Bundling and the GPL
Posted Jun 21, 2006 19:27 UTC (Wed) by sepreece
In reply to: Bundling and the GPL
Parent article: Harald Welte on the flood of GPL violations
Sorry, I must not have made myself sufficiently clear. You said it was not practical for a phone to download additional software after delivery to the customer. I said, it's completely practical and most phones already do so. You opened a particular question, I simply closed it.
I think a manufacturer would have a reasonable claim that this was not, in any meaningful sense, distribution "with" or "as a whole" with the software that was actually distributed in the device, especially if adding it was part of adding an optional service to the phone (even if the added service was as central as "voice communications").
The whole anti-TiVoization article is based on the assumption that an embedded device is, essentially no different from a general-purpose computer on which a user may load any software she likes. If you accept that argument, then you have to accept the argument that a phone, shipped with a purely GPL Linux kernel is also a general-purpose computer and it is not central to its existence that additional telephony software be added to it. If the device does SOMETHING without the additions, that makes it independent of any subsequent optional additions.
So, the more interesting question remains the interpretation of "derivative work", because that would govern distribution of software created by a manufacturer to work with GPLed software - what interfaces is is safe to use, what modes of interaction with the device are acceptably decoupled or functional versus "expressive."
DISCLAIMERS: Note that, at least in the phone space, the manufacturers generally want to play by the rules and not work around them! They have lawyers who generally advise them not to get anywhere near ambiguous license issues. They also generally want to enable an ecosystem of add-on software developers, as soon as the regulatory issues can be worked out. I can, as an individual, express opinions about how I think the GPL should be interpreted, but in doing so IANAL and certainly do NOT speak for my employer, who is a device manufacturer.
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