"We, the MadWifi team, announce our decision to move away from the binary-only HAL and change the focus of our future development towards ath5k, a completely free (as in freedom) driver which will eventually become an integral part of the Linux kernel," Michael Renzmann posted to the MadWifi development mailing list. The decision comes during continued debate surrounding what is and what is not allowed by the BSD license, and with no official statement yet from the SFLC. Much of the debate was due to an attempt to release BSD licensed files under the GPL, visible for example in the ath5k_hw.c source file which is still labeled as available "under the terms of the GNU General Public License" in the latest version of the file checked into the source repository linked from the MadWifi project page. It appears that actual development of the ath5k driver has been moved to Linville's git tree, where the license is now purely BSD, though debate remains as to what's required to be able to add additional copyrights to source code as have been added to the reverse engineered HAL code originally written by Reyk Floeter. In an earlier confrontation with Atheros, the work done by Reyk was determined to be free of copyright infringement:
"A driver for Atheros wireless cards is available in OpenBSD that talks directly to the hardware, based on reverse engineering efforts done by Reyk Floeter. Relevant parts of the driver have been ported to Linux by Nick Kossifidis to start OpenHAL, a free (as in freedom) replacement of the proprietary HAL. Claims that the OpenBSD driver (and thus also OpenHAL) contains stolen code slowed down the OpenHAL efforts but finally could be voided. The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), with the help of Atheros, performed a thorough code review and concluded "that OpenHAL does not infringe copyrights held by Atheros". In other words, the way is clear now for the inclusion of an OpenHAL-based driver into the Linux kernel."
"What is going on whenever someone changes code is that they make a 'derivative work'," began Theodore Ts'o. "Whether or not you can even make a derivative work, and under what terms the derivative work can be licensed, is strictly up to the license of the original. For example, the BSD license says: '
redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met....' Note the 'with or without modification'. This is what allows people to change BSD licensed code and redistribute said changes." Regarding code that is GPL'd, he added, "it is not a relicencing, per se, since the original version of the file is still available under the original copyright; it is only the derived work which is under the more restrictive copyright."
Disagreement continued as to whether or not the BSD license allows the addition of new copyrights on unmodified or minimally modified code. Another disagreement was over the continued existence of improperly licensed files in developer source code repository histories from when BSD licensed files had been changed to the GPL, a problem since fixed. Jeff Garzik explained:
"In a purely open development environment, even personal developer trees are made public. That's the way we _want_ development to occur. Out in public, with a full audit trail. Your implied ideal scenario is tantamount to guaranteeing that mistakes are never committed to a public repository anywhere. Mistakes will happen. Even legal mistakes. In public.
"What you are seeing is an example of mistakes that were caught in review, and corrected. That's how any scalable review process works... the developer reviews his own work. the team reviews the developer's work. the maintainer reviews the team's work. the next maintainer reviews. and so on, to the top."
As the Atheros driver issue continues to simmer on the OpenBSD -misc mailing list and the Linux Kernel mailing list, with debate continuing over when the license of source code can be altered or added to, Eben Moglen made a statement for the Software Freedom Law Center. He began by defending their own actions, "it might be useful to recall the first stage of this process, when OpenBSD developers were accused of misappropriating Atheros code, and SFLC investigated and proved that no such misappropriation had occurred? Wild accusations about our motives are even more silly than they are false." He went on to acknowledge, "we understand that attribution issues are critically important to free software developers; we are accustomed to the strong feelings that are involved in such situations. In the fifteen years I have spent giving free legal help to developers throughout the community, attribution disputes have been, always, the most emotionally charged." He added that the SFLC would be making no further statements until their work on this matter was complete, noting:
"Also, and again for the last time, let me state that SFLC's instructions from its clients are to establish all the facts concerning the development of the current relevant code (which means the painstaking reconstruction of several independent and overlapping lines of development, including forensic reconstruction through line-by-line code reviews where version control system information is not available), as well as to resolve all outstanding legal issues, and to make policy recommendations, if possible, that would result in all projects, under both GPL and ISC, having full access to all code on their preferred terms, on an *ongoing* basis, with full respect for everyone's legal rights. We continue to believe those policy goals are achievable in this situation. The required work has been made more arduous because some people have chosen not to cooperate in good faith. But we will complete the work as soon as we can, and we will, as Mr Garvik says, follow the community's practice of complete publication, so everyone can see all the evidence."
Author of OpenBSD's hardware driver layer for wireless Atheros devices, Reyk Floeter, sent a query to the Linux Kernel mailing list regarding the recent licensing debate surrounding the Linux "ath5k" driver, "I'm still trying to get an idea about the facts and the latest state of the incidence that violated the copyright of my code, because I just returned from vacation." He continued:
"I'm very disappointed about this and I hope that it was a mistake, because it is very unfair and malicious against me and the OpenBSD community. I invested a lot of time to write the code and to make it work with as many chipsets as possible. And during the last years, the OpenBSD community helped to test and to improve the driver. I always liked the idea to port it to other operating systems, but now somebody harmed these efforts by violating the license."
Reyk explained that he has cooperated with developers porting his free Atheros driver from OpenBSD to other operating systems, "because it is a clear sign against hardware companies attacking the free software 'community' by releasing binary-only driver objects instead of free code or hardware documentation." He explained that he had worked with the developers who ported his driver to Linux as "OpenHAL", "we exchanged ideas, bug fixes, and small code snippets. They sent me some bug reports and I also looked at their changes and reported some functional problems. This was possible because they kept the license in place." Finally he expressed concern that this would no longer be possible if the license was changed, "somebody wants to cancel any options to cooperate by locking me out with a prepended GPL and an invalid copyright on top of it."