Re: Linux GPL and binary module exception clause?

From: bill davidsen
Date: Wed Dec 03 2003 - 18:52:01 EST

In article <Pine.LNX.4.53.0312031648390.3725@chaos>,
Richard B. Johnson <root@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
| On Wed, 3 Dec 2003, Kendall Bennett wrote:
| > Hi All,
| >
| > I have heard many people reference the fact that the although the Linux
| > Kernel is under the GNU GPL license, that the code is licensed with an
| > exception clause that says binary loadable modules do not have to be
| > under the GPL. Obviously today there are vendors delivering binary
| > modules (not supported by the kernel maintainers of course), so clearly
| > people believe this to be true. However I was curious about the wording
| > of this exception clause so I went looking for it, but I cannot seem to
| > find it. I downloaded the 2.6-test1 kernel source code and looked at the
| > COPYING file, but found nothing relating to this (just the note at the
| > top from Linus saying user programs are not covered by the GPL). I also
| > looked in the README file and nothing was mentioned there either, at
| > least from what I could see from a quick read.
| >
| > So does this exception clause exist or not? If not, how can the binary
| > modules be valid for use under Linux if the source is not made available
| > under the terms of the GNU GPL?
| >
| I'll jump into this fray first stating that it is really great
| that the CEO of a company that is producing high-performance graphics
| cards and acceleration software is interested in finding out this
| information.

Really? I guess I'm just suspicious, but when someone who might have an
interest in only providing a binary driver asks about the legality of
doing that, "great" is not my first thought.

| information. It seems that some other companies just hack together some
| general-purpose source-code under GPL and then link it with a secret
| object file. This, of course, defeats the purpose of the GPL (which is
| or was to PUBLISH software in human readable form).

Yes, I am a devout fundamentalist paranoid, but I've based my life on
the assumptions that I should treat others fairly and expect them to
screw me if they could, and both have served me well.

I do not mean to cast aspersions on the original poster, about whom I
know nothing. There are many companies who have provided full source
drivers, and I have rewarded them with my business. I have chosen less
performance video over binary module hardware, and would be very happy
if there were some guilt-free hardwaree to use. I'm just starting to do
video processing, I'd be *really* happy, ecstatic even.
bill davidsen <davidsen@xxxxxxx>
CTO, TMR Associates, Inc
Doing interesting things with little computers since 1979.
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