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Re: Kernel Firmware issue: are GPLed sourceless firmwares legal to distribute ?

On Wed, 18 Oct 2006 13:06:19 +0100 Stephen Gran wrote:

> This one time, at band camp, Don Armstrong said:
> > baring competent legal advice to the contrary,[1] distributing
> > sourceless GPLed works is not clear of legal liability. Doing
> > otherwise may put ourselves and our mirror operators in peril.
> I think the argument here revolves around whether the GPL is a
> contract to our users, or a license from the copyright holders.  If it
> is a license from the copyright holders, than the only ones who can
> sue Debian for distribution of sourceless GPL'ed works are, er, the
> people who originally gave out those works in that form.  I understand
> there is some contention around whether this claim is accurate (and I
> claim no deep understanding of international copyright and contract
> law to make a claim for either side), but I think that is the fairly
> simple counter argument.

How so?
Let's assume that *only* copyright holders can sue the Debian Project
and mirror operators (whether this is true or false is irrelevant for
this discussion).

What makes you think that every and each copyright holder acted in good
faith when started to distribute firmware under the terms of the GNU GPL
v2, while keeping the source code secret?
Some copyright holder could be deliberately preparing a trap, in order
to be able to sue at whim, whenever he decides he wants to.

Moreover, maybe the undistributability could be intended: some copyright
holder could have intentionally chosen the GNU GPL v2, while retaining
source code, in order to be the *only one* legally allowed to distribute
that firmware (you know, forcing users to visit his website and stuff
like that...).

Or even worse, who says that the copyright holder is actually aware that
the firmware is distributed inside a GPL'd driver?
In some cases, the firmware blob could be included in the driver without
retaining proper copyright and permission notices.  The blob could
*appear* to be GPL'd, while it's not.

Hope that helps.

But it is also tradition that times *must* and always
do change, my friend.   -- from _Coming to America_
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
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