[clug] The GPL and kernel modules

Chris Smart chris at kororaa.org
Tue Jun 20 10:10:11 GMT 2006

On Tue, 2006-06-20 at 18:14 +1000, Robert Edwards wrote:
> Users of BSD licensed software are _not_ more free to use their
> software than users of GPL software. The example cited in the article
> is a clear one on this point: MacOS X. Apple, as the license user, is
> free to make whatever restrictions it wants to the OS, but their users
> then need to put up with no freedom whatsoever to make any changes etc.
> etc. to that software.
Excellent point Bob, one I failed to notice. You are right. Apple has
freedom to combine free and non-free software, but at the cost of the
freedom of the end user.

I had often thought that the idea of freedom was somewhat contradictory
in terms of the GPL because I thought it was about ensuring that people
have the freedom to do whatever they want with the software (i.e, there
are no restrictions on what you can and can't do). But then I thought,
I'm not really free if what I want to do is to incorporate it with
non-free software. Shouldn't I be allowed to use the software as I
desire without restriction?

If I could modify GPL code and incorporate it into non-free software
then I am truly free to use the software as I wish. However, if I
distribute it then OTHERS are not free to use that software as THEY
desire. So in order to make everyone free on some level there has to be
restrictions on what can and can't be done with software to ensure
freedom generally.

As the article says, this is where the GPL and BSD License differ. GPL
ensures that all code remains free regardless of the author and
therefore all end users are free (ala Bob's point above).

The only "freedom" the GPL takes away from me is the ability to combine
it with non-GPL software and distribute it. This is fair enough
considering I would then be robbing others of their freedom. (Not to
mention taking from free software but not returning the favour.)

There is certainly a difference between "free software" and "free

I hope I made some sense in there somewhere.


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