Strawman licensing policy

Mike A. Harris mharris at
Wed Sep 22 18:24:45 PDT 2004

Jim Gettys wrote:
>>driver code can be a bit tough.  I mean in most cases there is one way
>>to do something set bits X, Y, Z, clear bits, A,B,C. so I think you
>>are ok so long as you don't cut and paste the code. OTOH, IANAL. 
>>Perhaps Thomas could comment?
>>From what I've learned while watching the SCO insanity, I believe this
> is correct.
> Don't cut and paste, but if there is some reason like this that the code
> will end up similar in any case, it can't be considered copyright
> infringement even if the code looks similar (as a result of the external
> constraints).

A simple way to avoid the problem is to do double-blind clean room
reimplementation.  Have one person read the GPL code who is skilled
enough to understand it at a deep enough level to write documentation
from it, who then writes the documentation on how it works in a generic
manner, only getting to specific bit twiddling where it is necessary,
and only then with pseudocode or similar.

Hand the results of this phase over to someone who has not looked at
the said GPL code ever, and have them implement a new design from
the clean room specification.  This guarantees no copy of GPL code
goes into the new design, and that all of the new code written can
be licensed under whatever license is appropriate.

It is rather important however for the person doing the code authoring
in the new design, to have not been tainted from ever looking at the
GPL code from which the design spec came from that they're working on,
or else their code could end up looking more close to the original,
which may be a bad thing.

More information about the xorg mailing list