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Re: How long is it acceptable to leave *undistributable* files in the kernel package?

On Wed, Jun 16, 2004 at 08:23:19PM -0400, Michael Poole wrote:
> The question is not whether you
> extract the work later, but whether the collective work is governed by
> the GPL.

I agree that this is the question.

> Copyright covers creative content, not mechanical
> transformations, so whether the firmware is in an ASCII format --
> suitable for input to a compiler -- or a binary format -- suitable for
> loading as part of a kernel module, userspace module, or Windows
> device driver -- is irrelevant.

This criteria is met -- what linux does with the firmware is more than
just cat $firmware >>$kernel.

> I (and others, including Linus) believe that is sufficient to qualify
> as mere aggregation: the firmware defines a very clear and strong
> interface.

Does Linus agree with you?

> This is in contrast to the executable parts of a kernel
> module, which have no limits in the kernel's address space.  To borrow
> the US federal court idea of abstraction, filtration and comparison,
> you can define a very abstract (high-level) interface for firmware;
> you cannot do so for most modules because they depend so closely on
> the rest of the kernel.

In Computer Associates International Inc. v. Altai Inc., you've got a
complete re-implementation.  There had been copyright violation earlier,
but Altai agreed that that was copyright violation and re-implemented
the parts in question.  The "Abstraction, Filtration, Comparison" test
was used to determine whether or not the result -- after rewriting the
infringing parts -- was a derivative work.

I don't think there's any question about the the firmware when distributed
outside the context of the linux kernel, so this doesn't seem very


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