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Re: New Software License idea: "The Freedom License."

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: New Software License idea: "The Freedom License."
Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 15:57:23 +0200

Alan Mackenzie wrote:
> Alexander Terekhov <> wrote on Tue, 23 May 2006 22:53:49 +0200:
> > Joerg Schilling wrote:
> >> In article <sblv4e.lb1.ln@acm.acm>, Alan Mackenzie  <> wrote:
> >> >Karen Hill <> wrote on 22 May 2006 16:49:50 -0700:
> >> >What is wrong with this?  Commands like make have evolved considerably
> >> >since 1972.  However, inside the GNU make info page you can read this:
> >> >
> >> >       GNU `make' conforms to section 6.2 of `IEEE Standard 1003.2-1992'
> >> >    (POSIX.2).
> >> Do you believe all false claims?
> > Alan believes that taking two separate and independent computer program
> > works (separate and independent under copyright law, according to the
> > AFC test) and combining them together in a compilation (see 17 USC 101)
> > creates a "derived work" (see the GNU Copyleft Act) akin to "embryo
> > which is derived from the egg and sperm." I gather that he also
> > believes that linking is akin to sex without condoms (and that it is
> > not oral or anal).
> HaHaHaHa!  Is this really the best you can manage, Alex?

I'd just like to add that Alan's beliefs are inspired by maniac Moglen's
beliefs. Eben calls it "interpenetration". Uh, maniac.

LWN: So, if the kernel is covered solely by the GPL, you would see
proprietary modules as an infringement?

Eben: Yes. I think we would all accept that. I think that the
degree of interpenetration between kernel modules and the remainder
of the kernel is very great, I think it's clear that a kernel with
some modules loaded is a "a work" and because any module that is
dynamically loaded could be statically linked into the kernel, and
because I'm sure that the mere method of linkage is not what
determines what violates the GPL, I think it would be very clear
analytically that non-GPL loadable kernel modules would violate the
license if it's pure GPL.

Oh, BTW, I find it kind of exciting that FSF's own director and lead 
counsel in fact (and "in all good faith") doesn't really understand 
the licensing terms relevant to the use of Linux!


One specific area where the linking question arises is in the
Linux kernel, where proprietary video drivers loaded are loaded
as modules. Another one might be the use of a network driver
that relies on proprietary firmware that is loaded from an
operating system. (Such firmware, sometimes called "blobs," are
strings of hexadecimal digits loaded from the operating system
kernel into the hardware device to enable it to run.)

Moglen: In all good faith, I can't tell you. If the kernel were
pure GPL in its license terms, the answer...would be: You couldn't
link proprietary video drivers into it whether dynamically or
statically, and you couldn't link drivers which were proprietary in
their license terms.


Eben: The kernel also maintains a technical mechanism, namely the
GPL-only symbols and tainting structure, which seems to suggest an
API for the connection of non-GPL'ed code to the kernel, which also
seems to me a strong indication of the presence of an exception.
The difficulty as a lawyer, even a lawyer that is reasonably
knowledgeable about these matters, is that I don't understand what
the terms of that exception are.

So, say I want to audit a system, say an embedded product, in which
I find non-GPL loadable kernel modules present, how do I know
whether that fits within an exception which is legitimately
available to third parties and when it is not?


So then there are parties in the world who think they are in legal
trouble on one side with the regulators if they do release source
code for loadable kernel modules that drive their software-
controlled radios, and they don't know if they're in legal trouble
on the other side if they don't release source code. For those
parties, in particular, it would be very helpful if the kernel
developers had decided to formalize the nature of their exceptions,
and the Free Software Foundation and I have made a few attempts to
discuss that matter with kernel developers. I had conversations
with Ted Ts'o, I talked to Linus about it and I understood there
were some reluctances to clarify, in a full and complete way, what
was going on. There may have even been disagreements among kernel
developers about that, I wouldn't know. But I continue to think
that it would be useful, for a whole variety of people who are
trying in good faith to do the very best they can, and who may be
navigating some dodgy legal territory, for them to be able to
refer to something beyond the COPYING file which -- with all due
respect -- I think probably doesn't contain all the terms that are
relevant to the use of the kernel.


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