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SubjectRe: "legal" advice required

On Fri, 27 Dec 1996, Grant R. Guenther wrote:

> I don't disassemble drivers - but I can report that in this case, the
> precise sequence that I have obtained from my analysis of the protocol
> transactions occurs verbatim in the body of the .SYS file that comes with
> the drive. That driver does, of course, contain a copyright.
> Now, this presents me with a problem. I can build a driver that doesn't
> contain the initialisation sequence - assuming that the user will
> initialise the drive with the DOS driver - and then boot into Linux.
> I know some of these issues have been discussed before, but I'd like to
> hear opinions and recommendations.
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Grant R. Guenther
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
I would suggest that some third party (not you) contact the manufacturer
and state that he would like to build a driver for Linux. This person
might have to explain what Linux is, and guess about how many thousands
of devices that the manufacturer might be able to sell if he provides
you with the necessary information to initialize the device.

If the manufacturer does not cooperate, you can still attempt to
write a driver for the device because the manufacturer will have no
record of your contact, only that of the third party. The third party
will simply tell you that the manufacturer refused to give out any
information. Otherwise, the third party will tell you the information
that the manufacturer provided and you can write the driver.

In the event that the manufacturer is not cooperative, some third party
can WRITE A SPECIFICATION, detailing all he/she is able to determine
by any means whatsoever including disassembling code. This specification
must address what has to be done, NOT how to do it. This is the way
Phoenix wrote the first "clone" BIOS for the IBM/PC/AT. They had a
bunch of "dirty" engineers that disassembled code, etc., and wrote a
complete specification.

Then some "clean" engineers, who never saw the BIOS, but only read the
specification, wrote the Phoenix BIOS from the specification.

The whole idea is that a correctly written specification for a machine
or portion of a machine cannot possibly infringe upon a Copyright because
you can't Copyright a machine or its function. You can only Copyright
a written work.

It is possible that certain portions of code will emulate or even copy
the written work, because there are only certain op-codes that can be
used to do certain things with a specific processor. This is normal.
A Dictionary company has no grounds for Copyright infringement because
you happen to use words within the dictionary.

I beleive that every uncooperative manufacturer can have drivers legally
written for Linux if a proper specification is written first, and the
code produced, performs according to that specification with no other
implied knowledge.

The Specification should be published, and the person writing the driver
should reference that specification within the code.

Dick Johnson
Richard B. Johnson
Project Engineer
Analogic Corporation
Voice : (508) 977-3000 ext. 3754
Fax : (508) 532-6097
Modem : (508) 977-6870
Ftp :
Email :,
Penguin : Linux version 2.1.16 on an i586 machine (66.15 BogoMips).
Warning : It's hard to remain at the trailing edge of technology.

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