[linux-elitists] [dave@farber.net: [IP] more on next obvious question]

Aaron Sherman ajs@ajs.com
Tue Jun 7 13:06:58 PDT 2005

On Tue, 2005-06-07 at 15:30, Jeff Kinz wrote:
> On Tue, Jun 07, 2005 at 01:46:31PM -0500, le wrote:

> > As for the original comment about drivers, GPL drivers could be
> > distributed just fine all by themselves to be loaded into a BSD kernel.
> > There are plenty of GPL apps out there that make use of BSD licensed
> > libraries. 
> So, a binary only BSD CD, with the source to all the included GPL drivers on it
> as well.  hmmm.
> Ok, yes, I understand that you can do the things described in the
> your preceding two paragraphs legally by the licenses.... but
> By doing those things, you prevent yourself from shipping a complete,
> integrated, working, product/tool/"thingey".  While that's probably OK
> with more technical DIY'ers, its make the result kind of a dud for wider
> consumption beyond the immediate, relatively few, DIY crowd.

I'm an old BSD head, but the operative word there is "old"... I haven't
used BSD since SunOS 4, so correct my assumptions if I'm wrong.

I assume that BSD has a run-time binary module loading system of some
flavor, no?

If so, I don't see why being a DIYer has to enter into the picture at
all. You could quite easily ship a distribution with binary modules that
are covered by the GPL without imposing on the licensing of the overall

There are some caveats:

     1. The question of header files is an old one, but we already deal
        with this problem cleanly enough throughout the community, so
        it's not an issue unique to BSD's kernel (any more than it is to
        X.org's display server). For extra-certainty write GPLed
        variants of the headers needed for the kernel API.
     2. When the user loads these binary modules, they are rendering
        their kernel non-shippable (they lose the ability to apply the
        GPL to those works, and thus have only fair use to fall back
        on). Users almost never care about this.

Now, I don't know what copyright law has to say about "ready to mix"
scenarios like this one, but it seems to me like a very defensible
position. That is, you can always say, "we've never distributed any code
into which GNU licensed code has been mingled."

Aaron Sherman <ajs@ajs.com>
Senior Systems Engineer and Toolsmith
"It's the sound of a satellite saying, 'get me down!'" -Shriekback

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