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Re: Fedora Freedom and linux-libre

David Woodhouse wrote:
On Sun, 2008-06-08 at 17:29 -0500, Les Mikesell wrote:
Do you mean the part about identifiable sections that are not derived from the program and can be reasonably considered independent and separate works? That would seem the only possible interpretation for firmware blobs.

Exactly that part, yes. Where it says that the GPL applies to them

Can you quote that?  My copies all say it doesn't.

Specifically, the bit where where it says that the GPL (obviously)
doesn't "apply to those sections when you distribute them as separate
works. But when you distribute those _same_ sections as part of a whole
which is a work based on the Program, the distribution of the whole must
be on the terms of this License, whose permissions to other licensees
extend to the entire whole, and thus to each and every part regardless
of who wrote it."

Firmware that happens to be aggregated for convenient delivery and installation is no more a part of the GPL'd work than firmware that is already in your machine or than it would be if someone sent you a handful of new ROMs to plug in, or if you had a separate pre-run initialization program that downloaded all these separate components and registry initializers.

I agree with you that that seems to be the only possible interpretation
for firmware blobs.

Aggregation is the only possible interpretation since it is just a delivery mechanism for something no more related than ROM contents would be.

And when we take them and include them in the
bzImage and distribute that, the only possible interpretation is that
they are 'part of a whole which is a work based on the Program'.

No, _how_ you aggregate something is irrelevant. You are talking about file formats and containers here.

You do get an exception for 'mere aggregation on a volume of a storage
or distribution medium', which covers stuff like shareware/freeware CDs
on the covers of magazines -- so unrelated stuff which happens to be
shipped together in _that_ form doesn't get infected by the GPL.

Form has nothing to do with it - the terms apply to the content, not the intermediate storage.

But it's extremely hard to argue that combining non-GPL'd firmware into
the kernel image is 'mere aggregation on a volume of a storage or
distribution medium'.

It is exactly as much a part of the kernel as firmware that is already in ROM is - that is, not at all.

I know some people like to conveniently abbreviate that to 'mere
aggregation' -- since "mere" doesn't really mean much, so then they like
to claim it actually excuses _all_ forms of aggregation, effectively
cancelling out the previous two paragraphs of the GPL in their entirety.

No, the GPL applies to components that actually are parts of a work as whole or derivatives. Firmware is something separate, just carried along for the ride. It could clearly be already present in ROM or pre-loaded by something other than the kernel.

I don't find that interpretation particularly realistic, though --
although nobody is right or wrong about it until/unless a court rules on
it, of course.

Exactly - until a court says that the file format used to carry a separate component is relevant, it is just as much a separate entity as equivalent ROM contents.

To claim that there is no _legal_ basis for such a restriction is also
incorrect. Nothing but the GPL gives you the right to distribute the
Linux kernel. If the GPL has conditions with which you fail to comply,
then you may not distribute the Linux kernel.

I'm not sure why you'd consider being unable to distribute the Linux kernel to be a desirable thing, but the point here is that the GPL explicitly allows aggregation and nothing in copyright law or any court decisions that I've heard of have excluded bzImage or any other specific file formats as delivery containers for such aggregation.

  Les Mikesell
   lesmikesell gmail com

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