[clug] The GPL and kernel modules

Neill Cox neill at ace-hosting.com.au
Wed Jun 21 04:14:17 GMT 2006

> Cameron Patrick said:
> This is a nice theory. It might even work. But I certainly wouldn't be
> betting any money on it. One of the biggest problems large scale GPL
> projects are going to face is that it is a collaborative effort. All you
> need is for one developer out of a thousand to say "Oh, but *I* don't mind
> my code being used by non-GPL'd programs" and suddenly you have a horrible
> horrible mess to sort out.

Actually it's more the reverse.  All you need is one kernel developer who
objects to their GPL'd code being used with binary drivers and whose code
you want to distribute.  Copyright holders are free to ignore violations
of their copyright if they want.  AFAIK unlike trademark law they don't
lose the right to enforce their copyright in different crcumstances.

> Personally, I don't see a problem with binary kernel modules provided some
> basic rules are followed. They are no more a "derivative work" than any
> piece of commercial software that runs on Linux, MacOS or Windoze.

Personally I feel differently, and this is why we get back to the courts
having to decide.  Your, or my opinions have no legal weight.  Espcially
if we are not copytright lawyers (which I'm certainly not.)

> This strikes me as absolutely no different to any other commercial
> software. We as consumers have a far more effective solution to the
> problem then bitching and moaning about how these things are not within
> the spirit of free software. If you don't like the conditions under which
> you need to use the product DON'T USE IT. Send the relevant company an
> email saying you'd have bought their product if they had GPL'd drivers,
> then go buy something else that does. That's going to be far far more
> effective than lining their pockets regardless.

Good advice.  A little hard with 3D accelerated video cards where both the
major players distribute binary only drivers.  How are Intel's drivers
distributed?  How good is their hardware?  Last time I bought 3D hardware
there didn't seem any good choices.

Binary drivers do cause technical problems as well.  Apparently the ATI
and Nvidia drivers are a major pain in getting suspend/resume to work for

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