Turnigy 9XR’s software violating the GPL? (UPDATE: HK responds, fixes the issue!)

December 25, 2012 14:54 | By | 4 Comments

HobbyKing has just released a new transmitter, the Turnigy 9XR, with updated looks and some neat features like integrated LCD backlight.


Price point is an unbeatable $49.99 for the transmitter sans module, and for $30 bucks more you can have a 9-channel DSMX transmitter. They even did the right thing and got rid of the protruding antenna, instead building it into the carry handle (a much better orientation in terms of RF effectiveness anyway!)

Overall this is the same 9X we know and love/hate, but with better firmware, a nicer design, and backlight preinstalled.¬† Could’ve been a lot better, but for the price it’s a good offer.

We’d be happy to end the news here, but there is a problem: The software feels eerily familiar. It is in fact the Open Source er9x Firmware. Using that firmware is of course not an issue, however a look over at HobbyKing.com or even the transmitter’s own site, www.turnigy9xr.com, neither acknowledges the authors of the firmware, nor do they offer a firmware sourcecode download. The site only vaguely mentions “the users” and “members of the RC community” and makes every impression that the major developer of this software was HobbyKing, and that they gratiously let other people upload their own firmware if desired – when in fact this firmware came from the RC community and HK is using it without conforming to the GPL or even simply acknowledging its source.

This  is confirmed by a look at the 9XR User Guide and comparing it to the official e9x community manual. It is obvious that the changes were only cosmetic, transmitter images were changed out and worst of all, the credits section by the original firmware authors was simply deleted.

For HK the next steps are clear: They are required to state the origin of their firmware, they are required to release the full sourcecode and all tools required to build it under the GPL v2.0 (It has to be GPL since the original code is already released under the GPL), and they need to step up and offer an apology. If they don’t, they will alienate a big part of the creative community that writes the software they use in their products, like the KK line of multicopter controllers.


UPDATE: HK have responded and promised to post the sourcecode, and they linked to the creators of the firmware as well as fixed the manual to include the proper credits. While this should’ve been done on day one, it’s very positive that they stepped up and fixed the issue without any beating around the bush. In the end both sides will get what they want: The RC community gets a radio that is cheap, solid and gives them the freedom to choose their favorite RF system, while HobbyKing gets a community that is more than happy to contribute work and development effort to their product.

Kudos to HobbyKing for doing the right thing.


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Comments (4)

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  1. HK_Admin says:

    The 9xr Firmware is a fork of er9x.

    The 9XR-r1 (v1.1) source code will be available later today and the link to it will be posted when it is up.

    The manual has been edited to include the acknowledgements of the original firmware developers and the er9x community. (This was an omission from the user guide rushed through on Monday 24th, December to coincide with the 9Xr’s Christmas Day release.)

    This unfortunately wasn’t corrected for 48 hours post the release, mainly due to Christmas Day & Boxing Day being public holidays.

    Apologies for the angst this may have caused!

    • fpvcentral says:

      Thanks for doing the right thing!

      • Joel says:

        They never attempted to do the “wrong thing.” You just wanted to sensationalise the issue as an excuse to cause edrama and spam your website at any given opportunity to anyone website that would permit it.

        • fpvcentral says:

          For the creators of the software, this was definitely not just “edrama”. And we saw that while HK fixed what was wrong, the creators of the Rabbit FC never bothered to come clean. What someone “wanted” to do or not is besides the point, it’s about the deed, not the intent.

          Also the only site this news entry was posted on by us was the er9x forum. Hardly justification for accusing us of spamming.

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