"Open Source Constitution"?

Chuck Swiger chuck at codefab.com
Sat Apr 9 20:40:33 UTC 2005

Bruce Perens wrote:
> Chuck Swiger wrote:
>> What about people with wireless cards who have to upload a proprietary 
>> binary object to the card's firmware?
> It's not running on the same CPU. It's proprietary software, but the 
> relationship is one of aggregation, or will be once we can move the 
> BLOBs out of the kernel source and use the request_firmware interface to 
> access them.

Hmm.  Let's pass on whether a Linux system which contains proprietary binary 
objects on the filesystem-- regardless of where that software runs-- is free 
of proprietary software, for one second.

>> what about the nVidia and ATI video drivers which provide 3D 
>> acceleration?
> IMO they are infringing works.

How is this case different from the wireless driver case?  Both nVidia and ATI 
refer to their products as having GPUs, where the video rendering is done by a 
seperate, dedicated "Graphics Processor Unit", rather than by the main CPU.

Also, which license are the nVidia and ATI drivers infringing?

Last I checked, one could run Linux without installing X11.  X11 is an 
optional component, and is under the MIT/X11 license, not the GPL. 
Futhermore, can't you simply access these cards using the VESA standard 
interface to get a simple 2D linear framebuffer...?

I suppose it's mostly harmless if people forget that Linux contains a lot of 
software which predates the GPL and is under different licenses.  It's not 
quite so harmless to suggest that nVidia or ATI's drivers are infringing works 
based upon such confusion, however.


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