ELCE: The state of embedded Linux
Posted Nov 4, 2010 1:12 UTC (Thu) by JoeBuck
Parent article: ELCE: The state of embedded Linux
"BusyBox lawsuits have caused some consternation in the embedded world because of the demands for Makefiles and installation instructions. Not everyone interprets the GPL to require those things, but it is, as yet, unresolved."
Then not everyone has read the GPL. It really isn't at all ambiguous, and it's hard to claim that it's unresolved (though some copyright holders might not be interested in enforcing the relevant provision of the license). From GPLv2:
The source code for a work means the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it. For an executable work, complete source code means all the source code for all modules it contains, plus any associated interface definition files, plus the scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable.
The scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable, if you're using a Make-based flow, are the makefiles, plus any scripts used to run those makefiles. The intent is clear: the person who receives the source should be able to easily rebuild the executable. That's why the BusyBox people have had no trouble forcing people to comply. If work needs to be done to separate out the build system for the proprietary parts from the GPL parts, sorry, that needs to be done up front. It's part of the price of being able to use all that great software for free.
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