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Linux and DRM – succeeding where MS failed?

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Re: Linus Torvalds blesses DRM, and nothing happens

"The important thing to remember is that the GPL is a social construct, rather than a legal construct, which has never been tested in court. Its authority derives from consensus, not from the random fancies of a Judge. Throwing the GPL to the legal system now does seem to expose the Movement to an enormous amount of risk."

I normally try to argue politely, but honestly, are you completely nuts?

Presumably the reason Microsoft doesn't rip off huge chunks of GPL code to stuff into their products is because it accepts the social consensus of the Free Software Movement.

There are about a million software licenses out there, of which the GPL is just one. Only a tiny proportion have been "tested in court", because they all rely on the same legal basis and it's not necessary to examine each one. As the GPL makes much weaker claims than 99% of sofware licenses, it has even less need of special affirmation by a judge to get people to believe that it would be upheld in court if challenged.

Certainly there are some grey areas, such as whether a binary module is a derived work of the kernel, or whether a signing key is part of the "source code" of a signed binary file. Those will have to be tested in court if someone does something assuming one interpretation, and someone else tries to stop them using another.

But if the GPL doesn't prohibit using covered code in DRM applications, then it does prohibit prohibiting using covered code in DRM applications -- that's its nature. If Linus publishes work derived from other people's work, under the GPL, then he must allow recipients to use the work for any purpose.

Andrew McGuinness

Thanks Andrew. You raise one of the most important questions we can ask:

"Presumably the reason Microsoft doesn't rip off huge chunks of GPL code to stuff into their products is because it accepts the social consensus of the Free Software Movement."

Or you can re-phrase it as "hasn't ripped off huge chunks yet". Let's take it a little broader without losing your underlying point. Microsoft may not need to or want to "rip off huge chunks", but it certainly regards GPL as a viral threat, and it is in its commercial interests not to see it so widely used. It's said so many times.

But yes, I think the stink that would be raised against a direct legal challenge to the GPL would be too much even for Microsoft to handle. It can't tackle the GPL head on in court.

But maybe it won't ever have to, if someone else will make that challenge. Think of the GPL as a the cold war deterrence policy. It's worked so far. But once the ICBMs are flying, the policy has failed.


Couldn't these people who want to incorporate the Linux kernel in an embedded system use a *BSD instead? The BSD licenses do not care if you use it for fun or profit, regardless of whether the code is released or not. At least that was my understanding from my father, who is developing a product based on a BSD core because the GPL was somewhat acidic to the profit making capabilities of the company. In other words, anyone could have their box's code.

William Kelly III

Indeed. I simply can't imagine why the Linux leaders, who have a perfectly good thing going would want to allow the embedded Linux people to ruin everything.

Ruin everything how?

A bit like this:

Thanks for your intelligent article on the DRM issues in the Linux kernel.

As a kernel hacker, I can tell you that any Linux kernel that I compile myself will inevitably have any trace of DRM removed.

Actually, I would go one step further, and fork the kernel **source** to remove any trace of DRM in any piece of code in the kernel source.

I have done that before: the linux ¨Jumbo¨ patches that included IDE DMA code and other kernel fixes that had been rejected initially by Linus. In the end, every single piece of code found its way into later kernel versions.

Although many decisions related to the Linux kernel are in the hands of Linus, in the end there has to be consensus. And the present consensus is that DRM has no place in the Linux kernel - whether Linus likes it or not.

Best regards,

André Derrick Balsa (Andrew). ®

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