On Mon, Nov 14, 2005 at 05:44:25PM -0600, Peter Samuelson wrote: > > [Michael Poole] > > For example, GRUB and Linux are both licensed under the GPL. Both > > would be included with these retail systems and would be written to > > locate and call functions within the BIOS; that is, GRUB and Linux > > would be dynamically linked against the (presumably non-free) BIOS. > > It has long been a perception that the computer BIOS, like the kernel, > provides an API across which a program can execute without considering > the kernel a derived work of the userspace programs, or the BIOS a > derived work of the kernel. The same is not believed to be true of > shared libraries in a userspace application. > > I myself am not certain what the important distinction is between those > two cases, but this is very well established GPL interpretation dogma. I think it comes back to the *intent* of the "modules it contains" restriction. It's quite simple to build a binary-only shared object and modify a GPL-licenced program to use it, so if this were allowed the copyleft provision of the GPL would be severely constrained in the face of a determined software hoarder. On the other hand, modifying a kernel or a BIOS to provide this binary-only interface is quite a bit more difficult. Looking at it that way, it becomes a lot easier to see why dynamically-linked libraries are targeted, while BIOSes aren't. - Matt  There aren't a lot of OSes to choose from to hack on, for instance, and the primary choice -- Linux -- is protected by it's own GPL sphere of invulnerability. As for BIOSes, well, the argument goes double for that little pool of non-freeness.  Although if you were utterly determined to go through with it, I suppose you could write a non-free program to run in userspace, then write a GPL kernel module which called it, and then modify the GPL'd program to call the kernel module which would call the non-free program. I can't imagine how that would really escape anyone's attention for long, and while judges may not be particularly tech-savvy, they're certainly not stupid.
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