[LinuxBIOS] License clarification, round 1

Greg Watson g.watson at computer.org
Tue Aug 29 20:45:00 CEST 2006

Any files in the PPC tree I either wrote myself (hence are released  
under the GPL) or I obtained from the u-boot project (http://u- 
boot.sourceforge.net/) which is also GPL'd. The weird licenses were  
already in the files. If someone wants to go and tidy them all up  
then feel free.


On Aug 29, 2006, at 10:33 AM, Stefan Reinauer wrote:

> 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
> it.
>> 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
> code.
>>     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.
> Comments?
> Stefan
> -- 
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