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Busted for Dodging Linux License, Samsung Makes Nice With Free Code

•, By Robert McMillan

Made late last week, the code release is the result of a mini-saga involving Samsung and the open source software community. It might never have happened — at least not officially — if not for an anonymous hacker who calls herself “rxrz.”

Samsung’s code was written to work with Samsung’s Android smartphones and tablets. It lets them read files that use a new Microsoft filesystem called ExFAT, but it also contained a fatal flaw. It used snippets of code that had been written for Linux, and Linux’s GPL (Gnu General Public License) forces anyone who uses the Linux code to share their own changes with everyone else.

Samsung wasn’t doing that. But then, last spring, a strange thing happened. Someone posted Samsung’s source code to GitHub, and a few months later, “rxrz” anonymously re-posted the ExFAT code, saying that it was now freely reusable under the terms of the GPL.

At the time, software experts said that this ExFAT Robin Hood — she told us that she was a 19-year-old college student based in Europe — really had no business releasing someone else’s code under the GPL, but the gesture clearly caught Samsung’s attention.

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