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Submission + - Is this a way around the GPL? 4

Malvineous writes: I have two devices, from two different companies (who shall remain nameless, but both are very large and well known) which run Linux-based firmware. The companies release all their source code to comply with the GPL, however neither of them include a build environment or firmware utilities with the code. This means that if you want to alter the free software on the device, you can't — there is no way to build a firmware image or install it on the devices in question, effectively rendering the source code useless.

I have approached the companies directly and while one of them acknowledges that they are not fully GPL compliant, due to other license restrictions they cannot make their build environment public, and they do not have the resources to rewrite it. I have approached the FSF but their limited resources are tied up pursuing more blatant violations (where no code at all is being released.)

Meanwhile I am stuck with two devices that only work with Internet Explorer, and although I have the skills to rewrite each web interface, I have no way of getting my code running on the devices themselves.

Have these companies found a convenient way to use GPL code, whilst preventing their customers from doing the same?
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Is this a way around the GPL?

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  • Wow, sounds like an IP camera or DVR unit or some other specialized device like that.

    Actually, I suspect it is probably not one of those, as those are pretty easy to use with Linux and a little ingenuity.

    So... how about simply asking them what dev tools they use and ask if they can provide instructions on how to set it up, which then leaves you seeking the holder of whatever licenses they are beholden to, to see if they will license it to you...

  • The point is not that the GPL should enable end users to make easy modifications to things like firmware - the GPL doesn't say so anywhere, and it may not even be possible. For example when firmware would come in a ROM (not flash-), as in: read only. In that case you'd have to modify the hardware to change that ROM (this may even be impossible if such a ROM is embedded into an IC).

    The point is to enable end users to figure out what the code does, perhaps modify it, re-use it, and (posibly) re-distribute

    • by jks ( 269 )

      The point is not that the GPL should enable end users to make easy modifications to things like firmware - the GPL doesn't say so anywhere, and it may not even be possible.

      The GPL, version 3, does require this. See section 6: "If you convey an object code work under this section in, or with, or specifically for use in, a User Product, [...] the Corresponding Source conveyed under this section must be accompanied by the Installation Information. But this requirement does not apply if neither you nor any third party retains the ability to install modified object code on the User Product (for example, the work has been installed in ROM)."

      "Installation Information" is defined to

  • Ok, so i release the code, but its in a language only we have in-house, or runs only on an internal OS?

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