The issue in Japan
Posted Apr 25, 2005 21:47 UTC (Mon) by brouhaha
In reply to: The issue in Japan
Parent article: Eben Moglen's linux.conf.au keynote
I don't know about Japan, but in the US, the rule established by the FCC is that it must not be easy for the end-user of a device to modify it to operate on frequencies or at power levels that are unauthorized. And US law requires that no products be sold that can intercept cellular phone conversations, except to law enforcement.
Atheros claims that the former problem is why they will not release a fully open-source driver for their 802.11g chipset; most of the driver is open-source (GPL'd, so it also qualifies as Free Software), but there is a "HAL" portion that is only supplied as a binary under a non-free license.
The actual FCC ruling is not that clear; many people believe Atheros is overreacting, since their chips are not a true SDR (Software-Defined Radio). Still, it is the job of corporate attorneys to minimize the corporation's exposure to legal liability, and to some extent not providing source code for the HAL does that.
If you're interested, you can read the actual FCC Report and Order (PDF format, 24 pages, ET Docket No. 00-47, released September 14, 2001).
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