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Old 10-19-2004, 07:53 AM   #1
Registered: Jun 2004
Location: INDIA
Distribution: RedHat 9.2,Mandrake 10.2
Posts: 21

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Lightbulb Dont we need GPL licencse for hardware vendors

Hello All,
How would you react if someone say that i'll give you drivers for windows free but you need to pay twice the cost of your hardware for the driver linux to make it work fully.
So my questions is
1. Is this right according to the spirit of LINUX. when the people uses the open source utility develop the codes .Dont we need to revive the licence agreement.
Because some people have started making small money. and this had started a race to make
LINUX also a properity software.
Accroding two me whatever it may be the source should be open and basic utilities like device drivers, kernel, system software should always be under GPL and hense pen source.
The Hardware who doent suport the linux drivers due tw save a peeny should write clearly on the product that this is not supported on linux

Linux is free and for educational purpose let it be in that way

Last edited by askjha; 10-19-2004 at 07:55 AM.
Old 10-19-2004, 07:53 AM   #2
Registered: Jun 2004
Location: INDIA
Distribution: RedHat 9.2,Mandrake 10.2
Posts: 21

Original Poster
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Dont we need GPL licencse for hardware vendors

Double Post merged into one!

Last edited by trickykid; 10-19-2004 at 07:56 AM.
Old 10-19-2004, 02:17 PM   #3
David the H.
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Registered: Jun 2004
Location: Osaka, Japan
Distribution: Debian + kde 4 / 5
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Re: Dont we need GPL licencse for hardware vendors

I think you have a number of false conceptions about the GPL and Linux.

First of all, The GPL is NOT Linux, or vice versa. Linux is, for the most part but not entirely, licensed under the GPL, and almost all of it's licenses are GPL-compatible in any case. A license, by definition, is very simply a formal declaration of usage rights. It is not granted from above, it is chosen by the author(s) of the software. The GPL, and most other open source licenses, have a general philosophy behind them of freedom. Not monetary freedom, but freedom to use the software in whatever way benefits the user the most. Linux therefore is not for "educational purposes", but for ANY purposes, even commercial ones. If it wasn't, we wouldn't have a Red Hat, a Mandrake, A Suse/Novell; and we wouldn't have companies like IBM investing billions of dollars in it. But just as important to this philosophy are the rights of the authors--their rights to choose the conditions under which their code is used. This includes proprietary licensing. So "Linux" doesn't have any say whatsoever in what license a driver author decides to use. They can choose whatever license they want; they can keep their code closed, and even attempt to sell it if they think the market exists. It's their right as the authors of the code to do so. But only if a company does decide to use a GPL compatible license for their drivers do they have a chance to get the code incorporated directly into the kernel.

Second, just because Linux is open source doesn't mean that all software used with it must also be open source. Nor does it mean it must be free (as in beer). Linux is just an OS, a platform for running other software. While there may be a number of people who want to run pure open-source platforms for philosophical purposes, most people are a bit more pragmatic. If a closed-source program suits their needs better than any open alternatives, they'll buy it and use it instead. And there's nothing wrong with that. Again, both Linux and the GPL are all about the freedom to do what you want, and it is possible for proprietary to coexist peacefully with open source. On the other hand, Linux is also not under any threat of becoming "proprietary". The authors have released the code under the GPL, and nobody else can do anything to change it. You as a user are always free to reject any proprietary additions and use only open-source alternatives. (And you wouldn't be alone in doing it. Check out the Debian Social Contract for example.)

Third, drivers and basic utilities are no different from any other software. If a company wants to keep their code private and charge for their use, they are fully within their rights to do so. Nobody can take that right away, and very few even want to. But any company doing so also has to accept the consequences. If the price is too high (and many consider anything more than free--both as in beer and in speech--to be too high), then they might find their product being reverse-engineered or otherwise worked around, or if that's impossible, then they could be ignored by the market entirely. Market influences don't just disappear because there's no dollar tag attached.

Finally, when talking about drivers, you're basically shouting a tempest in a teacup. Hardware companies as a rule are not interested in selling their drivers, they want to sell hardware. They only produce drivers in order to create a market for their real product. Tell me, how many pieces of hardware have you run into, on any OS, where you had to pay for the drivers? I've never seen any. They've always been available freely--if they were available at all of course. And that last point is the real problem with Linux. Too many hardware manufacturers just don't consider Linux to be worth supporting yet. 95%+ of all software drivers available for Linux have been written by the OSS community itself. Only a few makers have gotten on the bandwagon yet. More companies releasing proprietary drivers would be a godsend for the linux community, because it would mean the hardware industry finally considers the platform important enough to support.

And to tell you the truth, if I had a piece of hardware I needed or really wanted to use on Linux, and the only driver available was offered by the manufacturer for a fee, I'd gladly pay--as long as the price was reasonable. Twice the cost of the hardware is not reasonable of course, and I think you'd find that any company charging that much just wouldn't get any business. It's called pricing yourself out of the market. Their right to ask for that amount would never be in doubt however.

Last edited by David the H.; 10-19-2004 at 02:22 PM.


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