60

Two things. First, Linux does not require contributors to assign copyright to some central person. Copyright on it is spread out among many, many people (including some who are dead, in which case much effort would be required to figure out who inherited the copyright). Any of them could stop a license switch, unless someone goes through and removes all ...


19

Do you customers have any right to modify the source they've been given? Do they have the right to distribute the code without your permission? Do they have the right to distribute modified versions of your code? All of those would be allowed under the GPL, but aren't under a proprietary license. Open source is not just about the ability to use the code, it'...


18

Here is a video of Linus Torvalds where he explains his opinion on GPLv3. Some excerpts from his speech: Here we give your version 3 and then we try to sneak in these new rules and try to force everybody to upgrade. That was the part I disliked. And the FSF did some really sneaky stuff. Downright immoral in my opinion. [...] I am thinking ...


14

This question was already asked on Stackoverflow in 2008 (but closed as off-topic there). This is a copy of the answer by Will M: Here is a short list of some the major differences: internationalization: they used new terminology, rather than using language tied to US legal concepts patents: they specifically address patents (including the ...


14

When this question was asked, the kernel's COPYING file started with the following comment (second paragraph): Also note that the only valid version of the GPL as far as the kernel is concerned is this particular version of the license (ie v2, not v2.2 or v3.x or whatever), unless explicitly otherwise stated. Nowadays it says, more succinctly, Being under ...


12

As Mark Plotnick notes, version 0.01 of Linux was released under its own, fairly liberal crayon license. The only problem with it is that it prohibits any distribution fee, which would make it GPL-incompatible. Here's the full text: This kernel is (C) 1991 Linus Torvalds, but all or part of it may be redistributed provided you do the following: - Full ...


11

No. Just no. Firstly, this has nothing to do with a CoC. If it was possible for developers to de-license code after release last month, then it's possible this month; if it wasn't possible last month, then it isn't possible this month. I'd argue, at least in my home jurisdiction of England and Wales, that it's not possible, because of promissory estoppel, ...


9

Copyright and open source are not mutually exclusive. In fact, most open-source licenses depend on copyright in order to function properly. The GPL comes most readily to mind: you couldn't enforce the requirement to share-alike if copyright didn't let the author decide who may or may not copy the work. But even something as simple as an MIT-style attribution ...


8

I don't think your question admits of an answer better than "you are right, it's not a great idea". But it may help to know you're not the only person who thinks this way. I heard Georg Greve, ex-president of the FSFE, talk about the hardware-trust problem, and possible solutions from the Open Power Foundation, at FOSDEM 2017. We need hardware to run ...


8

One of the main differences between GPLv2 and GPLv3 is the so called "anti Tivoization clause", meant to prevent "Tivoization". From https://www.gnu.org/licenses/quick-guide-gplv3.en.html: Tivoization: Some companies have created various different kinds of devices that run GPLed software, and then rigged the hardware so that they can change the software ...


8

Provided it is a real clean room Linux Driver (i.e. it is not adapted from a GPL-licensed Linux Driver), then the company that owns its copyright does not have to respect the GPL. Having the potential to be linked to the Linux-kernel, or to Linux system libraries, or using some Linux API in the manner it is supposed to be used, does not trigger the GPL. ...


7

Eric Raymond once wrote: Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer's personal itch. (from catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/ ) And that's pretty much the gist of it. Almost all successful FOSS projects began because they solved a specific problem, whether that's an individual developer as ESR wrote, or an individual ...


7

According to what Linus says his lawyers say, this is a means of "codifying the intention in the code itself", so it does have legal significance. For more information, you should read the LWN.net article itself, as well as Linus's response. Kernel modules depend on Linux's internal symbols to work, and it's uncertain whether they count as a derivative ...


7

Meanwhile the Software Freedom Conservancy published a statement which explains it quite well https://sfconservancy.org/news/2018/sep/26/GPLv2-irrevocability/ The answer is: no. As a summary: By contributing to the Kernel you agreed to the license: "by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of ...


7

Source code distributed as 'proprietary' usually does not come with the legal rights that open-source code does. In a nutshell: You cannot legally modify it You cannot legally redistribute it You cannot legally redistribute modified versions As such: You won't be able to get it into the kernel Distributions won't be able to put it into their repositories ...


6

The part of the COPYING file which says this is in the appendix which gives GNU's recommendations for how to apply the license. Just because they recommend that authors use that text and allow their software to be licensed under future versions doesn't mean all authors have to do so! Linus Torvalds decided he would not, and so the kernel is licensed only ...


6

Yes, they can. Firstly, the kernel is licensed under GPLv2 with a syscall exception, which says that the kernel's "copyright does not cover user programs that use kernel services by normal system calls - this is merely considered normal use of the kernel, and does not fall under the heading of "derived work"". So Microsoft could ...


6

Most of the binary blobs in Linux are in device drivers, and most of those are in WiFi drivers. Their function is to be the operating code for the hardware on the device; unless they're loaded when the hardware is initialised, the hardware will not function. It is unfortunate that WiFi manufacturers, in particular, have chosen this method of operation; but ...


5

It's exactly what it says on the tin. Free and open source software is software that the copyright owners license to you (or anyone else) under a free license (that meets the Open Software Initiative (OSI) or Free Software Foundation (FSF) definition of open source or free software) The copyright is owned by Linus, rPath and Intel (and possibly others). ...


5

The third-party company claims that the Linux Driver is derivative work of the driver they previously developed for OSX, so they say GPL does not apply here. If they link to the Linux-kernel, they link against GPL-software, so they are obliged to respect the terms of the GPL. It doesn't matter if the software was previously developed for OSX. In the ...


5

I would not touch it, because of the proprietary licence. Why Idealism Practicality What are (some of) the practical implications? If a change is needed to the driver in the future. Then no one but the proprietor can make legal changes. These can include bug fixes, security fixes, comparability fixes, feature improvements. Can I put a copy on all of my ...


5

Considering that Canonical has a Silver Membership in the Linux Foundation, I think it's safe to assume the Foundation is aware of its use of the mark in Ubuntu marketing and has either granted tacit or explicit permission for this deviation from their trademark guidelines. As for why the Linux Foundation doesn't just "sue everyone," there are two ...


4

Per this article published while the GPL 3.0 was drafted (and mentioned by apsilers): We have made two changes that recognize and facilitate distribution of covered works in object code form using BitTorrent or similar peer-to-peer methods. First, under new subsection 6e, if a licensee conveys such a work using peer-to-peer transmission, that licensee is ...


4

In the linux kernel, several symbols are exported with EXPORT_GPL_ONLY, and as a result are only available if your kernel module contains MODULE_LICENSE("GPL"). Do either of those have any legal meaning? Yes. Every lawyer I consulted with on the topic were mostly consistent on their interpretation and with the excellent answer from @congusbongus Short of ...


4

I am not a lawyer, but here are my two cents: "This means that this eBPF module needs to be under GPL license." Actually, the code needs to be GPL-compatible. This, from the point of view of the kernel, are the following strings in the module info: GPL: GNU Public License v2 or later. GPL v2: GNU Public License v2. GPL and additional rights: GNU ...


4

The GPL does allow you to distribute modified binaries, but only as long as you also offer the source code. For the GPLv2, this is discussed in section 3: Either you distribute the binary together with the complete source code, or you distribute the binary together with a written offer for the complete source code. The relationship between GPLv2 licensed ...


4

You said “hardware”, not specifically “PC” hardware, so let’s talk about why Free software on Proprietary hardware might make sense in this IoT world we’re living in. First, let me say that I’ll be using the work “hardware” here to apply to the entire device, not just the CPU or MCU. Ok, so I buy a new smart thermostat for my house. Don’t ask me what’s so ...


4

The GPL only applies to derivative works of the GPL-covered software. In particular: if you modify the covered software, or if you include the covered software (whether in whole or in part) into another software such as by copying code or by linking a library. The GPL does not extend to other programs, even if those other programs communicate with the GPL-...


4

Userspace is fine. According to the syscall exception, regular programs that interface with the kernel "by normal system calls" are not subject to GPLv2 obligations. If your userspace program interfaces with the kernel in a more intimate fashion than "normal" system calls, then this exception might not apply, but the vast majority of ...


3

1) Who did you buy a support contract from? 2) If they are using GPL software (ie, the Linux kernel) then they must give you the source if you ask for it, and there should be an offer made for it in your documentation, etc. HOWEVER... they may be using binary blobs to keep some things proprietary.... 3) This is Linus' policy for submissions made to the ...


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