Android Linux FUD Debunked

Android may have legal problems with Microsoft and Oracle, but it has nothing to worry about from Linux.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The claims that Android has intellectual property worries from Linux and its Gnu General Public License, version 2 (GPLv2) are rather absurd. After all, Android is a smartphone/tablet optimized Linux. Android may have real legal worries from Microsoft and Oracle, but from Linux? I think not. And, now Linus Torvalds, the father of Linux, has declared that these claims are so much junk.

In an e-mail to my friend Brian Proffitt, Torvalds declared that the claims that the Android violated the GPL "It seems totally bogus. We've always made it very clear that the kernel system call interfaces do not in any way result in a derived work as per the GPL, and the kernel details are exported through the kernel headers to all the normal glibc interfaces too."

Sean Hogle, a technology attorney, agrees. Hogle wrote, "The most objectionable aspect to the Mueller and Naughton blog entries are the wildly exaggerated claims that Android applications will be forced to be licensed under the terms of the GPL in open source code form."

Hogle continued, "With all due respect, I don't believe that developers are taking any risks, let alone significant risks, in this context, and I don't believe there's any possibility that Angry Birds will have to be GPL'd against their will. Application developers have done nothing to subject themselves to the copyleft obligations of the GPL. Linking to kernel APIs [application programming interfaces]  directly wouldn't create a derived work according to the stewards of the Linux kernel."

For his part, Torvalds concluded, "Of course, we do have our own 'internal' headers too, and we have stuff that is meant to be relevant only for the kernel. But there would be no point for Google to even use those, since they are useless outside of the kernel, so I don't see what the whole brouhaha would be all about. Except if it's somebody politically motivated (or motivated by some need of attention). If it's some desperate cry for attention by somebody, I just wish those people would release their own sex tapes or something, rather than drag the Linux kernel into their sordid world."

Perhaps that "need for attention" might derive from a desire to spread FUD about Android and to try to revive the old Microsoft myth that Linux's GPLv2 is a cancer that infects other programs. After all, as Joe Brockmeier discovered, the attorney who originated these claims, Edward J. Naughton of Brown Rudnick went to some trouble to disguise that he had once worked on a case for Microsoft. Coincidence? I'll let you decide.

See also:

Does Google's Android violate Linux's Copyright?

Microsoft sues Barnes & Noble, Foxconn, Inventec over Android e-readers

Microsoft vs. Android

Oracle vs. Google over Java: Android lawsuits may begin to pile up

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