GPL and Linux loadable kernel modules
Posted Aug 12, 2005 17:22 UTC (Fri) by GreyWizard
In reply to: GPL and Linux loadable kernel modules
Parent article: Interview: Eben Moglen
Actually, it's simpler than that. Although I've never seen how it fits into copyright law, US copyright law gives the author the right to control "preparation of derivative works."
Simpler? That seems more complex to me because going after end users would be a nightmare, even if you're right about the law. (Are you sure you're not confusing copyright law with contracts in end user license agreements? Could you cite a source?) Why is that simpler than accusing the vendor who provides the module of inducing infringement, especially given that many have succeeded in similar actions?
But I'm surprised that Moglen believes everyone agrees that GPL doesn't permit linking non-GPL modules dynamically. From reading LWN, I believe it's a well established fact that there's disagreement on that.
Maybe, but the FSF has consistently explained their opinion that dynamic linking has the same effect as static linking for derivative works. A court ruling would be necessary to really settle the point. I don't know about you, but Moglen has a law degree and much relevant practice so his opinion on this is worth something. His position makes intuitive sense too, at least to me. The difference between dynamic and static linking is purely technical and doesn't seem to be relevant to whether something is a derivative work.
What does seem to be relevant -- and this is the heart of the issue -- is what Linus Torvalds has pointed out. When code desinged and published independently of Linux is ported it is hard to determine whether this is a derivative work of the kernel, if only because Torvalds and other kernel copyright holders have said so. Will those copyright holders tolerate binary only modules that implement specifications that are independent of Linux and don't stray beyond the GPL-only boundaries established by the module system? They have so far but that doesn't mean they always will. Moglen seems to want a reliable answer one way or another.
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