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

On Thu, Apr 14, 2005 at 10:56:02PM -0700, Michael K. Edwards wrote:
> On 4/14/05, Glenn Maynard <glenn@zewt.org> wrote:
> [snip]
> > The FSF FAQ says that *all* software linking against GPL libraries must
> > GPL-compatible[1].  [2] contradicts the above even more directly.
> > 
> > Now, it's possible that they're wrong; there's the obvious theory, for
> > example, that they've long since realized this, but have no way of
> > fixing it without admitting to a "loophole" in the GPL.  I've seen lots
> > of these "derivative work" arguments (and others, such as whether the
> > GPL is a contract), and have never seen a reply from the FSF addressing
> > them; given their potential severity, that at least raises an eyebrow.
> > 
> > Of course, I've never raised these with them personally, since I'm not
> > even qualified to tell which arguments have enough grounding in reality to
> > avoid wasting their time, and I don't know whether anyone else has; so
> > I don't place too much weight in that particular theory.  (I don't believe
> > they're unaware of the arguments, though, and dispelling misconceptions
> > about the GPL is entirely in their interest, so I'd expect to see responses
> > to these things.)
> I've engaged in an extended discussion with the person on the other
> end of licensing@fsf.org, to whom Eben Moglen directed me, on both the
> "derivative work" and "GPL is a contract" points.  IANAL, and neither
> is licensing@fsf.org, but I raised many of the US legal precedents
> which I have previously cited on debian-legal.  Suffice it to say that
> if the FSF has a leg to stand on, it's not visible through that
> mechanism of inquiry.

It's frustrating that the FSF will often only talk in private, and it
takes a lot of effort to even get permission from them to repost their
replies.  Very simply, they've convinced huge numbers of programmers
to use their license based on certain claims, and refusing to publically
address potential problems--while at the same time, more and more people
are using it--is horribly irresponsible.

I say that as something of an outsider to the GPL--I release most of
my code under the X11 license, now; I don't care about preventing
proprietary use of my code, and in terms of copyleft, I consider "release
improvements to my code so we can all use them" vastly more important
than the "if you don't free your entire program, you can't use my code
at all" aspect we're discussing here, being somewhat alienated from the
unneighborly "our way or the highway" of the GPL.  But, people should
be choosing licenses based on reality, and not using a license with
potentially unenforcable restrictions under the belief that they're
enforcable--if the FSF knows these aspects of the GPL don't really exist,
and claims they do anyway, well ...

(I'd like to think that this is completely off-base--after all, it's a
little hard to draw conclusions from inaction--but as you say, the FSF
hasn't made any public statements about these issues, so all we can do
is draw what conclusions we can from that ...)

Glenn Maynard

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