Legal Issues

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Legal Issues using Linux in embedded projects

The intricacies of using the GPL license have been hashed out repeatedly in many other forums. [references would be nice for major issues]

Here are some highlights:

Kernel is licensed GPL v2 only

The Linux kernel is licensed under the GNU General Public License, version 2.0 ONLY!

This is different from many other projects, which use the default wording in the license to allow GPL v2 or any later version.

This means it is unlikely that the kernel will switch to GPL version 3.0.

In September of 2006, a group of Linux kernel developers signed a position statement indicating that they objected to GPL version 3.0 (as then drafted). This further indicates the unlikelyhood of any change of the kernel to the GPL v3 license.

Signed-off-by lines and the DCO

When developers contribute to the kernel, they must provide a "Signed-off-by" line, indicating that they acknowledge the licensing and declare the work (to the best of their knowledge) to be either original, or derivative of something compatible with GPL v2.

See the Developer Certificate Of Origin which is contained in the kernel's Documentation/SubmittingPatches file.

This page has a few specific issues relating to embedded use of Linux.



In January of 2008, Greg Kroah Hartman submitted a patch to change the core USB API to EXPORT_SYMBOL_GPL. Here is some information about that change:

Binary kernel modules

One outstanding legal question with Linux, that is of particular importance in embedded, is whether or not binary (non-GPL) kernel modules violate the GPL license of the Linux kernel.

Opinions on this topic differ.

Here is an article with some interesting links:

Other Links