Broadcom wifi drivers in F-14?

Jon Masters jonathan at
Thu Sep 16 14:25:25 UTC 2010

On Thu, 2010-09-16 at 12:41 +0100, David Woodhouse wrote:
> On Wed, 2010-09-15 at 13:20 +0100, Adam Williamson wrote:
> > On Wed, 2010-09-15 at 11:05 +0100, David Woodhouse wrote:
> > 
> > > The Broadcom position seems to be entirely crack-inspired, if it's based
> > > on the notion that a binary driver cannot be modified to break the
> > > regulations. That assumption is demonstrably false.
> > 
> > In the lawyers' defense, lots of things happen in courtrooms which apear
> > crack-inspired to those of us who aren't part of the legal process (and,
> > frequently, also to those who are). I could certainly see a creative
> > lawyer trying to argue that a driver under an open source license
> > implicitly encourages modification of the relevant code, while a
> > driver under a closed source license implicitly discourages it or even
> > explicitly prohibits it (I haven't checked, but the closed source
> > drivers may be shipped with a license which claims to prohibit
> > end-user modification).
> But the specific type of modifications we're talking about are *already*
> prohibited, by the law of the land. It really doesn't make an iota of
> difference whether the licence of the software adds extra provisions.

Well, the US law of the land says that you can't listen in on telephone
communications frequencies either. And the CFR advice and FCC
implementation is to require that designers of radio equipment make it
intentionally difficult to modify that equipment to listen in on such
frequencies. So, it's not just the law of the land, but there can be
implementation decisions that require modification to be difficult. On
some level, it is harder to modify closed source software because you
can make the argument that the lack of source has various implications.
True, you can actually make the change - and you can also hack that
radio scanner you own - but they made it more "difficult" to do so.

> The argument you're positing is an argument which could be used against
> *all* Open Source software -- take fairly much *any* package on a
> network-connected system and you *could* modify it to do *something*
> illegal. And then you could argue that its licence implicitly encouraged
> you to do so... does that mean the original author is responsible?

Again, it's not just the law - it's not black and white - but the way
it's then codified into regulations and the way those regulations are
interpreted by the various bodies that help to define them. And of
course we can say "that sucks", but that doesn't really do anything.


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