GPL vs BSD Licence

Ted Mittelstaedt tedm at
Fri Oct 29 22:22:43 PDT 2004

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-freebsd-questions at
> [mailto:owner-freebsd-questions at]On Behalf Of TM4525 at
> Sent: Friday, October 29, 2004 5:58 AM
> To: tedm at
> Cc: questions at
> Subject: Re: GPL vs BSD Licence
> The FSF doesnt have standing with Linux so they can blow as hard as
> they like and no one will really care.

Um, no I'm afraid it's not that simple.

The FSF has publically stated that they will not 'go to bat' in a legal
sense over GPL violations of non-FSF copyrighted code.  In other words
you are correct in that nobody cares what the FSF says about violations
of the GPL license on Linux, because the FSF doesen't hold copyright
on Linux.

However, all it would take is someone to write a really useful part of
the Linux kernel, and transfer copyright ownership over to the FSF.
In that case an infringement against that section would draw them
in.  The FSF may already hold copyright with a kernel section or a Linux LKM
already, even.

> Linus has stated that, if software was written for a different
> O/S and was
> ported to linux, its not a "derivative work" and binary modules are
> acceptable and don't have to be GPLed

This is an extreme simplification.  For starters, binary modules like
drivers are going to interface to LGPL code and so won't be affected.
And, full-blown applications don't link into the kernel and as long
as they don't link into GPL'd libraries, they won't be affected
either.  None of this has anything to do with what Linus 'says'  Linus
is not the final arbitrator of what the GPL says, and what it
requires software developers to do.  Only a court can do that.

In any case, software that was written for a different O/S would
have already dealt with any GPL issues long before a port to Linux
would have taken place.  Statements like this that Linus makes
are pure FUD-busting PR, and aren't any kind of legal direction.

> Again, the reality is that none of this (the existence of some
> products that
> exist as binary modules) harm the community. They offer choices for users,
> and the more choices the better. What a horrible place the world would be
> without TiVo (who never would have done the work if they couldn't
> protect it)

Yah, people might actually have to READ a book instead of watching the
TV.  What horrors!!


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