
close to the LGPL violation boundary. Company S told us that, When  
reading literally, even Nokia isn't satisfying LGPL.

Nokia N series device do not have any LGPL license text for users.  
Normal users won't be able to aware about the LGPL library or  
license. (possible violation 1. selling H/W with LGPL Library is a  
"distributing"). And there is no way for users to change and run S60  
Browser. (although they can run the reference UI) And the reverse  
engineering is prohibited as usual. (Possible violation 2. No method  
for modify LGPL'ed library and run the work based on the library)


My questions is simple. Is that really LGPL violations? Safari  
Browser is satisfying all LGPL "duties" (It shows credits, LGPL  
license, and you can rebuild webcore and run safari with it. Done.)  
But how safari on iPhone will satisfy LGPL?
Company S's lawyer read LGPL "literally". But lawyers always do. What  
is the limit of using webCore(KHTML, or any LGPL library) on embedded  

Any comment from S60 guys? I'm pretty sure that Nokia IP/Legal team  
gave them "clear" sign, so It is there. That's why I am so confused  
right now.

TG Noh
tailblues at mobilus.co.kr

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