Closed-spec hardware vendors (was: Re: Gnash - GNU Flash Player / John Gilmore)

Ben Finney ben at
Wed Jan 4 00:17:14 UTC 2006

[Alfred, please attribute quoted material; also, please don't send me
two copies, I'm subscribed to the list. My Mail-Followup-To header
field shows this.]

On 04-Jan-2006, Alfred M. Szmidt wrote:
> I'm trying to see what point Gre Kroah-Hartman is trying argue, he
> seems to be on one hand arguing against a stable internal Linux
> driver interface

That, and actively promoting a vigorously changing ABI to make it more
difficult to maintain proprietary drivers. His argument is that if you
want your driver to be easily maintained, submit it for inclusion in
the kernel so the whole community can maintain it as GPL code.

> but on the other hand, excluding non-free drivers from Linux; which
> are already illegal (the only problem is enforcing the copyright for
> Linux, which is more or less impossible).

Why is that "more or less impossible"? Any party who breaches
copyright on Linux code becomes vulnerable to a suit from any of the
copyright holders in that code. This sometimes results in visible


Much more often though, if we are to believe FSF's counsel Eben
Moglen, the mere opening of discussions on GPL violation is enough to
make the problem quitely disappear by having the code released (or,
less often, stop being distributed).

> Having a (maybe even just a partial) stable interface for drivers,
> is immensly useful

As discussed on Greg's site, a stable driver *API* is necessary and
useful; a stable driver *ABI* is far too rigid, and of benefit mostly
to proprietary out-of-tree kernel drivers.

> It is also easy to make it impossible for non-free drivers to abuse
> this for their own evil purposes, just GPL it, and collect copyright
> assignment then serve papers to companies/people who violate the GNU
> GPL license.

I'm not sure how this fits with your "enforcing the copyright for
Linux... is more or less impossible" statement.

> I think that (from a very brief reading of the URL's you posted,
> thanks for that by the way) Greg Kroah-Hartman is trying to do a
> good thing, but doing it in the wrong place.  Linux is after all not
> the only free kernel out there...

It's by far the one free kernel the hardware vendors want in on,
though, and thus an excellent point to apply pressure on them.

 \     "Remember men, we're fighting for this woman's honour; which is |
  `\                probably more than she ever did."  -- Groucho Marx |
_o__)                                                                  |
Ben Finney <ben at>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: signature.asc
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 197 bytes
Desc: Digital signature
URL: <>

More information about the Discussion mailing list