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From: Luis R. Rodriguez <mcgrof-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w <at> public.gmane.org>
Subject: Re: [PATCH] b43/b43legacy - Credit Broadcom with enabling the development of the drivers
Newsgroups: gmane.linux.drivers.bcm54xx.devel
Date: Monday 20th September 2010 19:09:32 UTC (over 7 years ago)
On Mon, Sep 20, 2010 at 12:02 PM, Ehud Gavron  wrote:
> On 09/20/2010 09:56 AM, Luis R. Rodriguez wrote:
>> 2010/9/20 Gábor Stefanik:
>>> On Sun, Sep 19, 2010 at 8:40 PM, David Woodhouse
>>>  wrote:
>>>> Broadcom seem bizarrely paranoid about the legal consequences of
>>>> "enabling" users to violate regulatory requirements.
>>>> For some reason they seem to think that an open source driver is more
>>>> a problem than a closed-source driver. Even though it's often actually
>>>> *easier* for end-users to use a hex editor to NOP out certain
>>>> conditional
>>>> jumps or change constants used in comparisons for regulatory
>>>> enforcement,
>>>> than it is for them to patch and rebuild an open source driver.
>>>> The reverse engineering is hard, of course, but the end-users don't
>>>> to do that for themselves -- they only need to follow instructions
>>>> 'set the byte at 0x4572 to 0x90'. More to the point, the
>>>> reverse-engineering
>>>> part is required *anyway* in order to document the hardware so we can
>>>> write
>>>> the open source drivers. We couldn't do an open driver without *first*
>>>> knowing enough about the closed one that we can bypass the regulatory
>>>> code in it.
>>>> Everything we do in the b43 and b43legacy drivers is enabled by
>>>> Broadcom's original binary-only drivers.
>>>> So let's make that 'enablement' by Broadcom's binary drivers clear in
>>>> our source code -- in the hope that it'll narrow the 'risk gap' that
>>>> they falsely perceive between open and closed source drivers.
>>>> Or failing that, in the hope that it'll give their crack-addled
>>>> aneurysms, and they'll hire some saner ones to replace them.
>>>> Signed-off-by: David Woodhouse
>>>> ---
>>>> I'd like to see the b43 reverse engineering folks release more such
>>>> instructions on bypassing the regulatory requirements (boosting TX
>>>> power, using wrong channels, etc.) in the Windows and OSX drivers;
>>>> would be another good way to demonstrate how crack-inspired the
>>>> position on closed vs. open drivers is.
>>> Only one problem: the license agreement of these drivers explicitly
>>> forbids any reverse-engineering for any purpose. One can debate a lot
>>> about whether these are enforceable - however, in the US, a similar
>>> case (though that one was about resale, rather than
>>> reverse-engineering) was recently decided in the plaintiff's favor.
>>> And I believe Broadcom would indeed sue if they thought they were
>>> risking their FCC approval by not doing so.
>> As silly as some legal department's position may be I still believe we
>> should not promote breaking regulatory rules and a few of us respect
>> these ideas [1] in order to help bring traction and relationship with
>> vendors [1]. Although we know its possible we simply won't allow
>> patches upstream which break regulatory considerations and vendors are
>> encouraged to help with this and in case they don't we have a
>> framework to already provide some help with some central regulatory
>> control. What hackers do out-of-tree is up to them but within Linux we
>> should respect regulatory considerations.
>> The truth of the matter is current legislation simply is out of date,
>> the change that we need is a shift in liability down to the user for
>> modified supported drivers / firmware much like a person renting a
>> golf cart can run over someone or cause a huge accident with it. Until
>> then different vendors' legal departments will take on different
>> positions and dance all around this doing as big of a show as
>> possible, and while I do think some legal departments positions are
>> extremely naive, the best approach really is to ignore them and lead
>> by example and providing real solutions to the actual problems so that
>> when and if legislation ever does consider a change its clear that
>> there is a path for a change. We need to build a strong consensus
>> towards this slowly.
>> [1] http://wireless.kernel.org/en/developers/Regulatory/statement

> Sorry to include so much... but I wanted to ensure the full context is
> We [coders, developers, testers, users] have no responsibility to weight
> VARIOUS and MYRIAD laws that are DIFFERENT the world over.

That's exactly the problem, no one had the business motivation to
really try to solve how to really deal with regulatory considerations
with FOSS, and average developers simply wanted a solution. Its easier
said than done. If you deal with regulatory considerations as a
community effort then a path becomes clearer as to how to deal with
these issues. The reason why current legislation doesn't seem to make
sense is because it does not, but just because a law doesn't make
sense it does not enable vendors to ignore it. So the best you can do
in the meantime is really be proactive by working on real technical

We are not dealing with legal issues on Linux, we are dealing with
engineering solutions, and trust me, we're light years ahead of other
OSes because of this now.


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