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Re: non-free firmware in kernel modules, aggregation and unclear copyright notice.

Scripsit Humberto Massa <humberto.massa@almg.gov.br>
> Henning Makholm wrote:

>  >Yes I would. Linking forms a tighter coupling than just
>  >placing the two parts side by side on a filesystem designed
>  >for general storage of byte streams. There is more to say
>  >about the situation than the naked fact that that they are
>  >aggreated on the same medium; ergo the sutiation does not
>  >constitute *only* aggregation, and the "mere aggregation"
>  >language of the GPL does not apply.

> Starting from the beginning: yes, it's true that linking forms
> normally a tighter (functional) coupling between some parts
> (caller/callee pairs, etc) of the things linked.

And therefore it is not "mere aggregation".

>  >In particular, the end of GPL #2 does not provide a blanket
>  >exception for all forms of aggregation; it specifically
>  >speaks about aggregation "on a volume of a storage or
>  >distribution medium".

> And that is exactly what I argue that an ELF executable with
> an embedded firmware to be uploaded is, like a zip/tgz archive
> that happens to contain, among other stuff, the firmware.

Either you are deliberately ignoring reality here, or you are really
ignorant about what the function of an ELF executable is, compared
to a zip/tgz archive. They are completely different things.

> Notice that I once have argued more completely about the
> hermeneutics of the GPL, explaining why I think that the "mere
> aggregation" clause 2, para 3 of the GPL is applicable to any
> anthology works, because of the dispositions on what is a
> derivative "work based on the Program" from clause 0.

There is no valid path from the explanation about "work based on the
program" to whether something is "mere aggregation". The "mere
aggregation" exception does not mention "work based on the program" at
all, except in mentioning the _components_ of the aggregation.

Specifically, there is _no_ implication that "mere aggregation" is
supposed to refer generally to "everything that is not a work based on
the program".

>  >It *is*, therefore, relevant, whether the GPL's special
>  >conditions for works "that in whole or in part contains the
>  >Program" apply to the linked object files.

> Hmmm. I still think that the phrase that the precedes what you
> just cited, "either the Program or any derivative work under
> copyright law", applies even more strongly.

I do not see any argument that this explanation has any relevance here
at all.

>  >No, it wouldn't be obviously unreasonable for a license to
>  >recognize such a "license boundary". However, as I see it the
>  >GPL happens not to do this.

> I think it does, when in clause 0 it defines << a "work based
> on the Program" means either the Program or any derivative
> work under copyright law" >>, which is an authoritative
> definition, instead of the "that is to say" explanation that
> comes after it.

It seems that you belive that the GPL gives you an unconditional
permission to copy anything as long as you can argue that it is not "a
work based on the program". I cannot find any such permission in the
GPL. I claim that ther is, in fact, no such permission, and your
argument that the binary is not "a work based in the program", can
therefore not be used to conclude that you are allowed to copy the

>  >I think the "derivative work" angle is a red herring. I do
>  >not think that either of the two parts that are being linked
>  >together (i.e. the driver and the firmware) are derivates of
>  >the other.  The relevant point is that distribution of the
>  >linked _result_ is nevertheless subject to the condition in
>  >GPL #2, which is in general the only source we have for a
>  >permission to distribute a non-verbatim-source form of the
>  >driver.

> And what would be the consequence on this?

The consequence of this is that the only way we can get permission to
copy the linked binary is to follow the conditions in GPL #2 and #3.

Of course, if you want to be really restrictive you could say that if
I modify my copy of the program in a way that does *not*, in your
opinion, create a "work based in the Program", then GPL #2 does not
give me permission to copy it _at all_, and I am left with no
permission to distribute the result.

Henning Makholm                             "Det er du nok fandens ene om at
                                         mene. For det ligger i Australien!"

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