On Sun, 2008-06-08 at 17:29 -0500, Les Mikesell wrote:
Do you mean the part about identifiable sections that are not derived
from the program and can be reasonably considered independent and
separate works? That would seem the only possible interpretation for
Exactly that part, yes. Where it says that the GPL applies to them
Specifically, the bit where where it says that the GPL (obviously)
doesn't "apply to those sections when you distribute them as separate
works. But when you distribute those _same_ sections as part of a whole
which is a work based on the Program, the distribution of the whole must
be on the terms of this License, whose permissions to other licensees
extend to the entire whole, and thus to each and every part regardless
of who wrote it."
I agree with you that that seems to be the only possible interpretation
for firmware blobs. And when we take them and include them in the
bzImage and distribute that, the only possible interpretation is that
they are 'part of a whole which is a work based on the Program'.
You do get an exception for 'mere aggregation on a volume of a storage
or distribution medium', which covers stuff like shareware/freeware CDs
on the covers of magazines -- so unrelated stuff which happens to be
shipped together in _that_ form doesn't get infected by the GPL.
But it's extremely hard to argue that combining non-GPL'd firmware into
the kernel image is 'mere aggregation on a volume of a storage or
I know some people like to conveniently abbreviate that to 'mere
aggregation' -- since "mere" doesn't really mean much, so then they
to claim it actually excuses _all_ forms of aggregation, effectively
cancelling out the previous two paragraphs of the GPL in their entirety.
I don't find that interpretation particularly realistic, though --
although nobody is right or wrong about it until/unless a court rules on
it, of course.
To claim that there is no _legal_ basis for such a restriction is also
incorrect. Nothing but the GPL gives you the right to distribute the
Linux kernel. If the GPL has conditions with which you fail to comply,
then you may not distribute the Linux kernel.