OpenBSD: NDAs vs. Free Drivers

Greg Kroah-Hartman’s announcement for free Linux driver development included the necesssary legal framework to honor NDAs when creating GPL’d drivers. This allowance was discussed on the OpenBSD -misc mailing list. In a public exchange with Greg KH, Stephan Rickauer said: “Now these companies have a great excuse to keep specs locked up tight under NDA, while pretending to be ‘open’. The OpenBSD project has made clear more than once how this will hurt Free Software in the long run. Signing NDA’s ensures that Linux gets a working driver, sure, but the internals are indistinguishable from magic. It is a source code version of a blob.” OpenBSD founder Theo de Raadt called the free driver effort a farce, “you are trying to make sure that maintainers of code – i.e. any random joe who wants to improve the code in the future – has less access to docs later on because someone signed an NDA to write it in the first place. You are making a very big mistake.”

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