I've been covering the TinyPEAP project for about 7 months now and it appears that the project has run in to a bit of trouble with the open source GPL license and FreeRADIUS.org. I've been following this project closely and have given many suggestions to the TinyPEAP team. Just last week, TinyPEAP was notified by FreeRADIUS.org to either comply with GPL licensing by releasing TinyPEAP source code or stop distributing TinyPEAP because portions of its code was from the FreeRADIUS GPL project. I contacted TinyPEAP and it appears that they have already rewritten the portions of the infringing code and they are in the process of testing it in addition to making some other changes to TinyPEAP that I had requested. Now that TinyPEAP no longer contained FreeRADIUS code, they will continue to release the beta product as closed source software. The funny thing is, TinyPEAP still sits on top of three other GPL based products Sveasoft firmware, Linksys firmware, and Linux.
Being curious about the legality of distributing a closed source product on top of GPL code, I contacted our own open source guru Dana Blankenhorn who covers GPL licensing issues. Depending on who I talk to, I keep hearing different interpretations of GPL. The first definition I hear from companies that produce products with intact "secret sauce" and GPL code is that you only need to release the source code of any GPL code you have modified. According to other interpretations, I am told that the entire product must comply with GPL and release all source code if any GPL code is used. According to Blankenhorn, this isn't a clear cut issue and it is still in legal limbo because it has never really been tested in the courts. As far as lawyers are concerned, I guess their interpretation would depend on who was paying them. In the long run though, I have my doubts that the GPL foundation would be able to fight a protracted legal war. I guess we'll have to wait for the courts to sort this one out.