Re: OFFTOPIC: binary modules, bad idea!

Martin von Loewis (
Fri, 19 Dec 1997 00:42:44 +0100

Richard Jones wrote:
> Konrad Rosenbaum wrote:
> >
> > GPL and Library GPL do _not_ say that you have to write under GPL if you
> > USE the library, only if you modify it!

Well, the GPL says exactly that. Or more correctly, it says that you
must provide source when you use it *and distribute it*.

Clause 0 says that translation is considered a form of modification,
and clause 2 states that you have to write under GPL if you want to
distribute your modifications. Well, clause 5 says you don't have to
accept the license, but then you cannot modify the Program.

> > Including it via #include, using it via ldso or linking it into your code
> > is _not_ modification - it's simply usage - modification would be if you
> > change the source files of the library and then you're free to distribute
> > you changed library free and the project that uses it non-free (you just
> > have to say that they are different projects).....
> How does this apply to kernel modules?

One could argue that a kernel binary module is a modification of parts
of the kernel source, in particular the header files (which contain a
significant number of inline functions), as well as potentially parts
of lib.a. In turn, a binary module is derivative work (unless a
non-GPL duplicate of the header files was use to produce it).

There is a minimal chance that such a violation of the GPL is ever
prosecuted. This would need to come from the Linux copyright holders.
Linus has stated that binary-only modules are fine with him.

I personally like the situation as it is: distributors of binary-only
modules can feel safe, but hopefully, they feel guilty as well.


P.S. Just in case: this is not legal advice, and I'm happy not to
be a lawyer.