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Re: Do I have to release the patch for a GPL software under GPL?

From: Byron A Jeff
Subject: Re: Do I have to release the patch for a GPL software under GPL?
Date: 8 May 2006 20:02:00 -0400

In article <>,
Dancefire <> wrote:
>Hi, all

>Thanks for reply. I am not going to break the freedom. I just want to clear
>the border of free.

What you propose is well on the other side of the border.

>For example, if there is a military organization want to use Linux as a
>kernel of their operating system, but, of course, they have to patch the
>kernel for extra secure. However, for security reason, they can't make the
>patch public. So what should they do?

That's like comparing apples and gorillas. This is a completely different 
problem from the original.

In the above case it's simple: Keep the patch internal to the organization.
The GPL's rights are all about distribution. The scenario you describe above
requires not distributing the patch. The GPL is fine with that. It specifically
states that internal distribution within an organization is not a public

However, your original post was questioning the ability to relicense a
distributed patch for GPL software. That's a horse of a completely different
color. In that case you are precisely talking about distribution, and so the
full weight of the GPL is in effect.

> Forget Linux and use *BSD instead?


>  Or they can use the patched Linux kernel without public it. 

Yes. But again that wasn't the issue you originally presented.

>This maybe is simple, since the kernel is not given to anyone, only internal

That's right.

> It's get more complex if they give the kernel/patch to another
>military/security agent organization. Do they have to make the patch open?

They must give the source to the other military organization that they
distribute the patch to. Also the code must be GPLed.  Often when talking
about the GPL there is some confusion about what "public distribution" means.
It means that you must distribute the source to whomwever you distribute the
work.  It also means that you cannot restrict others from redistributing if
they so choose. If Military A has a patch and gives it to Military B, the
only obligation is that the source goes to Military B. Now if Military B
decided to then keep it in house, that's their business. However, there is
nothing that Miliary A can do to keep Military B from redistributing to
Military C, or the general public if they so desire.

>If they have to, of course, they can't choose Linux.

OK. That's not a problem. You can't have something be free except when it's
not. It doesn't work.

>I am trying to make its possible to use Linux under this situation,
>otherwise, *BSD is the only choice.

So choose BSD. There's no problem there.

BTW the NSA has patched up and used a modified, secured Linux kernel.
You can read about it here:


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