Re: If loadable modules are covered by Linux GPL?

From: Richard B. Johnson (
Date: Tue Aug 29 2000 - 16:11:04 EST

On Tue, 29 Aug 2000, Matt D. Robinson wrote:

> I agree with Simon here. I'd personally like to see some form of
> GNU GPL Loadable Module Compliance Standard for all loadable modules.
> It isn't enough to go with the loose interpretation of the GNU GPL as
> it applies to inclusion of header files, system call interfaces,
> re-defined function pointers for operations tables, inline functions,
> macro #defines, etc.
> Who is best qualified to judge whether something must be released
> as GPL or not? In addition, are there specific lawyers to speak with
> about kernel related GPL concerns before releasing a driver/module?
> --Matt
> Simon Richter wrote:
> > On Tue, 29 Aug 2000, Mike A. Harris wrote:
> > > #include'ing header files is not necessarily ok. Some headers
> > > include "inline functions" which is GPL code. Such inclusion in
> > > a module makes that module have to comply with GPL.
> >
> > I think this needs to be resolved ASAP. I don't have kernel sources handy,
> > so I cannot tell you whether the functions are actually worth being
> > protected (inb/outb doesn't belong to this group really),
> >
> > Simon

Really? "inline functions" were done by Borland, Microsoft, Intermetrics,
and probably every other compiler vendor, starting with Pascal, then
doing the same thing with 'C'. This is hardly a GNU-ism.

Note from "COPYING":

   NOTE! This copyright does *not* cover user programs that use kernel
 services by normal system calls - this is merely considered normal use
 of the kernel, and does *not* fall under the heading of "derived work".
 Also note that the GPL below is copyrighted by the Free Software
 Foundation, but the instance of code that it refers to (the Linux
 kernel) is copyrighted by me and others who actually wrote it.

                        Linus Torvalds

If I make a module, that cost my company hundreds of thousands of
dollars to develop (back-projector for a CAT Scanner comes to mind),
there is no way in hell that I will give this to a competitor by
releasing the source-code. Even though a competitor will find it
useless without the hardware to which it interfaces, the competitor
will gain knowledge of my product(s), build them without investing
in any Engineering costs, and put me out of business.

Even M$ doesn't require that I give proprietary information away.
If Linux wants to become the new standard for the computing industry,
GPL or whatever can't claim any ownership of the work a company
has done while using it.

The Linux kernel didn't come with a "back-projector" module. Therefore,
when I invest the time and money to make one, I certainly don't have
to give it away.

It is quite different if, for instance, I need to use a built-in
system such as TCP/IP or SCSI and in the progress of my work I add
functionality or fix bugs. Under GPL, I am required to supply
any such changes (if asked).

Dick Johnson

Penguin : Linux version 2.2.15 on an i686 machine (797.90 BogoMips).

"Memory is like gasoline. You use it up when you are running. Of
course you get it all back when you reboot..."; Actual explanation
obtained from the Micro$oft help desk.

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