Linux Mint and GPL license Violation

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Postby scorp123 on Mon Dec 11, 2006 3:35 pm

Fragadelic wrote:The grey area is not so grey for Kororaa since they removed the drivers from their live cd.


Ever heard about Sabayon Linux? Give it a try, it's very nice, and also a very nice way to get a Gentoo installation without all that typing and manually editing. ... And yes, they ship with all the binary drivers pre-installed. Don't tell Greg :lol:

http://www.sabayonlinux.org/
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Postby Fragadelic on Mon Dec 11, 2006 3:39 pm

scorp123 wrote:
Ever heard about Sabayon Linux? Give it a try, it's very nice, and also a very nice way to get a Gentoo installation without all that typing and manually editing. ... And yes, they ship with all the binary drivers pre-installed. Don't tell Greg :lol:

http://www.sabayonlinux.org/


I've tried Sabayon - both the 32-bit and 64-bit but it wasn't my cup of tea. I'm not into compiling from source just for a usable system for upgrades. I prefer to let someone else do it for me ;)
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Postby scorp123 on Mon Dec 11, 2006 4:21 pm

Fragadelic wrote:

I prefer to let someone else do it for me ;)


Yes, me too. But I find the fact that so far them shipping the binary Nvidia drivers on their ISO managed to remain undisturbed and unnoticed by Greg and others quite interesting :D
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Postby Fragadelic on Mon Dec 11, 2006 4:33 pm

They are out of Italy so it might not be worth the trouble to try to get them to do anything.
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Postby scorp123 on Mon Dec 11, 2006 4:59 pm

Fragadelic wrote:They are out of Italy so it might not be worth the trouble to try to get them to do anything.


Unless you "gonna make them an offer they can't refuse ...." :lol:
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Postby Fragadelic on Mon Dec 11, 2006 5:06 pm

lol - lets clear a few things up.

If you want to launch legal proceedings of this kind, they have to be launched in the country the offense is taking place.

Thatsa alla I'ma gonna saya abouta thata.
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Postby clem on Mon Dec 11, 2006 5:55 pm

Are people complaining about them including those drivers? Is there controversy over it? We're getting the FUD even without doing it.. so I'm wondering :)
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Postby amano on Mon Dec 11, 2006 6:27 pm

From a practical standpoint, including these drivers would make Mint the perfect offline distribution. 3D effects, DVD playback and support for most codecs...

It is a shame that linux has become that broadband hungry in these times... :roll: Without getting online there is no chance for a suitable system.
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Postby YourDoom123 on Thu Dec 28, 2006 4:25 pm

clem wrote:I understand what you meant Tony and I'm not arguing it. But you compared GPL violations to reverse-engineering, and while they're both against US law (as I understand it) I find one unacceptable and have no problem with the other.. so I just wanted to react on that.

The mentioned drivers do need to be linked to the kernel in order to work. So , whoever it is that links them, they need someone to break the GPL in order to work. That's why I have a problem with them.

On the other hand, they are de facto a standard in personal computing, and people do need them. So I understand the fact that no licence should be in the way of making users able to use their hardware.

It's a very debatable question, and as I said before I have mixed feelings about it. In the end I want to help users using what they need, no matter what license, but I also want to respect the GPL because it's an ideal and a beautiful thing that ought to be respected. Nvidia and ATI are to blame... the kernel developers have a point, but the users do as well... so the question is still open.

In Bea envy was added. I know it doesn't violate the GPL but it makes it easier for the user to do so. I suppose this is the best compromise we can achieve on this... but again, I don't really know what to think of it.

Anyway.. I'm talking too much and not focusing on what's important here: among all the licenses and regional laws that we can disregard and ignore in the name of our alienable rights to use our computers the way we should be able to, the one license that definitely still has importance and ought to be respected is the GPL. Don't mind the reverse engineering :)

That's what I wanted to say. :)

Clem
I definitely need a drink now :)


I haven't read the whole thread yet, but I wanted to react a little bit to this. It is perfectly legal, and does not violate the GPL, to link nvidia/ati proprietary drivers. What you can't do is distribute the linked binaries together on the same medium. When you do that, you've broken the law. The codecs included with mint don't violate the GPL because they don't link /w the kernel. Their legality comes into question in other ways (its illegal to use those codecs in the US because the license has not been purchashed :( ). Anyway, there is a way to get around the whole ati/nvidia thing, and that's what Sabayon does. Instead of statically linking in the proprietary drivers, they just include the binary blobs, and during boot-up, they dynamically link in the blobs. This satisfies the GPL's requirements. Its sad that it has to be done this way, but the world is such.

As for your reverse engineering comments, I have to ask... If we lived a world without intellectual property, why would people keep innovating? Yes, there are people like you and me who don't do it for the money, but there are far too many people care only for the status and money an invention brings them. The problem is the companies, don't offend the people. Take ati/nvidia for example... Why can they not release the full specifications of their hardware, so that real 3d drivers can be independently developed in an open source manner? because it may or may not "help the competition". Their greed is holding us all back :(.


EDIT: alright, i finished the thread, and found several comments refering to sabayon. as far as i know, they do not violate the GPL, because the proprietary binaries do not link into the kernel until runtime. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
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Postby Fragadelic on Thu Dec 28, 2006 5:06 pm

No.

Actually linking the blob to the kernel violates the GPL since it states that any code linking to the kernel has to be gpl as well and this is why they are thinking of including a GPL hook in the kernel to prevent these types of binary blobs from being usable. They either hope that it forces ati and nvidia to open source their drivers or they are going to fork a commercial linux kernel fork to allow this.

Right now this is a legal grey area but if they put the hook in the kernel, it will be black and white and unless someone forks the kernel to remove the gpl hook, it will kill desktop linux gaming and any other function where decent 3d video drivers are required. It will also render wireless that only has windows binary blobs to stop working.

I hate to make it sound doom and gloom but unfortunately that is what it is. Linux may just become a strictly server OS after all.
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Postby YourDoom123 on Thu Dec 28, 2006 6:30 pm

Are you sure? The GPL clearly allows for users to link non-GPL'ed (read proprietary drivers) code into GPL'ed code (the kernel). What you cannot do is distribute the result of that. Sabayon doesn't violate the GPL because on the CD, the drivers aren't linked into the kernel, they simply exist as a blob. On boot-up though, the blobs are temporarily linked into the kernel. If you could not do this, even using the drivers would be a violation of the GPL, and nvidia/ati are breaking the law... I know Stallman wants this to be the case, but as things stand right now, nvidia/ati are alright (hence the grey area...).
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Postby Fragadelic on Thu Dec 28, 2006 9:06 pm

Nvidia aren't breaking the law since they aren't the ones that actually do the linking - the end user is. This is why the kernel devs are looking to put a gpl hook in the kernel to prevent this from even being able to take place in the first place.

Do some searching on the kernel mailing list and you will see the discussion on the gpl hook.

Right now, the kernel devs aren't going after the end user for using the blob but in the future they will. Linus prefers to keep it as a grey area as it has been leaving it up to the end user to "taint" the kernel. What do you think the whole "tainted kernel" message is all about?

They are attempting to prevent even the end user from using these blobs in the future preventing tainting the kernel. This is their right but it isn't necessarily a smart move.

This has been discussed and beat with a dead stick all over the place. I suggest you do some searching.
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Postby Fragadelic on Thu Dec 28, 2006 9:30 pm

Here is a copy of some emails from Linus himself. Modules MUST be GPL since they are considered derivative works. User space stuff doesn't necessarily have to be gpl but kernel modules are clearly not user space. they are in the domain of the kernel code and must know how to interact with the kernel at an intimate and explicit level.


http://linuxmafia.com/faq/Kernel/propri ... dules.html
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Postby clem on Fri Dec 29, 2006 6:45 am

Btw, I definitely think Linus is right on this. Distribution and personal use are two different things. Nobody can tell you how you should and should not use what you legally acquired. I don't believe this gpl hook is actually going to be done, and if it is then either we just won't upgrade or we'll use a forked/tweaked kernel. You just don't tell people what to do. People know what they want to do, and they do find ways to do it.. the only power you have is to decide whether you provide that way or not.

I understand the motivation behind that and the frustration of the developers, but they simply don't have the power to do something like that. I wouldn't worry too much about this, Linux is ready for the desktop and it's not going to change.

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Postby scorp123 on Fri Dec 29, 2006 8:07 am

Fragadelic wrote:Here is a copy of some emails from Linus himself. Modules MUST be GPL since they are considered derivative works. User space stuff doesn't necessarily have to be gpl but kernel modules are clearly not user space. they are in the domain of the kernel code and must know how to interact with the kernel at an intimate and explicit level.


As far as I know this is Greg Kroah-Hartmann's philosophy ... or should I say "religious belief"? I personally think this is BS, sorry to say so. A module can only be derivative work technically if it actually contains GPL'd kernel code, and this hasn't yet been proven in the case of Nvidia or ATI (and others).

A web browser too needs "intimate and explicit level" of knowledge about the HTTP protocol in order to talk to a web server, and yet nobody would be as daft and call a web browser a "derivative work" of someone's web server software.

What Kroah-Hartmann is trying to do is to brand binary modules "illegal" (he repeats that over and over again on his web page) and to convince everyone that whatever links with the kernel is a "derivative work" ... Again sorry, but I think this is BS.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_General_Public_License#GPL-related_disputes

Quote from there:
Wikipedia wrote:However, it is not clear whether an executable that dynamically links to a GPL library should be considered a derivative work. The free/open-source software community is split on this issue, with the FSF asserting that such an executable is indeed a derivative work, and other experts disagreeing. This is ultimately a question not of the GPL per se, but of how copyright law defines derivative works.


There you go. It is a legal question ... because technically it is definitely not a question. As long as I don't use GPL'd code I am not creating a "derivative work", regardless what a zealot such as Kroah-Hartmann claims.

All this stupid talk of his will only cause "good citizens" such as Nvidia, ATI and HP (and others) to withdraw their Linux support. Thanks a lot, Greg ... :?

Regards,
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Postby Fragadelic on Fri Dec 29, 2006 10:43 am

scorp123 - those are actual emails from Linus. Greg is not the only one that feels that way.

clem - hard to say at this point what will be done. It seems like a large portion of the kernel devs that are on a payroll work for big linux distros and their main focus is servers which is where the money is right now. These binary blobs really only affect the desktop portion of linux and wouldn't even make a dent in server issues and since server OS sales and support are the real money behind linux, this could very well become a reality.
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Postby scorp123 on Fri Dec 29, 2006 2:32 pm

Fragadelic wrote:scorp123 - those are actual emails from Linus. Greg is not the only one that feels that way.

Those e-mails you refer to are from as far back as 1995 methinks? Because here is what Linus recently said on this issue:

From: Linus Torvalds <torvalds <at> osdl.org>
Subject: Re: GPL only modules [was Re: [GIT PATCH] more Driver core patches for 2.6.19]
Newsgroups: gmane.linux.kernel
Date: 2006-12-14 04:15:59 GMT (2 weeks, 1 day, 14 hours and 9 minutes ago)

On Wed, 13 Dec 2006, Greg KH wrote:
>
> Numerous kernel developers feel that loading non-GPL drivers into the
> kernel violates the license of the kernel and their copyright. Because
> of this, a one year notice for everyone to address any non-GPL
> compatible modules has been set.

Btw, I really think this is shortsighted.

It will only result in _exactly_ the crap we were just trying to avoid,
namely stupid "shell game" drivers that don't actually help anything at
all, and move code into user space instead.

What was the point again?

Was the point to alienate people by showing how we're less about the
technology than about licenses?

Was the point to show that we think we can extend our reach past derived
work boundaries by just saying so?

The silly thing is, the people who tend to push most for this are the
exact SAME people who say that the RIAA etc should not be able to tell
people what to do with the music copyrights that they own, and that the
DMCA is bad because it puts technical limits over the rights expressly
granted by copyright law.

Doesn't anybody else see that as being hypocritical?


So it's ok when we do it, but bad when other people do it? Somehow I'm not
surprised, but I still think it's sad how you guys are showing a marked
two-facedness about this.

The fact is, the reason I don't think we should force the issue is very
simple: copyright law is simply _better_off_ when you honor the admittedly
gray issue of "derived work".
It's gray. It's not black-and-white. But
being gray is _good_. Putting artificial black-and-white technical
counter-measures is actually bad. It's bad when the RIAA does it, it's bad
when anybody else does it.

If a module arguably isn't a derived work, we simply shouldn't try to say
that its authors have to conform to our worldview.


We should make decisions on TECHNICAL MERIT. And this one is clearly being
pushed on anything but.

I happen to believe that there shouldn't be technical measures that keep
me from watching my DVD or listening to my music on whatever device I damn
well please. Fair use, man. But it should go the other way too: we should
not try to assert _our_ copyright rules on other peoples code that wasn't
derived from ours, or assert _our_ technical measures that keep people
from combining things their way.

If people take our code, they'd better behave according to our rules. But
we shouldn't have to behave according to the RIAA rules just because we
_listen_ to their music. Similarly, nobody should be forced to behave
according to our rules just because they _use_ our system.

There's a big difference between "copy" and "use". It's exatcly the same
issue whether it's music or code. You can't re-distribute other peoples
music (becuase it's _their_ copyright), but they shouldn't put limits on
how you personally _use_ it (because it's _your_ life).

Same goes for code. Copyright is about _distribution_, not about use. We
shouldn't limit how people use the code.

Oh, well. I realize nobody is likely going to listen to me, and everybody
has their opinion set in stone.

That said, I'm going to suggest that you people talk to your COMPANY
LAWYERS on this, and I'm personally not going to merge that particular
code unless you can convince the people you work for to merge it first.

In other words, you guys know my stance. I'll not fight the combined
opinion of other kernel developers, but I sure as hell won't be the first
to merge this, and I sure as hell won't have _my_ tree be the one that
causes this to happen.

So go get it merged in the Ubuntu, (Open)SuSE and RHEL and Fedora trees
first. This is not something where we use my tree as a way to get it to
other trees. This is something where the push had better come from the
other direction.

Because I think it's stupid. So use somebody else than me to push your
political agendas, please.

Linus


This e-mail is on public display, e.g. here:
http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.linux.kernel/475654/focus=475824
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Postby Fragadelic on Fri Dec 29, 2006 2:58 pm

I've read that too but that doesn't change the legal wording of the gpl as it pertains to the kernel.

I'm not the one who developed the kernel or any part of it or the wording of the GPL but we must play by the same rules since this is what was chosen by Linus originally.

For the record - I use and have used the ati and nvidia drivers in Linux and don't agree with what is going on personally but this opinion, like Linus' current one, doesn't change how the kernel was licensed.

You can't license it under a certain license and then verbally make changes to how you want it to be perceived.

Unfortunately I don't think we will ever have a definite answer either way and I think Linus prefers this as it doesn't snub the manufacturers that provide closed source linux drivers and such.

The biggest problem is that nobody will say for sure where the line of kernel module interaction and userspace is.

Taking nvidia for example. The actual kernel module interface is GPL but it uses their binary blob that they also develop for windows. If we consider the GPL'd interface module as the only thing truly touching the kernel code, then we can assume that this is perfectly legal and then it should be distributable since nvidia allows this in their distribution license. If we consider that the GPL'd kernel interface module is merely a "code bridge" then the binary blob must be part of the code that is using the kernel directly and as such must be GLP'd code as the license states. This is the real issue at hand and nobody can definitely answer it either way. Everyone has an opinion but opinions don't mean much legally.

They need to think about all of this very carefully and come to a definitive conclusion one way or another.

For me, I will continue to use the nvidia and ati drivers and whatever else I need to make my PC work how it should.
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Postby scorp123 on Fri Dec 29, 2006 3:04 pm

Fragadelic wrote:For me, I will continue to use the nvidia and ati drivers and whatever else I need to make my PC work how it should.


Exactly. Same here. :D
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Postby hairy_Palms on Wed Jan 03, 2007 5:02 pm

to me, its much, much better left as a grey area,

first im going to state a fact

1, people currently need the binary drivers

2, linux doesnt have the desktop market share to boss nvidia and ati around

so lets look at what would happen if this was defined as black or white either way,

lets assume that its made entirely illegal for binary drivers, nvidia and ati will pull out of linux rather than gpl their code , leaving linux without decent graphics support and a lot of people wont be able to use it as they would like.

lets assume its made entirely legal thenm if so nvidia and ati never even consider changing their drivers to open source meaning everyone must use proprietory drivers forever more.

neither of these are a good situation.

then theres the third option, leave it as the grey area, in this case nvidia and ati make binary drivers, but they are never sure if its legal or not, so people use binary drivers and linux grows etc,

until one day in the future. linux is widespread on the desktop...the grey area is stated as illegal by the kernel development team and the non-gpl hook is implemented, nvidia/ati has a choice now, it can
1,lose a LOT of customers, or
2, open source its drivers,
and we all know a company will choose the one that gains it the most money.

unfortunately right now we dont have the clout to enforce that kind of ultimatum.
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