September 14, 2001

GPL violation by RTLinux

Author: JT Smith

A statement from the Free Software Foundation: "Software patents are a harmful government policy of creating
monopolies that restrict computer users. (See and We oppose this
policy, and we think it is a shame that Victor Yodaiken has chosen to
obtain a patent for an idea that we believe should not be, and is not,
patentable. The patent covers real-time interrupt handling using a
software emulation layer for interrupt masking, so that interrupts can
be prioritized. There is significant prior art for this." Editor's note: Victor Yodaiken told NewsForge he will respond next week.
But, even worse, Yodaiken has attempted to use the patent to impose
restrictive terms on a GPL-covered program (Linux, the kernel used in
the GNU/Linux operating system).  These terms conflict with the GNU
GPL, and imposing them is a violation of the GPL.  We have told
Yodaiken this, and we have told him what license terms would comply
with GPL.  He, like everyone, has the reponsibility to comply with the
GPL or cease his infringing distribution.  Anyone else redistributing
a modified version of Linux under the restrictive patent license that
Yodaiken offers will also be violating the GPL.

It is up to the copyright holders of Linux to enforce the GNU GPL for
their code.  The FSF is not one of them; we have never been involved
in developing Linux, the kernel.  The FSF holds the copyright for a
number of other major components of the GNU/Linux operating system,
but those programs are not involved in this issue.  So the FSF is
not a party to this issue in a legal sense.

However, we have told Yodaiken that if he remains in violation of the
GPL, we may well choose to support efforts by others to invalidate
Yodaiken's patent in the courts, and we may also support actions taken
by others to uphold the GPL.


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