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GPL and Linux loadable kernel modules

GPL and Linux loadable kernel modules

Posted Aug 13, 2005 20:09 UTC (Sat) by GreyWizard (guest, #1026)
In reply to: GPL and Linux loadable kernel modules by giraffedata
Parent article: Interview: Eben Moglen

Looking at it now, I see that you're not addressing the parent poster's claim that doing an insmod isn't a copyright violation.

Well, in fact I was though perhaps not clearly enough. My point was that attempting to push responsibility for binary modules from a vendor to end users, which is what we are doing when we reframe the problem in terms of insmod, is not likely to succeed. This is why I made the comparison to Napster and Grokster.

However, without establishing that doing the insmod is a copyright violation, I don't see how you could possibly argue that supplying the LKM violates copyright law by inducement.

If a binary kernel module is a derivative work of the kernel then distributing it is copyright infringement unless those who hold the kernel copyrights give permission, which they have not done by releasing under the GPL. Creating it in the first place is explicitly permitted by the GPL. So I guess I didn't read your post closely enough either: rather than calling your approach complex I ought to have said it was simply doomed. I also mispoke, perhaps still thinking of the comparison to Napster, when I mentioned inducing infringement. Distribution of derivate works is what I meant.

Perhaps now you understand why I think this is simpler than fretting about whether invoking insmod can be copyright infringement. Even without the GPL that hinges on strange questions about fair use and the way computers work -- not to mention the public relations problem suing potential customers represents. The distribution angle seems cut and dried by comparison. Both approaches require settling thorny questions about derived works which, not to put too fine a point on it, is the original topic here.

By the way, Moglen's law degree doesn't mean squat here. [...] BUT: I respect Eben Moglen's opinion because of his extensive study of copyright law and practice in the area.

Here is the text you are responding to: "I don't know about you, but Moglen has a law degree and much relevant practice so his opinion on this is worth something." The law degree is indeed important here, if only because without one such relevant practice would be illegal.


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GPL and Linux loadable kernel modules

Posted Aug 13, 2005 20:32 UTC (Sat) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954) [Link]

The law degree still isn't relevant because it isn't relevant to your argument whether the law practice of which you speak is legal.

There are cases of people practicing law illegally for long periods of time, and people generally admit that these people have, and have gained through the practice, expertise equivalent to what legal practitioners have.

Incidentally, there are still some states where there are ways to practice law legally without a degree. You always have to have a license (except in the case of some elected judgeships), but a degree isn't always a prerequisite to a license.

GPL and Linux loadable kernel modules

Posted Aug 15, 2005 14:25 UTC (Mon) by GreyWizard (guest, #1026) [Link]

The law degree still isn't relevant because it isn't relevant to yourargument whether the law practice of which you speak is legal.

I didn't know that one could get a license to pratice law without a law degree, so thank you for enlightening me on that point. Still, my error in conflating the two doesn't undermine the point I was making (since you start with "incidentally" I suppose you agree). Similarly, those who do practice law illegally probably have less experience on the whole than their licensed colleagues who are less likely to be jailed. At any rate claiming someone has credibility because they practice illegally probably isn't a useful argument.

I mentioned Moglen's law degree in the context of supporting his opinion on dynamic linking and derivative works. I did not say such support was absolute, that it should end the discussion or that people without law degrees cannot be right where he is wrong. I also accept that someone who practices law but works as, say, a divorce attorney or public defender might know less about copyright law than someone who reads LWN obsessively. Nevertheless it seems obvious that someone who spends time studying the law is in general more likely to have a correct opinion on a legal question than someone who doesn't, at least in the absence of more specific details. Thus a law degree lends legitimate credibility to opinions about the law, just as being any kind of trained professional lends credibility to opinions about that particular domain. I stand by my original statement.


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