Kernel Programming Questions

Greg KH greg at kroah.com
Sun May 25 22:12:41 UTC 2008


On Sun, May 25, 2008 at 03:59:11PM -0600, Vadim Klishko wrote:
> On Sunday, May 25, 2008 3:25 PM, Greg KH wrote:
> 
> > On Sun, May 25, 2008 at 12:07:41PM -0600, Vadim Klishko wrote:
> >> On Sunday, May 25, 2008 9:37 AM, Greg KH wrote:
> >> 
> >> > On Sun, May 25, 2008 at 09:40:32AM +0100, James Chapman wrote:
> >> >> 
> >> >> Is the optional "library" proprietary (binary only)? If so, think 
> >> >> carefully about GPL implications. Adding a simple GPL driver to expose 
> >> >> proprietary hooks isn't good...
> >> > 
> >> Yes, that was exactly the idea.
> >> 
> >> > It's not only, "not good", it's flat out illegal and violates the
> >> > license of the kernel.  Do not do this at all if you are thinking you
> >> > can keep something from being released under the GPL.
> >> > 
> >> I thought there was a legal way of doing it as described here:
> >> http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl-faq.html#GPLIncompatibleLibs
> > 
> > The kernel is not a "system library", nor does it interact with one at
> > all.
> > 
> > Also note that the kernel is covered under GPLv2, not v3, which is the
> > description of most of the answers on that page.
> > 
> > There is no way to create a "GPL Condom" to protect your code in the
> > kernel from being released under the GPLv2, sorry, that just is not
> > possible.  For lots of prior art on this, and lots of failed legal
> > attempts to do this, please see the Samba group, there is a long history
> > of them prevailing on this topic.
> > 
> Sorry, I couldn't find anything on www.samba.org. Could you please
> provide a link?

I don't know of a direct link, see one of the many talks by the Samba
developers about this (I've seen it in the past, there should be links
somewhere.)  If you can't find one, try asking them directly.

> On the other hand, ATI specifically says that their Linux driver is
> not open-source (http://ati.amd.com/products/catalyst/linux.html#4).
> Are they doing it illegally?

It is not illegal to create a closed source kernel module, only
distribute it.  ATI forces you to do the distribution, you do not see
any Linux distro shipping a pre-built ATI driver on their media, right?
That is why.

> How come no one is after them?

How do you know no one is?  Legal cases take a long time, and generally
are not very transparrent until they are completed.  I know this for a
fact due to ones that I am currently part of with this kind of same
issue.

Also, see the many resolutions that the gpl-violations.org group has had
in this area, as examples of where this has been successfully pursued.

Enough of this legal stuff.  If you still have legal questions about
this kind of thing, contact a lawyer, don't trust a programmer to give
legal advice, you wouldn't trust a lawyer to give medical advice, right?
:)

thanks,

greg k-h



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