Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 9th Nov 2010 22:24 UTC, submitted by koki
GNU, GPL, Open Source Now this is interesting. We see what is at its core a very valid concern, in practice not a problem to anyone, and, thanks to the tone of the press release, close to trolling. The Free Software Foundation Latin America is complaining about something that has been known for a while - there is some non-Free code stuck in the Linux kernel (mostly firmware). A valid issue of concern from an idealogical viewpoint, but sadly, the tone of the press release turns this valid concern into something close to trolling.
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Really, what needs to happen is for more end-user education into the differences between "device firmware" running on the physical device, and "device driver" running in the kernel as part of the OS.

It is obvious this distinction exists.

They are *very* different things, and the OSSness of one does not affect the OSSness of the other.

The GPL talks about a 'work' that is 'distributed'.

From the license:

You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License

It's obvious the Linux Kernel is a work that in part contains another GPL'ed work (many, actually). You could certainly argue that because the firmware blobs, even though they're not drivers, are distributed with the kernel, they are part of 'the work' and thus should be licensed under the terms of the GPL.

Now I'm not saying that's the only interpretation - but it's certainly not an entirely unreasonable one.

I'm not taking sides - but if the question whether it's acceptable to have binary firmware blobs in the kernel were a trivial clear-cut one, this debate wouldn't keep popping up like it does.

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