Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 22nd May 2006 17:43 UTC, submitted by anonymous
GNU, GPL, Open Source After Kororaa announced its GPL problems and me writing a column about it, the people behind Kororaa have now posted an in-depth follow-up: "I have been receiving lots of information which I have been sorting through, thank you to everyone who has emailed me (although I would have also thanked you personally via email). I contacted both ATI and nVidia for some clarification on particular issues, however neither have answered my questions. Nevertheless, this is what I have found so far."
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What protectable elements are at issue?
by IkeKrull on Mon 22nd May 2006 22:39 UTC
IkeKrull
Member since:
2006-01-24

What protectable elements from the Linux kernel are introduced into the nvidia module binary upon compilation?

There seems to be a lot of conjecture but very little solid analysis.

Use, or reproduction of header files for use in most cases is legal since most content in header files is purely descriptive - not protectable under copyright law, and hence the GPL. There is case law to back this up, e.g. Sega vs Accolade.

Interestingly, the same argument - that header files are not protectable - is made in the SCO case, and many posts on Groklaw flesh out this position.

Or are we all collectively admitting that use of information identical to that in UNIX headers puts Linux under an AT&T license, forbidding its distribution under GPL?

So, if we accept that header files are not protectable, and only when protectable elements from a copyrighted work are incorporated into another work, creating a derivative work, that the GPL applies to that derivative work, has anyone actually checked to see if protectable elements (e.g. due to compiler macro expansion etc.) are present in the nvidia.ko binary?

Because, if no such protectable content is present, then distributing that module as 'mere aggregation' seems totally legal.

Reply Score: 2

mjg59 Member since:
2005-10-17

That's actually an interesting question, and potentially the crux of the matter. The Linux header files are, arguably, not purely descriptive. They contain a large number of inline functions and functional macros. Some of these are sufficiently complicated that they probably merit copyright protection, and it's pretty much impossible to write a Linux driver without using some of them.

If so, it seems difficult to make the argument that any Linux driver isn't a derived work of the Linux kernel - using an inline function means that the (presumably copyrightable and GPLed) code is copied into your binary. But, again, there's no way to know for sure without a lawsuit.

Reply Parent Score: 1