Re: BSD Licensed files in Linux kernel.

From: Mike A. Harris (
Date: Tue Mar 07 2000 - 14:26:56 EST

On Wed, 8 Mar 2000, Darren Reed wrote:

>Sorry to disturb you folks, but someone has pointed out to me
>that there are some files (e.g. linux/drivers/net/bsd_comp.c)
>which are licensed under the BSD license and not the GPL.

There is nothing wrong with that, so long as it is the BSD
license WITHOUT the advertising clause.

>Whilst the Linux kernel itself is `meant' to be GPL'd, there
>would appear to be some doubt about whether the GPL would allow
>such files to be included (no sub-licensing, etc). Has anyone
>received legal advice about whether those files do in fact
>represent a further restriction that would conflict with the
>GPL ? If so, can they still be (re)distributed with Linux ?
>Afterall, it is not appropriate to just remove the offending

GPL code does not necessarily have to be linked ONLY to GPL
code. Rather, GPL code must be linked to GPL code *OR* code
which is MORE LIBERAL than the GPL itself. The original BSD
license required that an advertising clause be displayed on the
screen, etc if the code was used in modified form in other
projects. Thus the original BSD license is not compatible with
the GPL because this is seen as an "additional restriction",
however there is a second BSD license has been modified to remove
this ad clause. Any code under this second BSD license does not
have restrictions that are incompatible with GPL, and as such any
BSD code using the new license can be used with GPL code freely -
giving a GPL end product. In other words, using BSD code in a
GPL project makes the GPL end product swallow the code and end up
being GPL'd in the end.

GPL code can be linked with any non-GPL code so long as the
license for the non-GPL code does not impose restrictions which
are GPL incompatible.

In fairness to the authors of any BSD code that gets swallowed
into the kernel, or other projects, most folk redistribute their
modifications to the BSD code under a dual license GPL and BSD so
that BSD folk can still use the code with BSD license and arent
forced to use GPL.

>p.s. This is just to settle an argument elsewhere about this, so
>I thought I'd ask the "experts"...

Well, I'm no expert, but I've taken part in many similar
discussions and I think that my above statements are more or less
correct, however IANAL, so don't quote me directly.

In general, when mixing code licenses, GPL is either compatible
with another license, or not. If it is compatible, the end
product is GPL only, unless dual licensing is honoured by the
people involved in the project.

Hope this helps.


Mike A. Harris                                     Linux advocate     
Computer Consultant                                  GNU advocate  
Capslock Consulting                          Open Source advocate


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