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SubjectRe: Using GPL'd Linux drivers with non-GPL, binary-only kernel
Jamie Lokier <> writes:

> I was mulling over a commercial project proposal, and this question
> came up:
> What's the position of kernel developers towards using the GPL'd Linux
> kernel modules - that is, device drivers, network stack, filesystems
> etc. - with a binary-only, closed source kernel that is written
> independently of Linux?

IANAL, but Linux drivers are usually licensed under the GPL and not LGPL.
> I realise that linking the modules directly with the binary kernel is
> a big no no, but what if they are dynamically loaded?

You mean one big file versus many small fragments? I don't think there
is a difference. LGPL would permit that (in fact, it seems to be the
difference between GPL and LGPL).

> There seems to be a broad agreement, and I realise it isn't unanimous,
> that dynamically loading binary-only modules into the Linux kernel is
> ok.

That's different, the modules are not (generally) derivatives of the
kernel. The (running) kernel is a derivative of both the GPL code and
binary drivers (all parts are linked at run time) - and while you can't
distribute such a beast at all, you usually don't want to.
(which makes me wonder if "distributing" a running machine with binary
drivers linked to the kernel is legal :-) )

> Furthermore, there are some funny rules about which interfaces a
> binary-only module may use and which it may not, before it's
> considered a derivative work of the kernel.

IMHO it's independent problem, not related to the license, but rather
to source code symbol names (a technical and not legal issue - something
like copy-protection mechanisms).

> So, as dynamic loading is ok between parts of Linux and binary-only
> code, that seems to imply we could build a totally different kind of
> binary-only kernel which was able to make use of all the Linux kernel
> modules.

Build - sure. However, distributing such a system (with GPLed parts)
would be illegal, unless the GPLed code is not a part of the system,
and rather an "independent and separate work" (i.e. the system does not
"depend" on GPL part).
Krzysztof Halasa
Network Administrator
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