[LinuxBIOS] License clarification, round 1

Stefan Reinauer stepan at coresystems.de
Tue Aug 29 18:33:31 CEST 2006

Hi Uwe,

thank you very much for your acribic arduousness. 

I hope I can lower your apprehensions in this case a bit:

* Uwe Hermann <uwe at hermann-uwe.de> [060829 12:16]:
> I've started looking at _all_ files in svn and checking their respective
> license to see if it's GPL'd or at least has another Free Software license.
> Also, all such licenses must be GPL compatible, too, AFAIK (but I'm no
> lawyer).
The answer here is easy. Every line of LinuxBIOS code is GPL. And 
every line of code we will include in the future will become GPL by the
implicit agreement of the contributor to use LinuxBIOS and to enhance

> and b) for the legal status of the LinuxBIOS project itself, as
> any non-free-software/non-gpl-compatible code in the repository would
> probably be illegal to distribute (depending on the exact license
> terms), may cause all kinds of other legal hassle and just simply
> compromise the whole idea of the project - to have a _free_ implementation.
This is why we have been doing code reviews and have been in close
contact with the contributors to make sure we do not include otherwise
licensed or protected code.

> So here I am, reading through all files, taking notes which of them
> are not GPL'd. Please check the list and clarify the exact license
> status of the files, e.g. by adding a GPL header similar to this one below:
All of them are GPLed, as a consequence of the inclusion in LinuxBIOS.
Also, files do not need a header stating their license, as the license
is absolutely obvious to everyone downloading the code. We might want to
have them in most files anyways.

> I'm happy to provide patches which add the above license header to all files,
> but someone has to tell me who wrote the code, when, and which license applies
> (if that's not obvious from the code).
> I noticed that many files do not have any license header at all (some don't
> even say who the author is); such files have an unclear status and must be
> considered non-free usually, so in cases where that's just an oversight,
> please add a respective license note.

No they must not. Who would say they must? Legally absolutely obvious
that the files have been checked by those with checkin capabilities to
be free.

An example: Not every song on a CD needs a copyright note spoken before
the song starts. it is completely sufficient to print the copyright once
on the CD.

> If the file was taken from another
> project, please add a note saying so, and mention the license of that project
> in the file.
As we are using GPL as the license, only files with GPL license or with
licenses compatible to the GPL license have been included. All files in
the repository are licensed under the GPL. No exceptions. 

> Assumption: All *.lb config files are GPL'd even though they don't have
> the lengthy GPL header in them. Correct? I don't think it's necessary for
> those files. The same is probably true for ChangeLog, NEWS, and
> documentation/ChangeLog.cvsimport, etc.

Yes it is not necessary, and we need to be careful not to bloat the
readability with comments like this. If we want to comment the 

> The biggest problems I notices so far is the code from IBM and AMD, which says
> things like "Copyright 2005 ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES, INC. All Rights Reserved"

There is no problem with this. The fact that AMD released these files to
the public as GPL does not touch the fact that they own a copyright to
it. In fact, in Europe signing over copyrights is impossible as of
current law, so these notes are just fine. They read "This part has been
sponsored by AMD and they are allowed to make copies of it"

> or stuff like:

> That alone (which no additional "this is GPL'd" text would make the
> code non-free and GPL-incompatible, I guess. I hope this can be
> resolved or clarified somehow.
I would not see a legal regulation to back your assumption. The fact
that it is "licensed" does not make it non-free. the license is GPL,
because IBM acknowledged making it GPL by contributing to a GPL project.

And that its their property is not an issue. All programs a person
writes is that person's property unless the person does the development
work on a contractual basis in wich case the contractor owns the
property. This is an exciting area of law, but it has absolutely nothing
to do with wether LinuxBIOS is GPLed or not.

>   * I assume this is GPL'd as LinuxBIOS-AMD64.tex is GPL'd. Correct?
> src/arch/i386/boot/acpi.c:
>     "Copyright 2005 ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES, INC. All Rights Reserved."
>     which is bad as it means it's NOT GPL'd and you cannot use it for anything

where does it say that it is not GPL? Could not find the paragraph you
are talking about. Search the mailinglist archives for details on above

>     really. No explicit permissions means you have no rights according to
>     international copyright laws, AFAIK (but I'm no lawyer).

The "opus" (Werk) as such is explicitly GPL licensed, so the GPL applies
for every single line of code. I am not a lawyer either but I asked mine.

The single parts of the opus are of no more concern. Be it a file, a
subdirectory or a single line of the opus. They are all subordinated.

So unless we have an indication stating something different I suggest
what we do is emphasize that the whole of LinuxBIOS is GPL licensed by
the respective copyright holders. 

To make things clearer, I also suggest removing license descriptions
from every single source file in the tree and only have a single license
file stating the only valid project license. this way there will not be
confusion and we dont bloat the code with comments that dont comment
the code.

In case of such an indication we will immediately remove the code from
the repository.



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