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Re: Fedora Freedom and linux-libre

On Jun 10, 2008, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell gmail com> wrote:

> You aggregate something for distribution.  It's not a whole unless the
> components are combined.  And while this may be a fuzzy area for
> things covered by the stock GPL, the version that covers Linux
> specifically says

Parse error, end of sentence not detected.  Please fix and recompile

> No, what exempts it is the fact that they are separate things both in
> their origin and destination.

And how about during the split-second in which distribution occurs?
Aren't the components combined at that time?  Because, remember, it's
distribution that's regulated by copyrigth law.  Not the origin, not
the destination.

> When that was written and for a long time after, there was no GPL'd
> OS,

I don't think there is any of these today.  Even Fedora, that
purported to be under GPLv2, fixed that mistake some time ago,
adjusting the license over the collective work so as to say something
to the effect that "it's GPLv2 except in as much as this would
conflict with the license of the specific package".

> No, you can take separate works and put them together as long as they
> remain separate works - as the stuff loaded into a device's firmware
> is separate from the kernel.

You're looking at only one side of the question.  The other is, is the
kernel separate from the device's firmware?  As of today, it very
clearly isn't.  Or, what evidence can you provide that the kernel is
an independent work from the firmwares, against the various pieces of
evidence that it is dependent on them?

> Temporarily aggregating two separate items into one storage container
> doesn't change the fact that they are separate items.

Maybe the *temporarily* here is important.  What if it's permanent,
and you're subject to verbal attacks if you as much as mention the
possibility of separating them because this would break one of them?

>> I believe that exception is intended for things such as magazine cover
>> CDs, carrying a bunch of mostly unrelated software.

> Please... try to imagine the time when that was written and think
> about tapes full of commercial software instead.

Or rather think about the tapes full of GNU software under GPL, LGPL
and a bunch of other Free Software packages under various other
licenses, some GPL-compatible, some not, built for various operating

> In the past the FSF has claimed that something should be considered a
> derived work and covered by the GPL if it needed a GPL'd library to
> function, even if it was not distributed together.

IIRC the reasoning goes like, when it is linked with the library, or
gets code from library header files, the copied portions provide
strong indication that the program was developed as a work based on
the library.  And then, the copyrightable copied portions actually
make the resulting work actually derived from the library, even if its
sources and object files weren't.  And then, if you use dynamic
linking, this copies far less from the library, but it doesn't change
the status in any meaningful way.

>> But I think we can agree that _until_ there's a ruling, including the
>> firmware in the kernel is just a gratuitous risk.

> The same risk goes with any GPL covered work.

Nope.  The risk that there might be some unknown restricted portion of
code hiding in a GPLed program is quite different from that of a known
restricted portion.  There's even the issue of willful infringement
and accepting the calculated risk.

> It would make the fact that the firmware images are separate items
> more obvious

And it would make the kernel a more clearly separate item again.

Alexandre Oliva         http://www.lsd.ic.unicamp.br/~oliva/
Free Software Evangelist  oliva {lsd ic unicamp br, gnu.org}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! => http://www.fsfla.org/
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva {redhat com, gcc.gnu.org}

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