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Re: Binaries under GPL(2) (was: Re: Bug#221709: ITP: at76c503a-source -- at76c503a driver source)

Scripsit Don Armstrong <don@donarmstrong.com>
> On Wed, 26 Nov 2003, Alexander Cherepanov wrote:
> > 24-Nov-03 22:02 Don Armstrong wrote:

> >> in order to redistribute under the terms of the GPL, you need to be
> >> able to provide source (the prefered form for modification.)

> > Section 2 of the GPL doesn't require to provide source. It doesn't
> > talk about source at all.

> Section 3 is the critical point here, as it covers distribution in
> object or executable formats, which is what we would be distributing.

I think Alexander's point may have merit. If you distribute whatever
precise bits it was that the copyright holder waved a copy of the GPL
over, those bits must be assumed to be "the Program", and as such GPL
#2 gives you right to distribute a modified version of the bits.

The fact that GPL #3 *also* gives you the right to distribute the bits
under somewhat different conditions should not affect the right given
in #2.


 1. This is clearly a wording oversight in the GPL. I'm not sure that
    Debian should base its decisions to distrtibute things on such

 2. Some kind of modification to the bits is required for #2 to be
    applicable. Then one needs to add prominent notices of the
    modification to the file. An ELF binary could conveivably
    be relinked to contain such a notice in an unused section,
    but it's harder do see how to do this for firmware object code
    in a closed format.

 3. Opaque bits GPL-licensed in this way are not GPL-compatible (!) -
    if they are combined with object code produced from GPLed *source*
    the resulting work is undistributable.

 4. (And, of course, opaque bits cannot be DFSG-free, GPL or no GPL,
    due to DFSG #2).

Henning Makholm                        "I ... I have to return some videos."

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