a long rebuttal to the Linux-is-the-engine fallacy

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at redhat.com
Tue Jul 29 08:14:47 UTC 2008

On Jul 29, 2008, Antonio Olivares <olivares14031 at yahoo.com> wrote:

>> > What is wrong with the Fedora kernel?

>> It contains non-Free Software.

> Is it not released under the GPL, which ensures that the software
> that is being released is free?

Unfortunately, no.


See all that stuff in the kernel-firmware package in rawhide?  Only
three of those files are Free Software.  All the rest is blatantly
non-Free, some of which because the license does not permit
modification, all of which because source code is missing, even though
some of those files are under the GPL, so distributing them without
source is not permitted.

And they still haven't moved all of the non-Free stuff into that
package, so the license tag of the kernel packages is still wrong in
rawhide.  And maintainers of some of the drivers that contain this
non-Free Software refuse to let it move out, because it would be too
inconvenient.  And the move is being pushed as a means to enable even
more non-Free Software to be added, either directly into the kernel
"source" tarball, or as external dependencies.

Great stuff, huh?

> Again, Doesn't the GPL umbrella protect users from this kind of behavior?

It's supposed to, and it takes only one copyright holder to enforce
the terms of the GPL against infringers.  But it's a situation in
which nobody would risk throwing the first rock.  Picture one of those
movie scenes in which people are pointing guns at each other's heads

> If this same GPL that is such veneered and loved by the FSF and
> others and it cannot protect its users, then its useless :(

The license can't protect the users, it's just a tool that copyright
holders can use to do that if they feel inclined to do so.  Many Linux
leaders unfortunately don't care about protecting users, so they
tolerate this stuff, and even come up with legal excuses to try to
defend this abomination.

> I see where you are coming from, but by looking at the things a
> little better, I would be shortchanged if I ran your kernel-libre,
> from the sites that you did not mention by the way

I thought I'd mentioned it here already, but maybe it was on
fedora-devel only.  Anyhow...  What do you think you'd miss?

> I can see the connection, but I do not believe that those kernels
> there support all the drivers and modules that are not free
> according to your specifiations.

The purpose of kernel-libre is precisely to remove the non-Free
Software, so you're right, a couple of dozen rare modules that can't
be used in freedom become non-functional and are thus removed from
kernel-libre.  Give it a try when you get a chance and let me know how
it goes.  You don't have to believe me any more than you'd believe the
anti-freedom FUD spreaders.  You can see for yourself.

> If I ask you to build a true GNU/Linux based on Fedora, you have it
> and it is called BLAG.

*And* BLAG can actually distribute a lot of the Free Software that
Fedora prefers to steer clear from.  *And* BLAG gives equal mention to
Linux And GNU.

Alexandre Oliva         http://www.lsd.ic.unicamp.br/~oliva/
Free Software Evangelist  oliva@{lsd.ic.unicamp.br, gnu.org}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! => http://www.fsfla.org/
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva@{redhat.com, gcc.gnu.org}

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