Virally licensed code in FreeBSD kernel

Chad Perrin perrin at
Sun Apr 15 21:55:37 UTC 2007

On Sun, Apr 15, 2007 at 09:02:28PM +0200, Michel Talon wrote:
> Are you arguing for the pleasure of arguing or have you read the CDDL?

Why, yes, I have read the rest of it.  In fact, if you read further back
up the thread, you'll see that I quoted section 3.6 and discussed its
relationship to section 1.6, which you quoted below:

> The CDDL begins by *definitions*
> 1.3. "Covered Software" means (a) the Original Software, or (b)
> Modifications, or (c) the combination of files containing Original
> Software with files containing Modifications, in each case including
> portions thereof.
> 1.9. "Modifications" means the Source Code and Executable form of any of
> the following:
> A. Any file that results from an addition to, deletion from or
> modification of the contents of a file containing Original Software or
> previous Modifications;
> B. Any new file that contains any part of the Original Software or
> previous Modification; or
> C. Any new file that is contributed or otherwise made available under
> the terms of this License.
> 1.6. "Larger Work" means a work which combines Covered Software or
> portions thereof with code not governed by the terms of this License.

That's all well and good, but that's not where the trail of license
terms ends for determining the license terms of materials included in a
"Larger Work".  I'll quote 3.6 again for you:

  You may create a Larger Work by combining Covered Software with other
  code not governed by the terms of this License and distribute the
  Larger Work as a single product. In such a case, You must make sure the
  requirements of this License are fulfilled for the Covered Software.

Between these four sections -- 1.3, 1.6, 1.9, and 3.6 -- it is not 100%
clear what the intention (in a legal context) of the licensing as it
applies to a "Larger Work" must be.  Granted, it sure looks like no
other parts of a "Larger Work" that are not part of the same file as
code explicitly licensed CDDL would be covered by the CDDL, but a lawyer
could probably make a pretty good case for the license extending beyond
the explicitly licensed code in a case where a "Larger Work" is compiled
as a single binary executable.

In any case, even if the rest of the code in the compiled binary is not
in fact covered by the CDDL under any circumstances other than explicit
release under terms of the CDDL, one still has a source distribution
obligation for part of such a compiled binary according to the law and
the terms of the CDDL -- the part that is distributed under terms of the
CDDL, at minimum.  This means that a compiled binary that includes CDDL
code in its source files carries a source distribution legal obligation,
period.  We're chipping away at the "freeness" of the software either

> It results from the combination of these definitions that any "new file"
> which is not under CDDL, e.g. new file under BSD licence, is not
> modification of covered software, and consequently belongs to Larger
> work without being covered. The wording of 1.6 implies definitely that
> Larger work is *different* from Covered work, and consequently doesn't
> fall under the CDDL. This is completely different fromthe GPL which is
> viral in general. The CDDL is viral only for *files* containing
> explicitely portions of CDDL code, as said in 1.3.

That's the obvious interpretation -- unless you've spent a lot of time
with lawyers.

> As a consequence, being compiled by default in the kernel or not is
> totally irrelevant for the CDDL, it is not viral for the GPL code,
> period. Only notorious trolls like Brett Glass, or people unable to read
> say otherwise.

See above, re the fact that even if the rest of the code isn't then
covered by the CDDL the binary is still subject to a source distribution
obligation according to the license terms.

CCD CopyWrite Chad Perrin [ ]
Ben Franklin: "As we enjoy great Advantages from the Inventions of
others we should be glad of an Opportunity to serve others by any
Invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously."

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