What happens to the GPL in FPGA & VLSI implementations?
zotz at 100jamz.com
Fri Mar 18 16:13:08 EST 2005
On Friday 18 March 2005 02:12 pm, Greg London wrote:
> Rob Myers said:
> > On Friday, March 18, 2005, at 04:48PM, Greg London <email at greglondon.com>
> > wrote
> >>Now, I'm not certain, but I THINK that distribution
> >>of silicon does not qualify as distribution of the
> >>work itself.
> > IANAL, but the silicon could be regarded as the executable code to the
> > work's source code, so this would possibly be "distribution".
> Copyright law recently (well, on a relative scale of "recent")
> added "masks" as one of the things that can be copyrighted.
> And by masks, I mean the masks used create the various
> layers on a die that is in a chip.
> (i.e. you lay down a wafer of silicon, coat it with some
> chemicals, put the mask over it, and expose it to light,
> The chemicals react to the light and that allows you to
> dip the wafer in etchant solution and remove the parts that
> didn't get exposed. Repeat as needed until you build up all the
> layers in a chip)
> Apparently, before that was added to copyright law, masks
> were considered purely functional. Now they are considered
> a kind of "artwork". (Beauty being in the eye of the beholder
> and all that)
> I'm not sure if that therefore means that said artwork is
> a derivative of the source code or not.
> Since masks have their own specific piece in copyright law,
> I think this is something that you need a copyright lawyer
> to get a good answer for, because ultimately, it could depend
> on how that specific piece of law was written to cover
> masks under copyright.
> I've heard of opencores.com but I've never used anything from
> there (everything we do always seems to be non-standard,
> so we roll our own version), but I would think they have
> some legal explanation of what you can and cannot do with
> their stuff.
> Do they say the intent is that you can only use their stuff
> if your whole chip is GNU-GPL?
> Unfortunately, while GNU-GPL allows you to build your proprietary
> code into GPL code if you do it locally on your machine, that is
> an impossible condition with ASIC's that have $300,000 NRE's and
> need high volumes to break even.
> The only way you could do your local build is if you used
> FPGA's and had your customers burn their own proms,
> and while that may be possible, it is highly impractical.
> Personally, I don't think copyright should extend to the point
> where it restricts physical hardware.
Please note, I am not disagreeing, just putting up something for
So we could ,for instance, just incorporate windows in the rom of the machine
and copyright would not apply? Or even further into the hardware if
> Copyright is in the
> expression. And while there is expression in verilog describing
> the chip, at some point it should switch over to the difference
> between a recipe and a cake. The verilog is the recipe and the
> chip is the cake. And while a book of recipes with someone's
> specific expression can be copyrighted, that should not prevent
> a cook from using the recipe to make cookies and sell them.
> If cookies are a derivative of some recipe book,
> we are all in for a world of trouble.
We are in for a world of trouble already. I think it is getting worse as well.
I am releasing all I can of my own work with copyleft licenses in the hopes
of providing some counterwieght, small as it is.
I am also constantly thinking of ways to make the situation better. I think
one thing that would greatly help is if we can find a way to copyleft works
while providing a decent to generous income to the creators of those wourks
should that be their wish. (In a market context.)
Saw an ad in the paper today stating that distribution or posession of illegal
cds/dvds can have a penalty of up to $50,000.00 per cd/dvd plus up to 4 years
in prison. No mention in the ad if a person possessing what he thinks is a
legal disc or buying what he thought was a legal disc at the time of purchase
If indeed a citizen can be put in jail for 4 years because someone ripped him
off in selling him a non-licensed cd that purported to be or that he thought
at the time of purchase was a genuine cd, things are way out of hand.
New top notch business plan. Create a cd. On a track somewhere in the middle
of the cd say in low, fast, legalese that if you listen to any track more
than once or if you remain in posession of the cd past such and such a date
then you need to send x amount to so and so. Not sure this particular example
would be a copyright violation as you yourself made the copy, but I think you
catch my drift. Someone is bound to figure out how to do this and then it
will not be worthwhile to posess cds or dvds in my country. How about yours?
all the best,
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