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    SubjectRE: Linux GPL and binary module exception clause?
    On Wed, 2003-12-10 at 09:42 -0800, Linus Torvalds wrote:
    > There's a reason for those lines at the top of the COPYING file saying
    > that user space is not covered, and there are literally lawyers who say it
    > would hold up in a court of law.

    I'm glad that the lawyers have been specifically asked about that,
    because the exception seems poorly worded to me. It does _not_ say that
    user space 'is not covered'; in fact it says only that user space is not
    considered a derived work.

    But see §2 of the GPL:

    These requirements apply to the modified work as a whole.
    If identifiable sections of that work are not derived from
    the Program, and can be reasonably considered independent
    and separate works in themselves, then this License, and its terms, do
    not apply to those sections when you distribute
    them as separate works. But when you distribute the same
    sections as part of a whole which is a work based on the
    Program, the distribution of the whole must be on the terms
    of this License, whose permissions for other licensees
    extend to the entire whole, and thus to each and every part
    regardless of who wrote it.

    Being pedantic about it, the precise wording of the exception does not
    prevent a user space program from being affected by the above even
    though it is explicitly _not_ considered to be 'derived work', and
    though it 'can be reasonably considered [an] independent and separate
    [work] in [itself]'.

    If you distribute your user space programs not 'as separate works' but
    rather 'as part of a whole which is a work based on the Program', then
    they may be affected.

    I don't _like_ the idea that user space could be affected, and I hope
    that the _intent_ of the exception is clear enough to cover the
    ambiguity. I'm not really sure that's the case though.

    For example, imagine explaining to a judge the technicalities about user
    space and kernel space, and the 'separation' between the kernel and the
    cramfs in the downloadable binary blob which forms the firmware for the
    Linksys/Cisco wireless routers -- and hence arguing that the user space
    bits are being distributed 'as separate works', rather than 'as part of
    a whole...'. What reaction do you think you'd get?

    I don't think the GPL on the kernel _should_ extend its reach into user
    space, and I'll allow people to invoke estoppel by publicly stating here
    and now that I'd never sue for such 'violations' alone.

    Note the word "alone" in the above sentence. I won't rule out the
    possibility of including such violations in a case against a vendor
    shipping binary-only modules, or committing other violations.


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