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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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