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

Chris Smart chris at kororaa.org
Mon Mar 19 00:23:50 GMT 2007

On Mon, 2007-03-19 at 09:56 +1100, Sam Couter wrote:
> 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.
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#MereAggregation
Thanks Sam,
Sure. I was using the term more loosely, as a general Linux
distribution. Anything that is userspace does not affect the kernel
license. I was after some sort of website that says "these things you
cannot include" be they userspace, modules, plugins, firmware or
whatever else.
> And that's the case whether you're distributing Linux (or any other
> software) with it or not.
Yep, so this is the sort of thing I am after.
> > 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.
Yeah, not affecting the kernel, but still wanna know if I'm generally
allowed to distribute it or not (as part of a distribution).
> > 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.
Oh yeah I remember this area pretty well ;) I was just hoping someone
had done the homework for me. I believe the ipw3945 driver is under the
GPL and the BSD license, but I don't know for sure and I don't know
which components are under which license and whether it is ok or not. I
would say, however, that if it is not GPL2 then it is not compatible
with Linux and can't be distributed.

Firmware I guess comes down to its individual license, for example
ipw2200 firmware says you can distribute it in the readme, but something
like prism might not allow. Rather than go through them all myself it's
be nice if someone somewhere had done it all already ;)

> > 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:
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html
> For other software you'll need to check their licenses, see if they have
> a FAQ, ask a solicitor, etc.
Yeah, it all gets so complicated doesn't it..

Thanks for that.


More information about the linux mailing list