[openmoko-announce] Crossroads

Harald Welte laforge at openmoko.org
Wed Mar 14 19:10:08 CET 2007

On Wed, Mar 14, 2007 at 10:12:11AM -0700, Martin Lefkowitz wrote:
> I was not aware of your work in the legal area.  It sounds like you
> are biting the hand that feeds you.

I am not biting the hand that feeds me, but I am biting companies who
knowingly and willingly disrespect both copyright law and the
ideals/goals/concepts of the very people who wrote the code that the
respective companies use on/with their hardware (GNU/Linux).

> If you succeed in getting companies afraid to be adding modules to a
> kernel for fear of having to expose their detailed register layout to
> the public either by documentation or code you will kill embedded
> linux.  

I am not trying to make them afraid.  I am merely reminding them of
their obligations. Obligations to which they have voluntarily subjected
themselves by agreeing to license the Linux kernel (and other software)
under the GNU GPL.

You cannot get the freedom of Linux, while taking that freedom away from
others (your users).  It's about equilibrium.  To give and take.  Mutual
sustainable development.

> Then you can buy your sticker "Long live BSD", or worse windows
> (mobile).

About which is nothing wrong at all!  If vendors cannot cleanly comply
with the GPL and copyright law (much of the derivative works issues are
generic copyright law issues, not at all GPL related!), then they either
have to change their products, or have to just go to *BSD or proprietary
operating systems which allow their products (combination of driver hand
hardware design choices) to work legally.  I have no problem with this
at all.

"Linux adoption" is not a goal/end in itself.  It's of no use to have a
Linux kernel plastered with tons of proprietary code all over the place.
Where would be the technical benefit of such a product?  None at all.
No way to fix bugs, no way to update your kernel, no way to decide if
you can trust the code, etc.

So my point of all of this is:

   Why do we have GPL licensed drivers or hardware documentation on some
   hardware at all?  Why can e.g. Samsung afford to completely open the
   documentation to their mpeg4 hardware encoding/decoding engines in their
   later 24xx SoC's, while others think it is the most improtant business
   secret?  Why can Marvell have a GPL licensed driver for AR6K?

   The design of your hardware determines what you have to reveal in the
   driver.   So eventually, if you want to sell your product with
   drivers for a GPL licensed operating system, you might actually
   consider this whilst doing the hardware design.  Just look at all the
   mess with AR5k just due to the fact that regulatory requirements are
   enforced in software rather than hardware.   By using hardware that
   implements those things in it's own hardware/firmware, you can avoid
   any problems with free sofrware drivers down the road.

- Harald Welte <laforge at openmoko.org>          	        http://openmoko.org/
Software for the world's first truly open Free Software mobile phone

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