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

On Wed, 2004-06-16 at 21:59, Joe Wreschnig wrote:
> Step by step, tell me where you start to disagree:
> If I write a program that contains the entire ls source code as one
> large C string, and then prints it out, that is a derivative work of the
> ls source.
> If I write a program that contains the entire ls source code in a
> similar manner and uploads it to a non-display device, it is still a
> derivative of ls; the only thing that has changed is the device I am
> printing to.
> If I write a program that contains a nontrivially long, copyrightable C
> string and uploads it to a non-display device, it is a derivative of
> that copyrightable C string. This is a generalization of the last
> statement to any copyrightable material. I suspect this is where you
> will disagree with me, but I am curious why.
> Firmware can be represented as a copyrightable C string, and the
> firmware in question is. This is a fact.
> That firmware is not released under the GPL. This is a fact.

I forgot to note something important here -- the firmware is not only
not released under the GPL, it is released under a GPL-incompatible
license (in most cases, no modification is allowed).

The remainder of the argument does not hold if we have the firmware (in
source or binary form) under some GPL-compatible license terms like the
2 clause BSD license. I still believe such things infringe upon the
GPL's terms, but *this* argument does not show that.

> But the rest of the program source (i.e. everything but the C string) is
> licensed under the GPL. Although not all of Linux is, a lot is; this is
> also a fact.
> So the program is a whole is licensed partly under the GPL, and partly
> under GPL-incompatible terms. This follows from the previous two.
> Therefore, the program as a whole has an inconsistent license, and
> Debian cannot legally distribute it. This follows from the previous
> conclusion and copyright law.
Joe Wreschnig <piman@debian.org>

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