SamyGO: replacing television firmware
Posted Nov 16, 2009 23:09 UTC (Mon) by dwmw2
In reply to: SamyGO: replacing television firmware
Parent article: SamyGO: replacing television firmware
"Interesting. If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying that anyone who distributes a Linux kernel with a binary driver (many, if not most, embedded Linux devices out there would qualify) is in violation of the GPL."
Given the above direct quote from the §2 of the GPL, I find it hard to find an alternative interpretation. Although I understand that some people don't like
it, so they'll clutch at straws to find one.
One of the tenuous counter-arguments which is often presented (other than the "copyright law doesn't allow that" fallacy) is the final paragraph of §2, which states that "mere aggregation ... on a volume of a storage or distribution medium" doesn't count.
Some people argue that that "exception" is so wide-ranging that it might as well be rephrased as "Oh, actually just disregard the previous two paragraphs, even where we explicitly spelled out that we meant this to apply even to works which are independent and separate works in themselves; we didn't really mean that."
Some people go so far as to claim that all forms of "aggregation" are permitted by the exception — so since linking to non-GPL'd work is merely a form of aggregation, that's allowed too. Under that interpretation, the GPL would actually become more like the LGPL.
Personally, I feel it's much more likely that that "exception" clause applies to stuff like magazine cover CDs, where mostly unrelated software is just aggregated together for distribution. Or where it happens to sit on the same hard drive or backup tape as if by coincidence.
I definitely don't believe that any sane interpretation of the "mere aggregation" exception can apply to a coherent product where both the GPL'd work and the non-GPL'd work are fundamental and necessary parts without which it could not operate.
But of course nobody is right or wrong until it's been heard in court.
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