Author Topic: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down  (Read 20525 times)

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Offline madworm

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http://www.freerouting.net/

The creator of the FreeRouting auto-router worked for Zuken at one time, but developed this router 'at home'. 7 years wasted. It was released to the public (GPL) some time ago.

Zuken now claims copyright infringement, many years after Alfons was given the sack. He's retired now. The auto-router had been available as a web-application (java) for years.


More background info on yahoo mailing list:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/kicad-users/conversations/topics/18109
« Last Edit: June 14, 2014, 07:26:45 PM by madworm »
 

Offline Legit-Design

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2014, 07:37:16 PM »
Just "shutdown" the website and move it somewhere else out of reach of the "law". Maybe provide links to the new site and don't keep anything infringing on that current site?
 

Offline madworm

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2014, 07:45:57 PM »
Well, it is not even clear if there are valid copyright infringements at all.

The way I read the situation is this:

Zuken is a big company, Alfons is one person. They may just have sent him a letter out of pure speculation. The letter to him (see mailing list) doesn't seem to contain any specifics at all. It is not a c & d letter either. Could just be a scare-tactic. Alfons himself is 'tired' of the whole situation and doesn't feel like fighting. Somebody else would have to do it.

He's asked the FSF for help, but they have declined for some reason.

I hope somebody downloaded the source...
 

Offline grumpydoc

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2014, 09:41:54 PM »
Quote
He's asked the FSF for help, but they have declined for some reason.
I don't think they get involved unless they own the copyright - he might get somewhere with the EFF
 

Offline sleemanj

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2014, 12:14:51 AM »
I'm sure I saw somebody here had downloaded the source a while back.  Perhaps they would be kind enough to slap it up on github.

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Offline dannyf

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2014, 12:36:42 AM »
I haven't seen the bullying part so I should probably reserve judgment. Looks like Zuken alleged that their is an infringement - that's far from the fact that there is an infringement.

The situation looks murky from afar. The author looks to have developed some routing software for Zuken. It is unlikely that there are direct code pieces in the new open source routing software - that would be really stupid.

Is it possible that there are comparable "thought" processes between the two? If so, does that constitute an infringement? If so, the damage could be significant.

The situation, unfortunately, could be much clear to either / both parties: they know precisely what's in and not in the code. But for a 3rd party, it can be difficult to arrive at a fair judgement.
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Offline Rigby

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2014, 12:52:35 AM »
Hint: NEVER search; you may find what you're looking for.

https://github.com/32bitmicro/Freerouting
 

Online bingo600

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2014, 01:01:01 AM »
Binaries

Grab them while they last (If Zuken vaccums the "net")
https://groups.google.com/d/topic/n8vem-s100/9UNKcHteXBI


Tips & Build for the Repos above
http://comments.gmane.org/gmane.comp.cad.kicad.user/16631

Too bad FSF coldn't help out  :-\

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Offline zapta

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2014, 01:01:08 AM »
IIs it possible that there are comparable "thought" processes between the two? If so, does that constitute an infringement? If so, the damage could be significant.

Possibly he signed an agreement assigning any related IP he develops while employed to the company. The devil is in the details.

How good is said router? For example, does it work out of the box with Eagle? Is it stable?
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Offline madworm

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2014, 01:26:59 AM »
For being free, it is darn good.

Don't know about eagle.
 

Offline theatrus

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2014, 02:24:19 AM »

IIs it possible that there are comparable "thought" processes between the two? If so, does that constitute an infringement? If so, the damage could be significant.

Possibly he signed an agreement assigning any related IP he develops while employed to the company. The devil is in the details.

Those details are really nuanced, and vary widely by locale. For example, agreements such as the above are against California labor law (if entirely developed on your own time and equipment). And that's just one state of 50 in one country.
 

Online free_electron

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2014, 02:35:14 AM »
there is two problems with his case

1- he brought his code within zuken , showed it to them. He did not have zuken sign an NDA or evaluation only agreement.

2- and this is a bigger one : he admits that the codebase includes algortihms he wrote for Theda... (somethinf about octagonal maths). that alone is a massive problem. The algorithms were developed on zuken/Theda time. even though algorithms are not patentable , the algorithm does belong to zuken...
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Offline Rigby

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2014, 09:01:54 AM »
there is two problems with his case

1- he brought his code within zuken , showed it to them. He did not have zuken sign an NDA or evaluation only agreement.

2- and this is a bigger one : he admits that the codebase includes algortihms he wrote for Theda... (somethinf about octagonal maths). that alone is a massive problem. The algorithms were developed on zuken/Theda time. even though algorithms are not patentable , the algorithm does belong to zuken...

Potentially...  I am not a lawyer, and I'm fairly certain you aren't either.  We don't know the conditions of his employment, the details of any contracts, or anything, really.  We don't (well, I don't) know what state or country he lives in, if NDAs are enforceable in that state or country, or if an NDA was ever applied to his employment contract.  Might be that there was an illegal negotiation in there somewhere, which might invalidate everything.  It might turn out that he was put under pressure to sign something, which could invalidate something or other.

Who knows?  None of us.
 

Offline Mr Eastwood

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2014, 09:45:59 AM »
If you code for a company then all 100% of that source code belongs to them; in the forum he mentioned "All in all the code parts of pure 45-degree push and shove routing algorithms must be far less than 1% of the complete Freerouting code."     even using 1% of someone else's code is not good.
 

Offline Rigby

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2014, 10:01:49 AM »
Depends on what was written down in the employee agreement.

My previous employer accepted my request to let me keep ownership of everything I wrote while employed there, and it was in my contract.  Later, when they laid me off, I told them the code was mine and that I would gladly provide the source code in exchange for employment.  They declined.

They are unlikely to offer anyone else the same deal, nor is anyone else in this day, but it does happen from time to time.
 

Offline dr.diesel

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2014, 10:17:24 AM »
My previous employer accepted my request to let me keep ownership of everything I wrote while employed there, and it was in my contract.

Wow, that is really surprising, may I ask what company?

Offline dannyf

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2014, 10:24:50 AM »
Quote
"All in all the code parts of pure 45-degree push and shove routing algorithms must be far less than 1% of the complete Freerouting code."

That's really unfortunate (and bone-headed too). The whole code base is then subject to legal challenges from Zuken.

Doesn't sound like a case of "bullying" to me, if that's true.
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Offline Rigby

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2014, 11:40:53 AM »


My previous employer accepted my request to let me keep ownership of everything I wrote while employed there, and it was in my contract.

Wow, that is really surprising, may I ask what company?

it is an electrical engineering and software development house that does work for Caterpillar. I was the lone IT dude for a while, and touched no third party (Cat) stuff. I was 100% internal, and they didn't understand or value IT, so I was pretty much given anything I wanted except a budget and a decent wage.
 


Offline zapta

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #19 on: June 15, 2014, 11:51:20 AM »
If you code for a company then all 100% of that source code belongs to them; in the forum he mentioned "All in all the code parts of pure 45-degree push and shove routing algorithms must be far less than 1% of the complete Freerouting code."     even using 1% of someone else's code is not good.

If it's only 1% of the code than he can just rewrite it or somebody else to do it in a clean-room mode. Contaminating free code with proprietary code is not a wise move in the first place.
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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #20 on: June 15, 2014, 04:31:35 PM »
Reading this https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/kicad-users/conversations/messages/18130 it sounds indeed like a very muddy situation.

Multiple companies were involved, sliced, diced and sold. Maybe, we don't know, with a change of employment contract. Two countries were involved (Germany, UK), so maybe two sets of employment laws and IP laws need to be taken into account. The change to part-time work likely included (yet another?) change of employment contract. The router was originally created during part-time work, in his spare time, but while having full access to the company knowledge and resources. And created as a showcase to convince his employer it can be done, and he actually lobbied his employer to take the code.

That is the stuff that can keep an army of lawyer busy, and help a few of them to earn the money for a second house, complete with a new Porsche in the garage.

Regarding the code. If we just assume Zuken has rights to the code and/or intellectual property rights (I said "assume"!), then copying the code around and mirroring it doesn't whitewash the code.

And a second thing, this is code developed behind closed doors, by a single programmer, for seven years. Lone heroes developing code on their own, lacking the feedback of peers and supervisors, tend to end up with rather individual and special coding styles. Typically such code is not easy to maintain.

Third, the code is supposed to be the implementation of a number of complex algorithms, some highly optimized, some not finished, despite working on it almost daily for seven years. Algorithms, that aren't documented (except one paper from 1985), and only exist in the mind of the programmer. Self-documenting code? Gimme a break.

I doubt there are many people around willing and capable of working on that code. Maybe some government organization somewhere is looking into it, trying to find out if it is really as good as he claims. But they are not doing it for the community (according to his posting the Chinese government already "expressed an interest") .

And what if the algorithm isn't as good as he claims? Then someone touching the code would sit there with legal problems, a code base hacked together by a lone hero over the time of seven years, and an algorithm which couldn't be made to work by the inventor.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2014, 04:37:07 PM by [email protected] »
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Offline sleemanj

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #21 on: June 15, 2014, 07:39:55 PM »
At the end of the day, Freerouting works, it does a good job (better than built in autorouters), it follows a de-facto standard file interchange format (dsn, ses) which isn't about to change, and it's written in Java so it's unlikely to suddenly stop working.  Even if nobody ever looks at the source again, it's a useful, usable tool.

The author (nobody can dispute he is the author) of the software has declared it to be GPL, and I think the recipients of the software have reason to accept that at face value, until such time as it is proven false.  I don't see anything wrong with making sure there are copies of the GPL released code (and binaries of) out there currently.

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Online mikeselectricstuff

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #22 on: June 15, 2014, 07:44:03 PM »
The algorithms were developed on zuken/Theda time. even though algorithms are not patentable , the algorithm does belong to zuken...
If it isn't patented or copyrighted, in what sense does it "belong" to them?
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Offline dannyf

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #23 on: June 15, 2014, 08:21:13 PM »
Quote
the recipients of the software have reason to accept that at face value, until such time as it is proven false.

That argument is unlikely to hold in a court. Let's say that someone hands you out copies of Windows (or any other stolen goods) and tells you it is all legit. You are still liable to be prosecuted.

Quote
If it isn't patented or copyrighted, in what sense does it "belong" to them?

You probably have far more un-patented/un-copyrighted stuff. None of them belong to you then?
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Online nctnico

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Re: FreeRouting is gone - Creator was bullied by Zuken to take it down
« Reply #24 on: June 15, 2014, 10:02:07 PM »
The algorithms were developed on zuken/Theda time. even though algorithms are not patentable , the algorithm does belong to zuken...
If it isn't patented or copyrighted, in what sense does it "belong" to them?
It depends on whether Freerouting and the software from Zuken share the same sourcecode. If that is the case Zuken could claim partial copyright. Some companies like to claim copyright on any code written by their employees during their employment even if they wrote the software in their spare time. That is a bit of a grey area.

For this reason I have written the same software from scratch several times instead of copying and pasting it. In the EU there are no software patents so there is no way to claim the idea.
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