[clug] The GPL and kernel modules

Cameron Patrick cameron at patrick.wattle.id.au
Wed Jun 21 02:55:13 GMT 2006

Conrad Canterford wrote:

> Getting back to the topic at hand -
> Both FSF and Wasabi Systems are pushing barrows full of FUD.

Well, their interpretation certainly agrees with how _I'd_ interpret the
GPL for software I write.  The point of the GPL is to keep the entire
code base Free software, and hacking proprietary plug-ins or drivers
into it is very much against the spirit of the exercise.  If wanted that
to be allowed, I'd release software under the MIT or BSD licence.

Linus has explicitly said that he's fine with proprietary modules for
Linux, and I believe that the copy of the GPL distributed with the
kernel is modified to contain a statement to this effect.  (Hmm, after
checking it actually says that user applications running on the kernel
are considered as excempt from being 'derived works', which is somewhat

Quite a few other kernel developers are unhappy with this, and so there
is now a licence field in every kernel module and a distinction between
"GPL-only APIs" (which only GPL-ed kernel modules can access) and other
exported symbols (which any kernel module can access).  More and more of
the kernel is being marked as GPL only.

q.v. http://zgp.org/pipermail/linux-elitists/2005-October/011317.html

    I, and others who hold copyrights on portions of the kernel are
    saying very clear things about this now, "proprietary kernel modules
    are illegal."  It's pretty simple.

Linus's perspective on the matter:


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