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KernelTrap: The GPL And Binary Modules

Dec 06, 2003, 07:00 (31 Talkback[s])

[ Thanks to Jeremy Andrews for this link. ]

"When first made available in September of 1991, the Linux kernel source code was released under a very restrictive non-GPL license requiring that the source code must always be available, and that no money could be made off of it. Several months later Linus changed the copyright to the GPL, or GNU General Public License, under which the kernel source code has remained ever since. Thanks to the GPL, any source code derived from the Linux kernel source code must also be freely released under the GPL. This has led many to question the legality of 'binary only' kernel modules, for which no source code is released. Linux creator Linus Torvalds talks about this issue in a recent thread on the lkml explaining:

"'But one gray area in particular is something like a driver that was originally written for another operating system (ie clearly not a derived work of Linux in origin). At exactly what point does it become a derived work of the kernel (and thus fall under the GPL)? THAT is a gray area, and _that_ is the area where I personally believe that some modules may be considered to not be derived works simply because they weren't designed for Linux and don't depend on any special Linux behaviour...'"

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