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

Alfred M. Szmidt ams at
Wed Jan 4 16:10:23 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.]

You are attributed in the header, and you should make your client
filter duplicate emails.  I have no intention of changing anything,

   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.

Only the specific kernel will benefit in that case, if it is included
in Linux, then the kernel of the GNU system won't benefit, or the
kernel of the BSD system.

   > 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 suits:

It is more or less impossible since you need to find the people who
are copyright holders to actually be able to do anything.  And Linux
is a mishmash of copyright holders, making this task very hard, and
impossible in many cases.

   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).

This assumes that entity that violated the license had good intentions
and simply didn't understand the implication of the license.  Not all
entities are this nice, and we should never pretend that they are.

   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.

Having a stable ABI is simply stupid. :-)

   > 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.

If you have one copyright holder for the work, it is far easier to
enforce the copyright.  This is why the FSF collects copyright
assignments for GNU projects.  Linux doesn't, so in reality, nobody
can sue somone for copyright infrigement.

   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.

That is a shortsighted view.  It is also a wrong view.  Many hardware
vendors actually contribute drivers to OpenBSD, which then get ported
to Linux.


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