Open source means that it's not possible to pirate the software, right? Well, somehow OpenBSD developers have found out exactly how you can do that, by copying sections of some Linux wireless drivers (released under the GPL of course) and then releasing them under OpenBSD's less-restrictive license, allowing proprietary use. To say the least, the OpenBSD development guys received a nasty message from the Linux team that created the software.

The whole problem lies with the Broadcom wireless driver, which is proprietary, and something that was very difficult to reverse-engineer. Because Broadcom refuses to distribute the drivers open source, the developers of the Linux driver made sure to release it under the GPL, and gave the software the name "bcm43xx".

OpenBSD developers have taken parts of the code and used it in their own version of the driver, which was noticed by the Linux driver development team. The leader, Michael Buesch, sent an email onto the public mailing list that voiced their concerns, the similarities between Linux's code and OpenBSD's code, and then ended with:

We'd like to offer you to start cooperating with us. We respect you and your Copyright. You should also do so on our work.

We would not be opposed to relicensing parts of our code under the BSD license on an explicit case-by-case base. So if you ask "May I use this and that function" and if I own the Copyright on that particular function, I will approve or deny your request. Other Copyright holders of the bcm43xx code might act the same way.

We're not out for blood, just for a fair resolution. We'd like you to start contacting us to resolve the issue now.

Have a nice day.

And looking at the rest of the list, it seems that the guys who developed this driver weren't entirely opposed to the "stealing" of the source code. Perhaps asking first before using something that's not yours keeps everyone happy.

10 Years
Discussion Span
Last Post by John A

It is interesting that the BSD license is more permissive of software being taken back into the propriatory domain than the GPL is. I mean this in the sense of the long and tiresome lengths the BSD team had to travel to free themselves from claims of pirating by AT & T.


Still, why make such a thing public. Get it arranged with the 'guilty' developper. I don't see the necessity to involve a crowd.
I guess someone just doesn't like OpenBSD ...


The 'stealing' part comes in when they change what kind of license it uses. BSD no longer provided the driver as GPL, which breaks the GPL. It's stealing if you don't give credit where credit is due. :cheesy:


And the worst part for the GPL when someone breaks it is that developers who wanted to ensure that the code they wrote would never become proprietary suddenly could potentially become that. The BSD licenses permit proprietary use, and that's probably the largest reason why Michael Buesch was so ticked off at the OpenBSD developers.

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