Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Mon Jul 21 13:39:56 UTC 2008

Alexandre Oliva wrote:
>>>> Please show how something can
>>>> include any GPL-covered work, yet be distributed under different
>>>> terms if you insist on claiming that.
>> Rahul Sundaram wrote:
>>> I don't have to show anything like that.
>> You don't, but why make such a claim when you obviously can't back it up?
> I think you're pasting each other.  The question is just not related
> with the sub-topic at hand, and it's ambiguous.

Yes, it's a game of semantics. This part of the conversation started 
with someone claiming that some other licenses are 'compatible' with the 
GPL and my counterclaim that within the 'work-as-a-whole', no terms 
other than the GPL can apply.

> What do you mean by "include"?

I mean as a part of what the GPL calls a work as a whole, where some 
part of that work is already covered by the GPL.

> Now, what you're asking is about modules that are not derived works.
> There's no reason to assume a module needs to include (in either
> sense) GPLed code.  This doens't mean it's easy, practical or even
> legally bullet-proof, but it's on this kind of argument that non-GPLed
> modules for Linux are justified.

Yes, that's really a separate issue, related to how modules operate.

> Now, I'd rather not go into further details, because I don't feel like
> offering a recipe on how to work around the spirit of the GPL,
> especially because I don't entirely believe it would actually work if
> ever disputed in a court of law.
>>> http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Licensing
>> Those are licenses that can be usurped by the GPL requirements.
> Err...  Did you notice how many of those licenses have a "NO" in the
> "GPLv{2,3} compat" columns?
> Are you by any chance confusing "FSF Free" (= respects the 4 freedoms)
> with "GPL compatible" (= grants the permissions the GPL grants without
> establishing any further requirements)?

I'm talking about within a work-as-a-whole, which is the only place 
where there is any concept of compatibility.  Some licenses do allow 
their own terms to be replaced by the GPL, but it's a one way trip and 
that copy of such code no longer has its original license terms.

>> The GPL must apply to the work-as-a-whole.
> But do you have any reason to assume that a module can't be a work on
> its own?

On the contrary, Linus clearly stated that a module was not necessarily 
a derived work simply because it is loaded by the kernel and uses the 
services of the kernel.  I'll include a link again in case anyone wants 
to read what Linus actually wrote in 1995 instead of Rahul's 
mischaracterizations of it 
And the FSF legal counsel said it was not a derivative work. See top of 
page 16 here: http://www.linuxdevices.com/files/misc/asay-paper.pdf

Some people seem to think the story has changed recently, but I'd prefer 
to believe that the statements made back then (when Linux badly needed 
more driver support) were not lies.

   Les Mikesell
    lesmikesell at gmail.com

More information about the fedora-list mailing list