RE: GPL vs non-GPL device drivers

From: David Schwartz
Date: Mon Feb 19 2007 - 12:49:18 EST

> Sigh. VJ is distributing the linux kernel with proprietary
> extensions. If you want to argue that the proprietary extensions in
> isolation are not derivative works of the kernel, fine, you might have
> a case, but the combined work, which VJ is distributing is *clearly* a
> derivative work and must be distributed under the terms of the GPL.

There is no such thing as the "combined work". If I put a DVD of The Phantom
Menace in the same box as a DVD of The Big Lebowski, the box is not a
"combined work".

VJ is, presumably, distributing the Linux kernel and some additional works
that he has written. There is no "combined work" just because the two works
are distributed on the same media. There isn't even a "combined work" just
because the two works were designed to work together. (The DVD of the
Phantom Menace was designed to work with the firmware in my DVD player, but
it's absurd to argue that there is a "combined work" or that one is
derivative of the other.)

> Despite which, legal bullshit is best left for lawyers.. the *intent*
> of the GPL is that if you distribute *any* changes, extensions or
> plugins for a GPL work, you do so under the GPL.

Suppose the intent of the Microsoft EULA was that if you ever used Windows,
Microsoft owned every work of software you ever wrote. Should this "intent"
be honored? This kind of intent -- the intent of a license author to try to
leverage the license to own someone else's work, should be ridiculed and

> The law may not
> allow for this to be enforced, but it shouldn't need to.. one should
> read the GPL as 100% enforceable and follow it without looking for
> "loop holes" as it is the stated desire of how the author of the code
> wants you to use his work. Looking for loop holes, and worse yet,
> discussing those loop holes in a public place, is just insulting.

I think this is a completely irrational view. The GPL *is* the rule we've
all been playing by. Not something in RMS' head. People who have chosen to
apply the GPL know what the GPL says, and only to some extent know what
other people meant or intended by it. The GPL *is* the rule.

As for law and loop holes, that's the supreme irony. The same people who
argue that people have too little freedom and intellectual property rights
are too great (and who oppose software patents) still seem to argue that
when *their* intellectual property is at stake, not even the law and the
text of their license limits their powers and control.

Let's not be a bunch of hypocrites.

> Yes, it does matter.. the author of the work has defined the terms
> under which you may use it.. if you don't like it, don't use the work.

Right, don't believe all that crap about "freedom". That's just PR speak.


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