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

On Wed, Aug 30, 2006 at 05:16:29PM +0200, 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.
> 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. So, in other words, I think Debian (or SPI? or FSF?) *could* make
> a real hurricane in the press (and courts) by trying to wrestle source
> code from said vendors. If that'd be good or bad for Debian, I don't
> know, but it will be very expensive and time consuming.

My own understanding, and we discussed this on -legal when we aproached
broadcom about the tg3 licencing, is that this is not the case, not really

What happens, is that we, debian have not the possibility to provide those
sources, and as thus, simply lose all rights per the GPL to distribute the
source code in question, and thus what could happen, would be for the
copyright holder to sue us for not respecting the GPL clauses. Obviously,
since he doesn't do so himself, he would lose anyway, so the point is mostly
moot, but the GPL itself says it doesn't allow us to distribute the
problematic code in those cases.

Since the firmware blobs are not derivative works of the kernel, but
constitute mere agregation in the same binary format, the authors of other
pieces of GPLed code fo the linux kernel cannot even sue us for distributing
the kernel code with those GPL-violating binary BLOBs.


Sven Luther

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