[sf-lug] Potential GPL violation, with the potential intent to victimize our Elderly loved ones

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Nov 13 16:59:29 PST 2009

Quoting Jesse Zbikowski (embeddedlinuxguy at gmail.com):

> Correct, I am not attempting to recapitulate Linus' argument about
> aggregation, but advancing a separate point, which is: this distro is
> OK under GPL because the non-free Eldy software is not tightly coupled
> with GPL'd components such as the Linux kernel.

Right you are, sir, and you're certainly right that that's the main
point.  Apologies if I distracted from it.

You might find it of interest that the criterion of "has knowledge of
and plays with fundamental internal Linux behaviour" doesn't hold water.
(Yes, I know that's what Torvalds and some others talk about.)  It's 
apparent _why_ people think that:  The theory is that coders probably
could not engineer that degree of close cooperation without copying code 
from kernel headers and elsewhere, e.g., to get the data structures
right, and borrowing that substantive code (without qualifying for fair
use) and issuing it under a conflicting licence is copyright violation.

Maybe, _but_ the weak point in that argument, even assuming code
borrowing, is that the borrowed elements would tend by their nature to be
functional and dictated by compatibility, rather than expressive.  
Such non-expressive elements are exactly what, as I mentioned, are not
_qualified_ for copyright coverage in the first place.

The reason why:  You're never allowed to copyright ideas, only
expressions.  Ideas are (sometimes) patentable, but completely
ineligible for copyright.  In law, this is in fact called the
"idea/expression dichotomy", and is the reason for the limited scope of
copyrightable elements in a creative work.

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