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Re:Would someone please explain Linus DRM

Posted by: lordcorusa on February 03, 2006 03:09 PM
Actually, this really is an overblown issue that exists only because Linus appears to woefully misunderstand this draft of the GPLv3.

This draft of the GPLv3 requires you to give up your private keys if and only if those keys are necessary to compile and/or run the software. Furthermore, you are also exempt from handing over private keys if it is possible for the user to generate their own keypair.

So Linus can digitally sign his modules and other people can verify his signature, but Linus does not have to give us his private keys because we don't need them to compile or run the code. He can even set up the kernel to run only signed modules, without giving us the his private keys, as long as he gives users the ability to generate their own signatures.

What this draft of the GPLv3 does prevent is the Tivo scenario. Apparently, Tivo uses the Linux kernel and obeys the letter of GPLv2, but no user can run a modified kernel on their Tivo, because the hardware won't run an unsigned kernel. Hypothetically, if the Linux kernel became GPLv3ed, they would be forced to give Tivo owners the private keys, so we could run our modified kernels. Linus' opinion about hardware openness is bunk: the idea of users implementing their own FPGAs or Open Cores is ridiculous, and using open hardware may very well become hard in a world where Treacherous (AKA "Trusted") Computing is becoming more prevalent.

This draft of the GPLv3 still allows you to implement software that encrypts or decrypts DRM-wrapped content. However, if your users modify your software to circumvent the DRM-wrapping, you are not allowed to sue them. (That would have been possible under the GPLv2 via the DMCA.)

The GPLv3 draft does not modify the character of the GPL; it only adapts it to changing legal climate. Computer hardware advances, and software must adapt to the changes. No one expects Linux 0.01 to be relevant on modern hardware; why would you expect the law, or copyright licenses, to be static either?

The draft is unclear in some of its language, and I hope the next year of debate will cause better language to be written.

However, all of this is a moot point with respect to the Linux kernel. Even if Linus loved GPLv3, it would be virtually impossible for him to change the license of Linux. Far too many have contributed to it and subsequently passed away, retired, or just faded into obscurity. Tracking down all of the signatures would be nearly impossible.

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