"Kate Stewart is the manager of the PowerPC team at Freescale.
As such, she has a basic customer service problem to solve: people
who buy a board from Freescale would like to have some sort of
operating system to run on it. That system, of course, will be
Linux; satisfying this requirement means that Freescale must
operate as a sort of Linux distributor. At her linux.conf.au talk,
Kate talked about a new initiative aimed at helping distributors to
ensure that they are compliant with the licenses of the software
they are shipping.
"Early GPL enforcement actions against companies like Cisco
were, arguably, misplaced: Cisco was just gluing its nameplate onto
hardware (and [Kate Stewart] software) supplied to it by
far-eastern manufacturing operations. The original GPL violation
was committed by the original manufacturers who incorporated
GPL-licensed software and failed to live up to the source
distribution requirements. There was a clear purpose behind
targeting companies like Cisco, though: the unpleasantness of
dealing with GPL compliance problems was meant to get them to
require compliance from their suppliers, which were otherwise
harder to reach. Companies seem to have gotten the message; Kate
noted that the supply chain is now routinely requiring
certification of license compliance from suppliers. So Freescale
needs to stay on top of license compliance in order to be able to
sell its products; your editor suspects this may be a more powerful
motivation than the mere need to avoid copyright infringement.
"One common worry related to license compliance, of course, is
that somebody might have somehow included proprietary code into a
freely-licensed package. More common, though, are simple license
compatibility issues, such as the inclusion of a GPL-licensed file
in an ostensibly BSD-licensed package. Finding this kind of problem
requires the examination of every file distributed with a package -
and there are a lot of packages with a great many files out there.
It's a lot of work."