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Re: Fedora Freedom and linux-libre

Alexandre Oliva wrote:
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

Sorry, after I looked it up I decided that the word 'user' in the exception would have been confusing here and left it out, forgetting about the dangling part.

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?


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.

And you are only looking at the middle when it is aggregated, not when it originates or is deployed to its separate destination.

The other is, is the
kernel separate from the device's firmware?

That's a different question, unrelated to how that firmware got into the device. You might make a plausible case that the GPL restricts code from being run on hardware with non-GPL bios and other firmware. I don't think I'd agree but it would be fun trying to work out the difference between calling something in ROM and a linked library.

> As of today, it very
clearly isn't.

I don't think that's clear at all, but I think in terms of interfaces and that pretty much by definition, one piece of code ends where the other interface starts - and since using those interfaces is the whole point of having the copy of code I'd have to consider it fair use of your copy.

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?

It's an interesting question, but it doesn't really relate to copyrights or derived works except in the upside down world of the GPL restrictions where no legal rulings exist.

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

I can't think about that without remembering the time when GPL software could not have existed without a commercial OS hosting it, and that history makes me believe that the GPL itself cannot prohibit this co-existence even if it is somewhat less necessary now. Saying it does would seem like going back in time and killing your grandparents so you can't exist now...

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.

Using header files as needed to make something work was pretty much established as fair use in AT&T's failed suit against BSDI years ago. I don't think there was an actual ruling but they gave up on any hope of winning. The FSF claimed their argument about functionality applied even if no work was copied.

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.

We know the GPL imposes restrictions. That's a given, not a risk. But it doesn't restrict against aggregating other things.

  Les Mikesell
    lesmikesell gmail com

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