Slash Boxes

SoylentNews is people

posted by n1 on Thursday July 06 2017, @11:39AM   Printer-friendly
from the to-hell-with-gpl dept.

Bruce Perens warns of potential contributory infringement and breach of contract risk for customers of GRSecurity:

Grsecurity is a patch for the Linux kernel which, it is claimed, improves its security. It is a derivative work of the Linux kernel which touches the kernel internals in many different places. It is inseparable from Linux and can not work without it. it would fail a fair-use test (obviously, ask offline if you don’t understand). Because of its strongly derivative nature of the kernel, it must be under the GPL version 2 license, or a license compatible with the GPL and with terms no more restrictive than the GPL. Earlier versions were distributed under GPL version 2.

Currently, Grsecurity is a commercial product and is distributed only to paying customers. My understanding from several reliable sources is that customers are verbally or otherwise warned that if they redistribute the Grsecurity patch, as would be their right under the GPL, that they will be assessed a penalty: they will no longer be allowed to be customers, and will not be granted access to any further versions of Grsecurity. GPL version 2 section 6 explicitly prohibits the addition of terms such as this redistribution prohibition.

By operating under their policy of terminating customer relations upon distribution of their GPL-licensed software, Open Source Security Inc., the owner of Grsecurity, creates an expectation that the customer’s business will be damaged by losing access to support and later versions of the product, if that customer exercises their re-distribution right under the GPL license. This is tantamount to the addition of a term to the GPL prohibiting distribution or creating a penalty for distribution. GPL section 6 specifically prohibits any addition of terms. Thus, the GPL license, which allows Grsecurity to create its derivative work of the Linux kernel, terminates, and the copyright of the Linux Kernel is infringed. The contract from the Linux kernel developers to both Grsecurity and the customer which is inherent in the GPL is breached.

Original Submission

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by pendorbound on Thursday July 06 2017, @02:06PM (1 child)

    by pendorbound (2688) on Thursday July 06 2017, @02:06PM (#535719) Homepage

    Read up on GPL and derivative work, as well as Linus' own writing [] on the topic. The key distinction between GRSec and ZFS is that ZFS is a driver originally written for another operating system that was ported to Linux. It's not a derived work because it is a work unto itself that was adapted to also work with Linux. Linus describes the AFS driver as, "something like a driver that was originally written for another operating system (ie clearly not a derived work of Linux in origin)."

    GRSec is fundamentally different because it has no life without the kernel. It's designed explicitly and exclusively to be used with the kernel. Distributing it as patches *might* (but probably doesn't) exclude the patchset from being GPL. Problem for them is that it's distributed with the explicit intent of merging those patches with the base kernel. As soon as that merge is completed, the resulting work is GPL because the kernel is GPL. A user then has the freedom under the GPL to redistribute that resultant work under GPL. Any attempt to prevent them from doing so is a GPL violation. GRSec's threats against their customers distributing the resultant work is a violation.

    Starting Score:    1  point
    Moderation   +2  
       Insightful=1, Interesting=1, Total=2
    Extra 'Interesting' Modifier   0  
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   4  
  • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Friday July 07 2017, @08:59AM

    by Wootery (2341) on Friday July 07 2017, @08:59AM (#536049)

    ZFS is a driver originally written for another operating system that was ported to Linux

    This is the same reasoning Torvalds applies to nVidia's binary-blob graphics drivers. Strikes me as a fairly scary loophole, but where one should draw the line is a difficult question.

    Obviously derivative: deeply-integrated Linux-specific machinery like SELinux. Obviously non-derivative: connecting to a web-server which happens to run Linux. Much lies between the two extremes.

    Of course, in a court of law, it doesn't matter much what Torvalds and Stallman think the licence means.