Microsoft's Dfs - GPL LICENSE ISSUE

Wes Peters wes at
Thu May 30 09:24:02 GMT 2002

"David W. Chapman Jr." wrote:
> > > > It is GPL code. I don't think it can be used in the FreeBSD kernel
> > > > (correct me if I'm wrong Steve).
> > >
> > > I don't think this will be a problem.  We currently have a GPL math
> > > emulator in our kernel, just not enabled by default
> > >
> > > options         GPL_MATH_EMULATE        #Support for x87 emulation via
> > >                                         #new math emulator
> > >
> > > If it can be loaded as a kernel module it will be even less of a
> > > problem, but I don't know the specifics about the program in question.
> >
> > Uhmm that's not entirely true.
> > There is a problem. When you distribute a kernel in which that module
> > has been linked (statically or dynamically) you have to release the
> > whole kernel under the GPL terms if you distribute it in binary form
> Even if it has been dynamically linked after the fact and the kernel
> was not originally distributed with this module?

That depends on how you distribute it.  If dynamically linking is up to
the user, an optional feature, then no.  If the module is required for
the "device" to perform it's most basic function, then it is a necessary
part of the "device" as a whole.

The GPL has a lot words crafted around this concept, but since the authors
of the GPL did not write what they mean in clear language, virtually any
legal interpretation is possible.  It is not likely that a court will
draw any legal distinctions between the technicalities of static vs.
dynamic linking, but rather on whether the code is a required or optional
part of the device functionality.  Or said legal counsel for my last
employer, which produced an embedded software platform based on OpenBSD.
I have seen the same opinion from other legal sources who have studied
the GPL with respect to embedded systems.

> > (you must distribute the source of the whole kernel or offer a written
> > offer to give the source at no cost but that of the medium).
> > not doing so or offering only the GPL code part as source would be a
> > copyright violation of the owners of the code of the module.
> How does this gpl program differ from the gpl math emulator we
> distribute with our kernel?

It's completely optional, and not needed for the "device", i.e. a web
server, to function.  Also, FreeBSD is the product itself, not the

            "Where am I, and what am I doing in this handbasket?"

Wes Peters                                                         Softweyr LLC
wes at                                 

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