My day at FrOSCon: Interesting stuff from DTAG and my talk on “GPLv2 and embedded systems”

A couple of months ago, the organizers of the FrOSCon, one of Germany’s big Open Source developer conferences, asked me if I could present a talk at this year’s edition of the conference. I gladly accepted, and so I spent last Saturday in (West) Germany’s former capital Bonn. I had a tremendous day, even though I could attend just a few of the almost a hundred talks, workshops and seminars.

One highlight was the presentation of Deutsche Telekom AG’s (DTAG) OSLiC project given by Mr. Karsten Reincke. “OSLiC” stands for “Open Source Licensing Compendium”. The project’s aim is to develop a collection of guidelines for the use of Open Source licenses. Or, as the Open Source License Compendium Manifesto, puts it:


“The Open Source License Compendium shall reliably specify how to use Open Source Software in a regular manner. Particularly it shall …

– support Open Source users to act according to the Open Source License requirements without having to become license experts themselves

– offer strongly reliable and quickly accessible instructions  (to-do lists) how to fulfill a touched Open Source license

– consolidate reliable background knowledge by gathering and verifying information from the net and from libraries


It’s better to know one reliable way through the jungle of Open Source Licenses than to restart the search for the best specific solution again and again.”

To date, the Compendium is far from being complete; but it is designed as a community project – licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike German 3.0 license and hosted as GitHub repository – and it will hopefully grow quickly through the contributions of interested developers, lawyers, and companies.

In my own presentation I addressed the application of the GPLv2 to firmware of embedded system. My starting point was a case we had worked on in 2010 and 2011 (AVM v. Cybits, see more on the FSFE’s website) where we dealt with pretty interesting and complex issues of how modern firmware is built and what this means for the application of the GPLv2. I do not have the time today for getting deeper into the analysis of this issue (but I will do this in one of my next posts), but here are a few of the core questions I talked about:

Is firmware, developed by using all kinds of components with potentially numerous rights holders, a collective work? If so, what does the GPLv2 say about collective works? May companies prohibit competitors from changing their products’ firmware, if the firmware contains not only their own developments but also GPLed software (such as the GNU/Linux kernel), or are they barred from doing that? To what extent?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *