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LinuxDevices.com: Using M-Systems' DiskOnChip driver without violating GPL

Jul 13, 2000, 01:18 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Stuart Lynne)

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[ Thanks to LinuxDevices.com for this link. ]

"Introduction, by Rick Lehrbaum: According to a recent poll of developers of embedded Linux based systems, a third of all new systems will contain an M-Systems DiskOnChip Flash disk as the primary boot and storage device. However, proper operation of the DiskOnChip currently depends on a proprietary M-Systems binary driver. Since the DiskOnChip is the "drive" from which the Linux kernel must boot, there would appear to be a conflict with the GPL status of the kernel (since the DiskOnChip must be operational in order for the kernel to load). In this writeup, which was originally posted at the LinuxDevices.com Embedded Linux Forum, Stuart Lynne describes a process that has been successfully employed to make use of M-Systems' proprietary driver (which comes free with every DiskOnChip) without violating the terms of the Linux GPL (as defined by Linus Torvalds). Lynne writes . . ."

"We now look at what we have to provide the customer if we want to distribute this. According to Linus' interpretation of GPL we need to make available all source code to anything linked into the kernel. We can do that (just send a copy of the appropriate kernel tgz). Also we have various and sundry GPL'd files in the INITRD package (glibc, init, cpio, busybox, ash etc). We can include them. We also have some device modules. If these are GPL they need have source made available."

"But if they are proprietary (e.g. DOC) then going back to Linus' interpretation of GPL WRT to the kernel we do not have to. He has specifically said that it is ok to distribute binary only drivers as modules as he does not interpret loading at run time to be the same as linking into the binary. (He also has made some other caustic remarks that show he does not like this but he does allow it. He also has said that if you do this do not expect support from the kernel development team WRT to keeping the run time load environment the same to support you etc.)"

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