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Re: The worst that can happen to GPLed code

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: The worst that can happen to GPLed code
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2004 18:10:25 +0200

David Kastrup wrote:
> As long as you can convince a court and jury of your crackpot
> theories, fine.  There is no empirical evidence for that, however.

I let you go first, dak. Here's one more "potential target".


The TiVo Client Device is of necessity a closed system. As a service 
provider, we must prevent theft of service, so TiVo pays a great deal 
of attention to security of the device and resistance to hacking. 
Additionally, we sell the TCD at a price that provides a net margin 
to retailers, but no profit to us. Our profits come from providing 
service to each device over time, rather than from up-front costs. 

For this reason, it is important that the devices not be re-purposed 
and that our software not be replaced with other implementations of 
DVR functionality. Thus, hardware drivers are kept as proprietary 
sources and are built as loadable modules. Our interpretation of the 
GPL is that such use is permitted; we are careful to separate these 
modules from the Linux kernel sources to avoid any confusion. In 
fact, as has been demonstrated by the very active TiVo hacking 
community, it is possible to take our published sources, build a 
Linux kernel, and load it on some versions of the TCD. The kernel 
will run properly, loading the proprietary modules and executing 
the TiVo application, thus staying within the GPL spirit. 

This use is somewhat controversial. Advocates of the GPL and the 
Free Software Foundation interpret the GPL more stringently to 
disallow the use of proprietary modules. 



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