2008-02-21 14:11:58     Copyrighted files, the GPL & uclinux

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2008-02-21 14:11:58     Copyrighted files, the GPL & uclinux

Frank Van Hooft (CANADA)

Message: 51436    Maybe this is a dumb question, but please be kind.  Can someone own a copyright on a file that's released under the GPL, and if so does this copyright impose any additional restrictions (beyond the GPL's restrictions) on the file's use?


I ask because I'm looking at the gptimers.h file, located at: linux-2.6.x/include/asm-blackfin/gptimers.h

The header of this file is:



* include/asm/bf5xx_timers.h


* This file contains the major Data structures and constants

* used for General Purpose Timer Implementation in BF5xx


* Copyright (C) 2005 John DeHority

* Copyright (C) 2006 Hella Aglaia GmbH (awe@aglaia-gmbh.de)




I'm no lawyer, that's for sure.  I read this header saying this file is copyrighted to a German company, and the header says nothing about it being released under the GPL, so I instinctively think, "Oops, I'd better not use this file in my product."  Am I wrong?


I realise this forum is populated by a bunch of engineers, not lawyers, so I'm probably not going to get a definitive legal answer to my question. But any comments or insight would be appreciated.






2008-02-21 14:32:26     Re: Copyrighted files, the GPL & uclinux

Mike Frysinger (UNITED STATES)

Message: 51438    legal questions should be given to a lawyer ... no answer given on this website would be considered legal advice and thus usable in an actual court of law ... so with that out of the way ...


copyright and licensing are two different complementary aspects.  if a source file is GPL-ed, anyone can have copyright ownership on the file.  nothing in the copyright or the GPL preclude the other from being possible.  a copyright is not a license just as a license is not a copyright.


all Blackfin kernel source code is released under the GPLv2 (and most under GPLv2+).  if you see a file missing this notice, let us know and we'll fix it.  in this case, i'll fix the gptimers code (i just forgot to add the line when i first committed it).




2008-02-21 15:19:25     Re: Copyrighted files, the GPL & uclinux

Graham Davies (UNITED STATES)

Message: 51444    I think, in fact, that you *must* assert copyright ownership in order for the GPL to be effective.  It's only owning the copyright that gives you the right to control what can and cannot be done with a work, i.e. to specify the terms of the license.  So, a file without a copyright notice is as much a problem as one without the GPL notice.






2008-02-21 15:32:00     Re: Copyrighted files, the GPL & uclinux


Message: 51446    Frank:




Anything that is included (distributed) as part of a GPL project falls under the GPL license. As Mike pointed out, who wrote the code (copyright) has nothing to do with the distribution license or the IP licenses they may or may not apply.




As always, Standard disclaimer applies.


We are not lawyers, and cannot and will not provide legal assistance, legal advice about any software licensing or patent issue. We won’t be able to answer questions about the legal significance of the facts, licensing issues, nor conduct legal research, or provide information about the legal deadlines that might apply to your situation. You or your legal representative needs to determine these issues for yourself before you distribute your product.






2008-02-21 15:41:56     Re: Copyrighted files, the GPL & uclinux


Message: 51447    Graham:


Yes - someone needs to own it to release/distribute it. Many people's employment contracts state that the company owns the work output (in this case the code), so either a company or person could have the copyright.


Sometimes that is evident by who commits it to cvs/svn/git. (which is why it is not written all the time). For the kernel - the DCO was developed to answer this:





Bryan (and others) make sure when things are sent up stream, he includes the original author( if it was a non ADI person) on the Signed-off-by  list.


All the history is there, but it might be lurking in the git or svn history - not the actual file.






2008-02-21 17:20:04     Re: Copyrighted files, the GPL & uclinux

Frank Van Hooft (CANADA)

Message: 51453    Well that was an interesting discussion - thanks very much for all the replies. (And thanks also to Mike for offering to update that file). I appreciate it.