Discussion about GPL2 - what is allowed and what not?

Nobody is mixing code of different licenses. The patch is editing GPL code and publishes the result under the GPL.

What you are probably referring to is linking modules with proprietary licenses to the kernel. This is a downstream problem.

It is a debate with a long history if this is illegal. Some kernel developers believe it is illegal. Other says it is not illegal. This has never been discussed in front of a court.

The european commission has published a statement coming to the conclusion that linking proprietary modules to the kernel (static or dynamic) is not illegal:

Quote from that link:

At the contrary and in most cases, it seems that in European law the fact of linking two programs and the technology used for it does not by itself produce a derivative work: viral licensing is just a ghost. It does not exist.

The kernel developers want to prevent this linking and therefor put all the technical restrictions in place. But the GPL gives you the freedom to take these restrictions out of the source code and to distribute this “fork” under the GPL.

By the way, I am an FSFE member since several years. Yesterday I have sent them a request for comment about this specific topic. Lets see what they contribute to this discussion.


I agree the fact that you modify the kernel code (and publish your changes) is ok and in itself does not violate the GPLv2 license.

However, you do that with the purpose of using a module which is not GPL compliant and is not supposed to use certain gpl-only-symbols is maybe a problem.

So yeah, kind of gray area here. Hence nobody dares to challenge it and risk of being dragged to court. :man_shrugging:

There seems to be some conflating of issues here.

If the question is “Is it a violation of the gplv2 to modify the kernel and remove that code and then publish the resultant kernel?”, I think the answer is clearly, “no”. That behavior is clearly OK within the constraints of the license.

However, if the question is “Is it legal to modify and distribute a modified kernel that removes certain copyright protections?” than I think the answer is far more complicated. For one thing, the law in a case like this is fairly complex. For another, the relevant laws are highly variable between countries.

I lack the qualifications to answer the second question so I won’t try but I don’t think it is in any way a black and white answer, legally speaking.


Yes it can, but I don’t think this one is.

Yes it can, but I don’t think this one is.

But I’m not a legal expert, and the legislation varies geographically significantly. Since @philm is hosting the forum, if he wants to be extra cautios about it, then I understand that too. In any case it would be bad form for Manjaro to include the patch. It is better to use linux58 for now and wait a month when nvidia should fully support linux59.

I personally it was unnecessary to remove the tutorial, but I also understand the motivation behind it.