How to Blow $100 Million

Werner Almesberger werner at
Sun Sep 5 12:14:59 EDT 2010

Wolfgang Spraul wrote:
> If I add proprietary Verilog sources before synthesis, so
> what? Does that mean the resulting IC 'links' a GPL and proprietary
> part? Is it an 'aggregate' as defined in the GPL?

The concept of "linking" is based on one being a derivative work of
the other. So if you, say, have two modules that talk SPI to each
other, you would have mere aggregation. However, if one knew about
the unique internals of the other, you probably have a licensing

This is an area with a broad grey zone, as the discussion about
Linux kernel modules has shown. So you'll get all sorts of answers
and interpretations.

> And while we can all have opinions on this, what do the creators
> of the GPL say? Who will try to enforce some of these things to
> make them real?

It's not the role of the creators of the GPL (or the CC licenses,
etc.) to enforce the license. The only ones who can invoke legal
means to enforce the license are the copyright holders or the
holders of the exclusive (*) distribution rights. In the case of
these licenses, we have the somewhat uncommon situation that
license creator and copyright owner are not the same.

(*) "exclusive" here doesn't have the usual meaning of something
    being special but that the holder of these rights can exclude
    others from being allowed to distribute.

If you have a sufficiently high-profile case, the creators of a
license may offer their comments on the interpretation of the
license, but that's about all they can do.

- Werner

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