Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 24th Nov 2006 23:05 UTC, submitted by SEJeff
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu Mark Shuttleworth is trying to entice OpenSUSE developers to join Ubuntu. "Novell's decision to go to great lengths to circumvent the patent framework clearly articulated in the GPL has sent shockwaves through the community. If you are an OpenSUSE developer who is concerned about the long term consequences of this pact, you may be interested in some of the events happening next week as part of the Ubuntu Open Week."
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Member since:
2005-07-13

This issue has been beaten to death by Greg Kroah-Hartman and some other core kernel developers.

Including Linus, who unlike GKH, points out the derived work clause.

The nvidia binary driver is a universal blob that works on win and *nix using an OS-specific kernel wrapper. As Linus pointed out, it would be hard to consider the blob a derived work of the linux kernel.

Now no lawyer will ever come out in public and say this, as lawyer really aren't allowed to make public statements like this at all. But if you hire one, and talk to them in the client/lawyer setting, they will advise you of this issue."

And that is a cop-out from him. The internet is littered with lawyers giving their unsolicited opinion on everything under the sun. Lawyers are not regulated or restricted from making statements like this.

Besides, nvidia's lawyers seem to have a different opinion owing to the fact that nvidia makes *pre-compiled* kernel modules available for download specifically for Novell at Novell's request, and probably at Novell's expense as well because I'm not aware of any other distro they specifically maintain a repo for. Novell, of course, being GKH's employer.

Now the kernel wrapper is compiled against the kernel, which puts it under GPL licensing. Yet it is distributed linked to a binary blob and distributed from nvidia's own public server (ftp://download.nvidia.com/novell). Clearly this would be a violation, so how are they doing it? It's not like nvidia is new to the linux game.

Maybe the fact that no lawyer will come out in public and say it is "illegal" means that it is a grey area and one that does not, in fact, have a definitive answer. After all, if the law was black and white we would not need lawyers in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not necessarily saying binary drivers are GPL compatible. I'm just saying that not all binary drivers are necessarily GPL incompatible.

Reply Parent Score: 5

JMcCarthy Member since:
2005-08-12

Hmmmm. Comment Score: 0 -- at time of reading.

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Post may fit #2

Edited 2006-11-25 07:53

Reply Parent Score: 1

drynwhyl Member since:
2006-05-14

> Now the kernel wrapper is compiled against the kernel,
> which puts it under GPL licensing. Yet it is
> distributed linked to a binary blob and distributed
> from nvidia's own public server
> (ftp://download.nvidia.com/novell). Clearly this would
> be a violation, so how are they doing it?

Nvidia shouls have no problems doing this, since they own the copyright on both the GPL wrapper, and the binary blob. As a developer, you have to GPL the _wrapper_ because its a derivative work of the kernel, but your ovn binary blob isnt a derivative of the kernel, since the same blob is used for example on windows.

One now could argue whether the blob is a derivative work of the wrapper or not, but it isnt a derivative of the kernel and it certainly doesnt stop Nvidia distribute it under any licence they as the developers see fit. Also i dont know if this wrapper can perform some function _without_ the blob, so that one could argument it not depending on the binary blob.

As how they are doing it: They just violate the GPL when distributing the wrapper under the GPL, and hope to be so valuable for the Linux community, that nobody would enforce the GPL in their case. And nobody has done it yet for precisely the same reason.

Ubuntu should have an even larger problem, since redistributing the blob which depends on the GPL wrapper to work would be an even more clear GPL violation.

We just have to wait until someone tries to enforce the GPL in this case, if Shuttleworth and Nvidia exaggregate their GPL violations. My bet would go for GKH & Co. and for an successfull cease and desist against Ubuntu and also against Nvidia. It would just be stupid to do it _now_ or soon, since Nvidia doesnt really depend on selling their cards to some few linux users. They should wait until not GPLing the blob would hurt Nvidias sales so much, that they couldnt violate the GPL nor completely ignore the linux community.

Edited 2006-11-25 09:51

Reply Parent Score: 1

nicolasb Member since:
2006-08-22

Novell could ask Nvidia to get the rights to distribute directly the drivers with SuSE.

But they haven't. Because it's illegal. So they wanted the responsibility for distributing the drivers to be on the shoulder of NVidia. That's why there's this Novell repository on nvidia.com.

Reply Parent Score: 2