free kernel and 3d graphics acceleration

David Ayers ayers at
Fri Sep 28 07:06:51 UTC 2012

Hi Christopher and welcome!

Am Donnerstag, den 27.09.2012, 14:12 -0800 schrieb Christopher Howard: 
> However, the strange thing about this is that, in the
> Linux kernel, the binary blob has a free software license attached to
> it! (See firmware/WHENCE; it appears to be an MIT-style license.) Why
> did AMD release their driver under a FOSS-compatible license, but not
> include the source code? Was this simply overlooked?
> Has the FSF, or anyone else, ever asked AMD to release the source code
> for the driver? Perhaps they would...? I could ask, but I am nobody and
> have no influence. Perhaps if an important organization like FSF were to
> demand it, then maybe they would release the source...?

I am merely an FSF associate member and a Fellow of the FSFE and I speak
only for myself.

I believe we should avoid to use "demand" unless there is some legal
obligation such as a license violation.  Clearing the license for
software can be very tedious and can involve many man hours of work.
The value it adds for the companies is very subjective so you'd need to
find someone who is willing to please the "request".

It's also my belief (but I could easily be wrong about that) that it may
be better, if many customers ask them rather than non-profit
organizations.  Of course we can use these organizations to coordinate
these requests and document our strategies in order to become more
efficient in future endeavors.

My assumption with respect the binary blobs is that AMD isn't sure
whether they have included code that they are not entitled to provide
the source to.  Patent agreements are often cited but it could also be
copyright issues from contractors.  I suppose companies like AMD will
have far reaching cross license agreements without any reference to a
particular peace if code.  So before they are able to release code, they
need check with their contracting partners, to ask if its OK to release
that code.  I assume, that there are only very few people in those
contracting firms, who are trusted to decide, whether any particular
code infringes on any relevant patent, and I expect those people to be
rather costly.

So any releasing of source to such binary blobs can expected to be
rather expensive, even if it happened to be unencumbered.  Nonetheless,
this should not discourage us from requesting the source code, or
inquiring which particular obligation is hindering them from
distributing the blob.


David Ayers - Team Austria
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