Subject: Re: [ppc-mobo] GPL-like Hardware Solution: Remeber the CAD file
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 1999 08:31:16 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "John" == John Metzger <john_metzger@worldnet.att.net> writes:

    >>> Very simply.  The Linux kernel is GPLed.  You are restricted
    >>> with what you can do there.  But a distribution is a
    >>> compilation of various tools, libraries, utilities,
    >>> documentation, and the like.  The various components each have
    >>> a licence.  The distribution as a whole can do anything that
    >>> it wants to as long as the licence on no piece is violated.

    John> Can I include a device driver, which is not open sourced? 
    John> Can I modify the kernel by calling code which is "loaded at
    John> runtime" which is not open sourced so only the hooks are
    John> visible?

Etc., etc.

Probably not.  Current official interpretation of the GNU GPL as I
understand it requires you to call non-GPL code by exec'ing a new
process.  This rules out all the things you want to do, if the code is 
to be kept secret.  RMS may want to correct this if I've got it wrong.

It is not clear to me what the equivalent to exec() would be in the
hardware world, the motherboard bus, maybe (I recognize that may not
exist in all applications, but in a PC that's a prominent
possibility)?  Taking seriously the analogy of "product" to "program"
suggests that all of your proposed usages would be at best dubious
under a GNU GPL-like license; you couldn't even avoid it with a
multi-chip design.

There is a "Lesser GPL" which does allow linking of foreign code to a
LGPL-licensed library without implying release of that code.  However,
you must make provision for the user to change the LGPL object, which
would imply (again taking the "chip to DLL" analogy perhaps more
seriously than it deserves) a multichip design with the LGPLed chip in
a user-accessible socket.  Or the proprietary chip in a socket with a
standard public interface, so that the user could swap boards out from 
under it.


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