Torvalds: Android GPL Claims “Totally Bogus”

And so the story regarding Android supposedly violating the GPL continues. Linus Torvalds has responded to the story in his usual straightforward manner – he thinks it’s “totally bogus”. In the meantime, Groklaw – not exactly my favourite place but alas, good points are good points – found out that the IP lawyer who started this story, Edward Naughton, used to be a lawyer for Microsoft in dozens of cases, a fact he tried to erase from his online resume.

We’ve already covered the details of this case yesterday, so I suggest you go and read that if you’re not yet familiar with what’s going on. Brian Proffitt – the guy with the most awesome last name ever – asked Torvalds what he thought about all of this, and as usual, Torvalds’ answer was characteristically straightforward. Quoted in full for the full effect.

It seems totally bogus. We’ve always made it very clear that the kernel system call interfaces do not in any way result in a derived work as per the GPL, and the kernel details are exported through the kernel headers to all the normal glibc interfaces too. The kernel headers contain various definitions for the interfaces to user space, and we even actively try to make sure that the headers can be used by user space (and try to mark which of the headers are expected to be usable in such a way). Exactly because we know user space needs those details in order to interact with the kernel.

So I haven’t looked at exactly what Google does with the kernel headers, but I can’t see that they’d want to do anything fundamentally different from glibc in this respect.

Of course, we do have our own ‘internal’ headers too, and we have stuff that is meant to be relevant only for the kernel. But there would be no point for Google to even use those, since they are useless outside of the kernel, so I don’t see what the whole brouhaha would be all about. Except if it’s somebody politically motivated (or motivated by some need of attention). If it’s some desperate cry for attention by somebody, I just wish those people would release their own sex tapes or something, rather than drag the Linux kernel into their sordid world.

Well, that’s pretty conclusive, but hardly surprising. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that what Google has done isn’t anything to get excited about, since it’s already been done before. Still, it makes you wonder – why bring it up? Well, while it could be merely a coincidence, Groklaw has discovered that Edward Naughton, whose research paper started this thing, used to be a lawyer for Microsoft in dozens of cases – a fact he is now trying to hide from his resume.

Instances of ‘Microsoft’ were replaced by “a Fortune 50 software company” as recently as this month; Google Cache for March 8 still states ‘Microsoft’, which is only a few days before his research paper hit.

I wouldn’t have thought much of it – but the fact that he changed Microsoft to a Fortune 50 software company right before his research paper hit the web is very suspicious, to say the least. It seems like the anti-Android FUD-machine is firing on all cylinders.


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