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Re: [gNewSense-users] KFV check-in

From: Kevin Dean
Subject: Re: [gNewSense-users] KFV check-in
Date: Sat, 5 Apr 2008 00:17:06 -0400

On Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 11:24 PM, Bake Timmons <address@hidden> wrote:
> > I'm a little confused about this write the author business. Because the
>  > GPL (and the LGPL) say that if no version is specified then it can use
>  > any of them, it seems to me that that is kind of like specifying a
>  > version. For example, if I wanted to write code that could be used with
>  > any version of the GPL, I might choose to not specify the version. And
>  > if we do contact the author and he gives us the version, we can publish
>  > it, but it still won't be in the original code. If he can just decide
>  > whenever he's asked, couldn't he change his mind later?
>  > Anyway, I'd be happy to email the authors if that's what we want to do.
>  I think it's *understandable* why some people may want to write the
>  author, but it hardly seems *necessary* in the circumstance we are
>  discussing.  Recall Torvalds's written notice:
>  "Also note that the only valid version of the GPL as far as the kernel
>  is concerned is _this_ particular version of the license (ie v2, not
>  v2.2 or v3.x or whatever), unless explicitly otherwise stated."

Herein lies the problem. In general, once can assume that anything in
the kernel is LIKELY to be under GPL v2 but that requires the
presumption that is not voilating the GPL, which they may
be. Whatvever Linus might say, he is NOT the author of the ENTIRE
kernel so his opinion on what license some code is licensed under is
as valid as yours or Bill Gates's. Only the author, or more
specifically the copyright holder, can license software. We've found
very CLEAR cases where the copyright holder says "This is not GPL" so
we must assume that unlicensed code (unless CLEARLY written by Linus)
is NOT GPL until the author/copyright holder specifies that to us.

>  "Under the GPL" is not an explicit statement of a version, so v2 applies
>  to such a file as long as it is being considered part of the kernel,
>  i.e., for our KFV purposes.  Whatever the author may tell us must be
>  compatible with this choice, assuming the context of the Linux kernel.
>  I.e., I cannot imagine how the author, if asked to mention a *specific*
>  version, could say anything other than v2, unless the files are to be
>  distributed *apart* from the kernel.

The author's word is 100% "fact", even if this word is "Not GPL". Only
the copyright holder can license software, so if she were to say "GPL
version 1" or "GPL version 3" that is binding. Of course, if either
happened, we'd have a very odd situation on our hands. It is logical
to assume that if all the terms of the license are met, it is GPL v2,
but assuming that without clarification means we could be violating
the author's wishes and in some places, violating copyright law. Its
is best to ask for clarification and remove a driver than violate the
GPL, use an authors code against their wishes and possibly violate

All respect to those managing kernels for other reasons, but the goal
of gNewSense is to ensure all users have freedom - it is NOT to ensure
the "Highest compatibility".

>  Another way to see that writing to the author is not necessary is to
>  consider that KFV is not about documenting how the files might be
>  distributed *outside the kernel*.  Therefore, KFV is not subject to the
>  only place where the GPL (versions 1 and 2 at least) addresses "writing
>  to the author":
>  "If you wish to incorporate parts of the Program into other free programs
>  whose distribution conditions are different, write to the author to ask
>  for permission."

Taken entirely out of context, this may not be a bar. The software I
write has a note similar to this. My reasoning is pretty simple. I
don't want my work to be barred from OpenBSD or FreeBSD, so I make a
note that should someone need a specific Free Software license to
contact me so that they may use it in a ISC or BSD licensed work.

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