[clug] What can't be distributed with Linux?

Sam Couter sam at couter.id.au
Sun Mar 18 22:56:50 GMT 2007

Chris Smart <chris at kororaa.org> wrote:
> Hey all,
> Having run into this sort of thing myself in the past, I'm wondering if
> anyone has some resources on what can and can't be distributed with
> Linux?

If what you're distributing isn't a derived work of Linux, then it
doesn't matter that you're distributing Linux on the same CD or in the
same download.


> For example, AFAIK libdvdcss is illegal in countries where it is against
> the law to circumvent copy protection measures.

And that's the case whether you're distributing Linux (or any other
software) with it or not.

> What about things like win32codecs? I know most distros don't include
> them by default, but I'm not sure whether they are distributable. If
> they aren't, then how can they be downloaded from mplayer off the net?

They're widely available all over the net. I don't know whether that's
strictly legal or not, or whether it's legal to put them on a CD. Either
way, Linux isn't a factor.

> Then back in the kernel with things like, Intel's ipw3945 driver - it is
> under GPL and BSD license, so I assume this is incompatible with the
> kernel and the GPL. Similarly, the atheros chipset madwifi-ng driver,
> and so the list goes on.

As you've discovered in the past, kernel modules must be distributable
under the terms of the GPL if you distribute them with the kernel.
People have so far been getting away with distributing them seperately.

> Any resources for finding out this sort of thing?

Since you're asking about Linux, and Linux is distributed under the GPL,
you want the GPL FAQ:


For other software you'll need to check their licenses, see if they have
a FAQ, ask a solicitor, etc.
Sam Couter         |  mailto:sam at couter.id.au
                   |  jabber:sam at teknohaus.dyndns.org
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