[LinuxBIOS] Can we provide BIOS service base on the Linux BIOS

Peter Stuge peter at stuge.se
Sat Jul 28 20:07:43 CEST 2007

Dear Tsai Jonson,

On Sat, Jul 28, 2007 at 07:01:55PM +0200, Stefan Reinauer wrote:
> * Tsai Jonson <jonsontauoyuan at yahoo.com.tw> [070728 17:38]:
> > Dear Sir or Madam,
> >     We are a small software company in Taiwan.

We are very happy to hear from you!

> > As you may know we have many PC manufacturer and SoC Design
> > comapny here. May we provide them the BIOS binary code base on
> > the Linux BIOS?
> Yes, you can provide binary images, as long as you also provide the
> full source code including your changes.

Note that the full source code must be provided not only to those who
receive the binary code but to anyone who wants the source code. One
way to do this is for you to set up a web site where you publish the
full source code for your product, but the best way by far is to work
with us to get your code into the LinuxBIOS source tree.

> >     Surely we modify some code to fit our need of the SoC we had.
> > Is there any legal issue we need to take care?

All the details are in the GNU General Public License version 2,
which is the license under which we distribute LinuxBIOS to you.

Please see the file COPYING in the source tree for the full text.

Condition 2b specifies that any derived work (your code, which is
based on LinuxBIOS) must also be licensed under the GPLv2. This means
that you have a legal obligation to use the GPLv2 also for your BIOS,
because you based it on LinuxBIOS which uses the GPLv2.

Note also that if you use a VGA BIOS or other binary file from a chip
vendor in order to initialize some hardware you need to receive
permission from the vendor to re-distribute the VGA BIOS binary if
you want to be able to provide a fully working BIOS binary.

> This way you will not have additional maintenance duties for
> supplying the source code.

Since your BIOS is licensed under the GPLv2 you must supply anyone
who requests the source code with a full copy, at no cost other than
your own expenses for things like shipping. This is of course a huge
administrative task and an excellent way to avoid it is to work with
us so that we can put your code into the source tree. Then you can
simply point all requests for source at the LinuxBIOS source tree,
plus it is much easier to keep your target boards up to date with all
improvements made in LinuxBIOS.

> >     Note: We spent 6 months to learn and boot up the Linux BIOS
> > on our platform. Should we open our source code? 
> Yes. You have to. If you do not, you make yourself subject to legal
> prosecution.

Note that several legal cases against companies in Germany have gone
to court and the verdict was clear in favor of the copyright holders
in the open source projects because the companies did not follow the
GPL terms.

> > And how can we protect our intellecture property if we need to
> > open our source?
> The same way we all do: We offer it to the public. When you started
> using LinuxBIOS we did 90% of the job for you. Now it is your duty
> to give your 10% back. This is a great deal for you as well as for
> the rest of the LinuxBIOS community.

One way to view the situation is that your intellectual property
is not the code itself, but rather the knowledge you have gained
while writing the code.

The code is just some instructions for a machine and not really all
that novel. You can exploit your intellectual property (the
knowledge) by for example providing integration and development
expert services, or customizations based on your BIOS product. All
resulting products that origin from this project will always be GPL
however, so a difference between them and traditional BIOS products
is that you are unable to build a business model based on a royalty
fee per end unit. But instead you can negotiate with your customers
for support contracts, innovative services and many other business

> >     Very appreciate your kindly attention! Many thanks and
> > looking forward to your advice!

Again we are happy to hear from you, and we look forward to working
with you and your company to integrate your code into the LB source

Which hardware have you implemented support for by the way?

Best regards,


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