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Re: kernel driver module with proprietary closed source piece.

On Wed, Nov 06, 2002 at 04:38:47PM +0100, Henning Makholm wrote:
> Scripsit Sven Luther <luther@dpt-info.u-strasbg.fr>
> > Since this is a linux kernel module, the GPL makes the most
> > sense for this.
> ...
> > Would it be possible to release this under a GPL + exception licence, or
> > something such ?
> That is the usual advice for *applications* that have to include
> non-GPL parts. However, such a composite license is *not
> GPL-compatible*.  So kernels built with code under this license would
> be undistributable.
> [However, I confess ignorance about the actual working of loadable
> kernel modules. If it is possible to usefully distribute a .o module
> that the user can plug into, say, any 2.4.x kernel compiled with
> general module support, then the GPL compatibilty may matter less].

Well, the usual debian way of doing this, and the way i did this, is to
distribute a foo-source package, which contains the source of the
module, and installs it into /usr/src/modules. The user can then rebuild
a kernel-image package with make-kpkg kernel-image, and build a
foo-modules package with make-kpkg modules_image.

So, debian does not distribute the the module with the kernels, just
the module sources, and even then, it is the user responsability to
build the kernel and the module and install it.

> > Also, i guess i cannot put a proprietary closed source stuff into
> > even non-free, without at least a permission to redistribute it.
> True.

What kind of permission is needed here, would a simple "debian has the
right to redistribute <bunch of .o files>" be enough ?

> > I will encounter i guess the same kind of problems when they move the
> > proprietary part to userspace, i guess.
> That is where it gets funny. If "moving to userspace" means that the
> kernel is extended with an API whose sole purpose is to allow that
> particular proprietary code to attach itself, a good argument can be
> made the proprietary thingy is still part of the "modified work as a
> whole", such that the GPL conditions on GPL-freedom still applies to
> it.

Wemm, but the driver minus the user space thingy is GPLed, and can be
distributed with a standard kernel, and there is no breach of the GPL as
long as nobody use it, right ?

The same thing would apply if you simply moved the proprietary part into
a separate kernel module, with just minimal API or something such, isn't
it ? 


Sven Luther
> -- 
> Henning Makholm         "Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit."

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