GNU License for Hardware

Derek Balling dredd at
Fri Oct 15 13:51:09 UTC 1999

At 05:02 AM 10/15/99 -0600, Richard Stallman wrote:
>The GNU GPL does not make any legal requirements about what name you
>can call your system if you include a GNU program in it.  I think it
>would be wrong to try to impose such a requirement by legal force.

It is good that you recognize such.

>Therefore, people have a legal right to take the whole GNU system,
>replace one component such as the kernel (or even make no change at
>all), and call it some other name which does not include "GNU".  The
>FSF and other copyright holders of GNU programs cannot sue you for
>doing this.

Nor should they even desire to, if they truly believe in Freedom.

One thing to keep in mind though, is that, if Linus were a dick, he could 
have a field day with the FSF for attempting to dilute the Linux trademark 
he owns. We all know that Linus is NOT a dick though, so this is not even 
close to happening.

>But while that conduct is legal, that does not make it right and good.
>Part of the respect that people normally give to the developers of a
>software package is using the name they gave it.  If you make a
>variant of the GNU system, you don't legally have to call it "GNU",
>but it is rather unfriendly if you don't.

Linux never tries to be a variant of the GNU system. You insist on calling 
it that, but in many ways Linux simply tries to be a "best of breed" 
system. In many cases that is GNU software, in others it isn't. One variant 
of Linux (Debian) actively tries to be a GNU system, and they call 
themselves that - that is their choice. They could take Linux and call it 
something else if they wanted to, really. But the core developers of Linux 
do not try to make it a GNU system, and for you to attempt to impose that 
name upon them is regretful.

>Since the BSD advertising requirement has been mentioned, I should
>point out that it too makes no legal requirement about what name you
>can call your system if you include some BSD software.  As regards
>this particular issue, the old BSD license is no different from the

But it would at least force people to give your ego the massaging it needs 
by leaving your (theoretical) GNU Advertising Clause in there.

>(I've called the BSD advertising requirement "obnoxious", but I don't
>call it evil.  I have asked people to avoid it because of practical
>problems it causes.  See

But if the GPL had it, then any GNU software would have to be recognized as 
such somewhere. That would suit your desires just fine, it would seem.


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