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Re: acenic firmware situation summary

On Sun, Dec 12, 2004 at 03:17:31PM -0500, Nathanael Nerode wrote:
> Warning: long. CC'ed to debian-legal in case anyone there knows anything more.

How about cc'ing the author of the driver?  He might know the answer.

> The source for the acenic driver is in fact in the source package for 
> the kernel.
> The firmware is absent from Debian for *very* good reasons: the version in
> the Linux kernel is distributed without proper copyright notices or a license.
> (SCO should really have bought up firmware copyrights if it wanted to sue Linux
> distributors.)  I do so wish people wouldn't go off ranting about
> "anti-firmware fanatics" before checking the facts.
> (If someone wants to try to change Debian policy so that Debian can distribute
> copyright-encumbered works with no clear license, go ahead.  However,
> Debian's current policy is, I believe, to follow the law strictly in
> copyright matters.)
> --
> As a point of interest, the source code for the ACENIC firmware is
> actually available at http://alteon.shareable.org/, but it comes without
> a proper license, so it's no good if you want to do things legally.
> The web page says:
> "Look at the source files yourself to understand any licensing restrictions on
> their use.  Alteon's license may be summarised like this: you may share
> and develop the firmware, but it is only for use with Alteon NIC
> products."
> Unfortunately, looking at the source files, I find that they are "all rights
> reserved" and I can find no license grant.  The Alteon Open Firmware
> Agreement doesn't appear to exist any more.  So his summary of the license
> appears to be wrong.
> Perhaps someone can track down the original license
> listed on the now-defunct web page (supposedly http://alteonwebsystems.com/)
> where Alteon allowed people to download the firmware?
> (This is a sad lesson for the developers of the Arsenic enhanced firmware:
> Never, ever, point to someone else's license on a web page; *always* put a
> verbatim copy in your distribution.)
> At least they have proper copyright notices; I suppose Alteon's successor
> might be convinced to release it under a Free license, or at least a
> license which grants permission to distribute.  Alteon is now owned by Nortel,
> but apparently sold the ACENIC business to 3Com.  Did that include the firmware?
> Who knows?  Unfortunately, 3Com seems to be pretty bad about responding to
> licensing-related requests.  If anyone knows someone on the "inside", it would
> help.  :-P
> (Parts are also copyright "Essential Communication Corp.", and I have no
> idea what's become of them; I think they may be the "Essential
> Communications Corp." which was bought by ODS Networks according to
> http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/stories/1998/05/04/daily7.html.  Also,
> Alteon presumably had a license from them, and it may allow Alteon to
> sublicense arbitrarily; http://www.socratek.com/Agreement-Preview.asp?num=37354
> may have something to do with this, or may not.)
> --
> More usefully, the alteon.shareable.org web page features the documentation
> for the board, and although that's all under copyright too, it could certainly
> be legally used as a reference for writing your own firmware.  (And if you do,
> you can release it under a Free license and everyone will be happy.)
> Jamie Lokier's tools on the same webpage, in contrast to the firmware itself,
> are GPL, and could certainly be used to help develop new firmware.
> A related page is http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~tjd21/alteon/, with more
> GPL tools which might be useful for anyone developing new firmware.
> In addition, if someone gets the original firmware licensed acceptably (or
> writes new firmware to which the changes can be applied), there's some
> serious improvements -- the "Arsenic" firmware -- released under a
> 4-clause BSD license from http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/Research/SRG/netos/arsenic/.
> I think that sums it up.
> -- 
> This space intentionally left blank.
> -- 
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"Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon 
the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those
conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse
to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince 
himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep 
he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception." -- Mark Twain

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