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USDTV Converter Box Conversions Offered

As previously reported, USDTV has shut down operations, but is allowing subscribers to convert their USDTV set-top boxes to receive free off-air DTV broadcasts. The conversion will cost owners $30. A posting on Slashdot.org notes this is a violation of the GPL (General Public License). The USDTV system used Linux-based firmware, which is licensed under the GPL in the Hisense DB2010 set-top box. Under the GPL, USDTV should have released the source code and binaries for the firmware in the box.

The Slashdot posting said Cable Communication Services LLC was using a USB key to convert the boxes to receive free DTV, but wasn't leaving the USB key with subscribers. The USB keys can be purchased from ProServ on eBay with bids starting at $14.95. When the Slashdot article first appeared, eBay showed five units were available. Thursday night, 25 units were available and the price had dropped. The eBay listing warns, "This software is owned by USDTV and should not be copied without their permission." As the listing notes, it would be difficult to buy your own USB key and burn it with the software for $14.95.

I suspect it is only a matter of time before the software is posted on the Internet and anyone can download it, burn it to a USB key and update their USDTV decoder, especially if the firmware does indeed fall under the GPL.