[maemo-developers] [maemo-developers] RE: Nokia 770 sources...

From: Michael Wiktowy michael.wiktowy at gmail.com
Date: Wed Aug 30 22:56:12 EEST 2006
On 8/30/06, Koen Kooi <koen at dominion.kabel.utwente.nl> wrote:
> Hash: SHA1
> Kalle Vahlman schreef:
> > Hmm, I've always been under the impression that any kind of
> > combination of binary-only and GPL code would be in violation... IANAL
> > of course.
> Slightly a different issue, but a nice read anyway:
> http://www.kroah.com/log/linux/ols_2006_keynote.html
> "closed source kernel modules are unethical"
> regards,
> Koen

Unfortunately, I don't think the waters are all that clear in this

IANAL but it is my understanding that most countries have RFI laws that do
not allow RF chip manufacturers to allow their users to modify their chips
to switch to licensed bands or use an amount of power that brings it into a
licenseable realm. It is not just the case of the law saying that a user
can't operate in certain realms ... the user can't even be allowed to
*possibly* operate in certain realms. So if an embedded chip is flexible
enough, the manufacturers nerf it with a binary blob.

So you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. Open up everything to
comply with the GPL and violate RF Spectrum laws in some countries. Wrap a
binary blob to satisfy RF regulators and you run a fowl of the GPL.

Both these demands are put in place for good reasons. However, they are
mutually incompatible. The courts will have to sort out which takes
precedence but it would be my guess that the RFI law would as violating it
could threaten lives (broadcasting in aircraft radio navigation bands,
scrambling police frequencies, etc.) where as violating the GPL would be
rarely life-threatening.

The way that some manufacturers get around the problem is to nerf things at
the hardware level. If the chip can't do it at that level, no amount of
software/firmware hacking will get around that and they are free to open up
all the specs to the hardware.

I think where the conflict really occurs is when the manufacturer
software-nerfs the chip too much and cuts out some vital access that
programmers/users want. Then they refuse to put in the legal/development
time and resources to change their firmware to relax things a bit because
they would then have to seek approval from the regulatory body yet again.

Nasty vicious circle :[
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