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Re: The bigger issue is badly licensed blobs (was Re: Firmware poll

Toni Mueller wrote:

> Hello,
> On Wed, 30.08.2006 at 09:27:21 +0200, Marco d'Itri <md@Linux.IT> wrote:
>> On Aug 30, Nathanael Nerode <neroden@fastmail.fm> wrote:
>> > Debian must decide whether it wants to ship BLOBs with licensing which
>> > technically does not permit redistribution.  At least 53 blobs have
>> > this
>> > problem.  Many of them are licensed under the GPL, but without source
>> > code
>> > provided.  Since the GPL only grants permission to distribute if you
>> > provide source code, the GPL grants no permission to distribute in
>> > these cases.
>> Many people disagree with this interpretation.

Marco trolled again.  FYI, no serious person disagrees with this

>From the GPL:

3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, 
under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of
Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

   a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable
    source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections
    1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

-- Debian is not doing this for the BLOBs

    b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three
    years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your
    cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete
    machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be
    distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium
    customarily used for software interchange; or,

-- Debian is not doing this for anything

    c) Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer
    to distribute corresponding source code.  (This alternative is
    allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you
    received the program in object code or executable form with such
    an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)

-- Debian is not allowed to do this

So Debian isn't satisfying the conditions of clause 3.  Therefore, the GPL
does not grant Debian permission to distribute the BLOBs in object code or
executable form.

> I'm not a lawyer, but my take on this is that if someone ships you a
> BLOB under the GPL, you have the legal right to demand sources from
> him.

Unfortunately not.  Generally, only a copyright holder can sue for GPL

(In contrast, Debian's Social Contract promises that Debian will distribute
source code for all the programs in Debian -- so under common law I could
sue Debian for false advertising because it isn't distributing source code
for some of the programs.)

*However*, consider the following case:
(1) The driver is written by person A and released properly under the GPL.
(2) The firmware is written by corporation B and distributed without source.
(3) Either B or person C combines the firmware with the driver to make a
single work, and distributes it -- without the source for the firmware.

In this case, person A can sue any distributor of the combined work. 
Arguably, any contributor with copyright in any part of the Linux kernel
might be able to sue any distributor of a kernel with firmware in it.  Some
of the contributors to the kernel are very vociferously against sourceless
firmware, and might actually do it.

Dropping -vote, setting followups to -legal.

Nathanael Nerode  <neroden@fastmail.fm>

Bush admitted to violating FISA and said he was proud of it.
So why isn't he in prison yet?...

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