A blog for the enterprise open source community
Where the GPL FailsRaven Zachary, May 15, 2006 @ 12:24 pm ET
The Kororaa project, a binary installation of Gentoo Linux, has received a note that it may be in violation of the GPL, as the project includes proprietary binary video drivers from ATI and NVIDIA along with the Linux kernel, released under the GPL. The post on the Kororaa site does not indicate whether the note was sent by the Free Software Foundation (FSF), but I suspect it was just a member of the community who believed that she or he was doing the proper duty as a member of the open source community.
News.com had a piece about the issue of proprietary software within Linux last month entitled “New Linux look fueled old debate“. In the article, I was quoted as saying “If Linux expects broader vendor support, the community needs to capitulate to proprietary software involvement,” which I still firmly believe.
What does the Linux community want more – proprietary hardware support or strict licensing requirements? Without proprietary video drivers, Linux has limited chance of being a platform for graphics-intensive applications. Sure, community drivers can be developed, but not for the high-end market. ATI and NVIDIA risk competitive exposure by releasing their drivers as open source. For them, Linux is a business opportunity, and the Linux community should be pleased that they are writing drivers at all, even if they are only available in binary format.
Open source is not an all-or-nothing proposition in 99.9% of the cases I’ve seen. Where it is strict, tends to be politically or philosophically motivated by the individual, not the enterprise.
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