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Two Questions about GPL and Device Drivers

I asked licensing@fsf.org the same question, but just in case some of you know the answer (especially zqfmbg because he has worked on the hardware side):

From: Eugene M. Kim
To: licensing@fsf.org
Subject: Two Questions about GPL and Device Drivers


Is it possible for one to read the source code of a GPLed driver for a device whose design is proprietary (e.g. the driver was developed under an NDA), document the hardware programming interface that the driver implements, and release the documentation in public?

And if so, must the documentation also be released under GPL or a variant thereof?


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Hm. I don't actually know offhand, but my inclination is: yes and no.

GPL term 2 ("You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of it, thus forming a work based on the Program, ....") might apply, but in this case, this isn't a modification. This is a separate work created through reverse engineering of the source code, and so I would say the existing precedents relating to reverse engineering apply.

Of course, lawyer I am not, and the corporate lawyers here are of the opinion that the GPL is "evil" and "should be avoided as much as possible" and "shaky" and "won't stand up in court" and etc. I don't share such views. XD