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Re: kernel driver module with proprietary closed source piece.

On Wed, Nov 06, 2002 at 04:11:12PM +0000, Edmund GRIMLEY EVANS wrote:
> I'm not an expert, but I hope my thoughts are helpful.
> Sven Luther <luther@dpt-info.u-strasbg.fr>:
> > There is a problem though, the current module contains code they control
> > plus a piece of proprietary code implementing a software ADSL decoder or
> > somethign such, which they don't have the sources for.
> It might not make any difference, but does this proprietary code run
> on the host, or is it downloaded onto an embedded system? I'm guessing
> the latter.

No, it is run on the host, this is just a cheap software ADSL modem.

> > The ideal solution would be to move the proprietary part out of the the
> > actual kernel driver and into userspace, and they are working on this, i
> > think, but it is still not ready.
> If you take the proprietary part out of the driver, then the driver
> can be DFSG-free, but it still depends on the non-free stuff, so it
> would have to go into contrib rather than main, I think.
> > Now, i believe that releasing this driver, in its current state, without
> > moving the proprietary part into userspace, under the GPL is wrong, since
> > they are linking proprietary closed source code, which will break the
> > GPL of their driver and the linux kernel.
> I don't think it breaks the GPL of the kernel if the driver
> communicates with the kernel only through the standard module
> interface. However, there would be a problem with the driver itself
> being GPL if some of the source is not available.
> > Would it be possible to release this under a GPL + exception licence, or
> > something such ?
> I would guess it is possible. However, if the driver doesn't contain
> anything very clever, perhaps they might be willing to release it
> under a BSD licence or just make it public domain; it might be
> simpler.

Will this not cause problems when insmoding the module into a GPLed
kernel ?

> > It would still taint the kernel,
> I don't think so.

Well, anything apart from a true GPL licence does say so when

> > and have to go into
> > non-free,
> Yes.
> > but at least the code they wrote would be GPLed.
> It is indeed an advantage it at least part of the driver can be freely
> modified and redistributed, but BSD or public-domain would achieve
> that too.


> > Also, i guess
> > i cannot put a proprietary closed source stuff into even non-free,
> > without at least a permission to redistribute it.
> Yes.
> > I will encounter i guess the same kind of problems when they move the
> > proprietary part to userspace, i guess.
> If there is permission to redistribute the proprietary bit, then I
> don't think it really helps to move the proprietary part to userspace.
> For simplicity you might as well put the whole lot in non-free either
> way.
> If there is no permission to redistribute the proprietary bit, then
> there is an advantage in separating out the proprietary bit because
> Debian can then at least distribute the free and distributable part in
> contrib.

Ok, ...


Sven Luther

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