GNU Project and Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman posted a message on the OpenBSD -misc mailing list titled, "real men don't attack straw men", suggesting that some comments he had made were being misrepresented. He noted, "one question particularly relevant for this list is why I don't recommend OpenBSD. It is not about what the system allows. (Any general purpose system allows doing anything at all.) It is about what the system suggests to the user." He went on to note that though he knew of no non-free software included in the base OpenBSD system, there was non-free software distributed via the ports collection, "if a collection of software contains (or suggests installation of) some non-free program, I do not recommend it."
In the email, RMS added that he was unsure whether or not OpenBSD includes any non-free firmware blobs. It was pointed out that OpenBSD is known for being explicity focused on not shipping blobs. As for binary firmware, Reyk Floeter explained, "there is a major difference between binary blobs and firmware images; the blobs are loaded as code into the OS kernel, but the firmware runs directly on the device on crappy embedded micro CPUs." Reyk is the author of the reverse engineered ar5k HAL OpenBSD uses to support the Atheros wireless chipset, which was recently adopted by the Linux-based MadWifi project in their ath5k driver. Reyk added, "I'm clearly against binary blobs in the kernel, and in contrast to most of the GNU/Linux dudes I _did_ some against it by writing ar5k, instead of pointing into the wrong direction. This open firmware discussion is just a joke to make the relevant discussion, binary blobs in the OS kernel, irrelevant." Marco Peereboom added, "OpenBSD is by far the most free OS in the landscape. Everything that ships with it is free or else it won't be distributed with it. There is not a single open source OS out there that is more careful than OpenBSD on licensing, copyrights and frivolous patents."
"I'm trying to keep some external drivers up to date with the kernel, and the first two weeks after the release is the worst time for me. There is no way to distinguish the current git kernel from the latest release. It's only after rc1 is released that I can use the preprocessor to check LINUX_VERSION_CODE," explained Pavel Roskin, describing the ongoing effort to keep the out of tree MadWifi driver in sync with the latest released kernel. Rik Van Riel suggested:
"Consider this an incentive to submit your code for inclusion in the upstream kernel. Having all the common drivers integrated in the mainline kernel makes it much easier for users to use all their hardware, external drivers are not just a pain for the developers."
Pavel acknowledged, "the incentive has already worked for MadWifi, which has landed in the wireless-2.6 repository under the name 'ath5k'. Still, there is a lot of work to do, and some features won't appear in the kernel driver soon, partly because they rely on the chipset features that still need to be reverse engineered. " In response to Pavel's original question, Dave Jones noted that Fedora kernels treat the development between a major release and the first release candidate as "rc0".
"Incorporating the MadWifi project as non-profit entity is on our to-do-list since months, and I really would like to see it happen soon now," Michael Renzmann announced on the Madwifi development mailing list. He explained, "[the] main motivation for setting up a non-profit organisation is to be able to handle monetary donations from users in a clean way. So far, we are a bunch of interested and only loosely organised developers working on the driver." He went on to add, "we see a rising amount of users asking how they can donate money to support the ongoing development of MadWifi and ath5k. The money could be used for covering costs for our server, for setting up a small testbed installation, for providing developers with Atheros-based cards, and so on." He then noted that given the two options of either forming their own non-profit or joining a non-profit umbrella, they are choosing to pursue the latter.
Michael continued, "As far as I know, SFC and SPI are the only non-profit umbrellas that exist for open-source projects - or at least these are the two 'famous' ones." He went on to offer some comparisons between the 'Software Freedom Conservancy' (SFC) and 'Software in the Public Interest' (SPI), as well as listing some projects that are members of each. He noted the SFC's association with the SFLC and suggested, "I currently tend to vote for incorporating as non-profit by joining the SPI, and at the same time join the SFLC as client." Michael concluded by asking for feedback.
"Based on the new guidelines posted by the SFLC on 'Maintaining Permissive-Licensed Files in a GPL-Licensed Project: Guidelines for Developers', specifically section 5, we are introducing a new tag for use with patches which deal with files licensed under permissive licenses (BSD, ISC) on Linux wireless in our larger GPL project, the Linux kernel," explained Luis Rodriguez in an email titled, "new 'Changes-licensed-under' tag introduced for Linux-wireless". The web pages linked in the email appear to be an official response by the SFLC regarding the recent BSD vs. GPL licensing controversy surrounding the Atheros wireless device driver. Luis continued:
"Although some developers have a practice of implying their patches for a permissive licensed file abides by the respective permissive license of the file being patched, and although some changes are obviously not copyrightable, we would like to 'err on the side of caution', take the advice from SFLC, and introduce Changes-licensed-under in order to help the BSD family reap benefits of our contributions to permissive licensed files."
There were only a few brief replies to Luis' email. Stephen Hemminger suggested a simpler solution, "no, please don't [go] down this legal rat hole. It would cause bullshit like people submitting dual licensed patches to the scheduler or GPL only patches to the ath5k or ACPI code. Instead, add a section to
Documentation/SubmittingPatches that clearly states that all changes to a file are licensed under the same license as the original file." Krzysztof Halasa pointed out that this was already the case, quoting a line from the Developer's Certificate of Origin contained in the
SubmittingPatches file which says, "the contribution was created in whole or in part by me and I have the right to submit it under the open source license indicated in the file".
"We, the MadWifi team, announce our decision to move away from the binary-only HAL and change the focus of our future development towards ath5k, a completely free (as in freedom) driver which will eventually become an integral part of the Linux kernel," Michael Renzmann posted to the MadWifi development mailing list. The decision comes during continued debate surrounding what is and what is not allowed by the BSD license, and with no official statement yet from the SFLC. Much of the debate was due to an attempt to release BSD licensed files under the GPL, visible for example in the ath5k_hw.c source file which is still labeled as available "under the terms of the GNU General Public License" in the latest version of the file checked into the source repository linked from the MadWifi project page. It appears that actual development of the ath5k driver has been moved to Linville's git tree, where the license is now purely BSD, though debate remains as to what's required to be able to add additional copyrights to source code as have been added to the reverse engineered HAL code originally written by Reyk Floeter. In an earlier confrontation with Atheros, the work done by Reyk was determined to be free of copyright infringement:
"A driver for Atheros wireless cards is available in OpenBSD that talks directly to the hardware, based on reverse engineering efforts done by Reyk Floeter. Relevant parts of the driver have been ported to Linux by Nick Kossifidis to start OpenHAL, a free (as in freedom) replacement of the proprietary HAL. Claims that the OpenBSD driver (and thus also OpenHAL) contains stolen code slowed down the OpenHAL efforts but finally could be voided. The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), with the help of Atheros, performed a thorough code review and concluded "that OpenHAL does not infringe copyrights held by Atheros". In other words, the way is clear now for the inclusion of an OpenHAL-based driver into the Linux kernel."
As the Atheros driver issue continues to simmer on the OpenBSD -misc mailing list and the Linux Kernel mailing list, with debate continuing over when the license of source code can be altered or added to, Eben Moglen made a statement for the Software Freedom Law Center. He began by defending their own actions, "it might be useful to recall the first stage of this process, when OpenBSD developers were accused of misappropriating Atheros code, and SFLC investigated and proved that no such misappropriation had occurred? Wild accusations about our motives are even more silly than they are false." He went on to acknowledge, "we understand that attribution issues are critically important to free software developers; we are accustomed to the strong feelings that are involved in such situations. In the fifteen years I have spent giving free legal help to developers throughout the community, attribution disputes have been, always, the most emotionally charged." He added that the SFLC would be making no further statements until their work on this matter was complete, noting:
"Also, and again for the last time, let me state that SFLC's instructions from its clients are to establish all the facts concerning the development of the current relevant code (which means the painstaking reconstruction of several independent and overlapping lines of development, including forensic reconstruction through line-by-line code reviews where version control system information is not available), as well as to resolve all outstanding legal issues, and to make policy recommendations, if possible, that would result in all projects, under both GPL and ISC, having full access to all code on their preferred terms, on an *ongoing* basis, with full respect for everyone's legal rights. We continue to believe those policy goals are achievable in this situation. The required work has been made more arduous because some people have chosen not to cooperate in good faith. But we will complete the work as soon as we can, and we will, as Mr Garvik says, follow the community's practice of complete publication, so everyone can see all the evidence."
Author of OpenBSD's hardware driver layer for wireless Atheros devices, Reyk Floeter, sent a query to the Linux Kernel mailing list regarding the recent licensing debate surrounding the Linux "ath5k" driver, "I'm still trying to get an idea about the facts and the latest state of the incidence that violated the copyright of my code, because I just returned from vacation." He continued:
"I'm very disappointed about this and I hope that it was a mistake, because it is very unfair and malicious against me and the OpenBSD community. I invested a lot of time to write the code and to make it work with as many chipsets as possible. And during the last years, the OpenBSD community helped to test and to improve the driver. I always liked the idea to port it to other operating systems, but now somebody harmed these efforts by violating the license."
Reyk explained that he has cooperated with developers porting his free Atheros driver from OpenBSD to other operating systems, "because it is a clear sign against hardware companies attacking the free software 'community' by releasing binary-only driver objects instead of free code or hardware documentation." He explained that he had worked with the developers who ported his driver to Linux as "OpenHAL", "we exchanged ideas, bug fixes, and small code snippets. They sent me some bug reports and I also looked at their changes and reported some functional problems. This was possible because they kept the license in place." Finally he expressed concern that this would no longer be possible if the license was changed, "somebody wants to cancel any options to cooperate by locking me out with a prepended GPL and an invalid copyright on top of it."