Wireless Software for Linux Cleared of Legal Uncertainty by Software Freedom Law Center

Jul 31, 2007, 01:00 ET from Software Freedom Law Center

    NEW YORK, July 31 /PRNewswire/ -- Development of OpenHAL, a wireless
 network component for Linux, can now resume unfettered after months of
 legal uncertainty. OpenHAL allows people with wireless cards based on
 technology from Atheros Communications, Inc. to connect to networks using
 solely free and open source software.
     Earlier this year, allegations were made that OpenHAL might include
 material that infringed the copyright of Atheros' proprietary HAL software.
 The Linux Wireless developers asked the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC)
 to investigate these rumors, and SFLC agreed to help on a pro-bono basis.
 SFLC subsequently conducted a confidential audit, carefully comparing
 OpenHAL to Atheros' proprietary HAL code.
     After performing the audit, SFLC concluded that OpenHAL does not
 infringe copyrights held by Atheros. As a result, OpenHAL development can
 now continue safely, unencumbered by legal uncertainty so long as the
 OpenHAL developers continue their work in isolation from Atheros'
 proprietary code.
     "Our ultimate goal is to have full support for Atheros devices included
 in the Linux kernel," said Luis Rodriguez, a Linux Wireless developer. "By
 providing legal clearance, the Software Freedom Law Center has helped us
 get one step closer to making this a reality."
     "We believe that this outcome will clear the way for eventual
 acceptance of a new wireless driver into the Linux kernel," said John
 Linville, the Linux kernel maintainer for wireless networking.
     "The OpenHAL developers can now continue development with legal
 clarity," said Karen Sandler, an attorney at SFLC. "We thank Atheros for
 granting us confidential access to its proprietary HAL source code for
 purposes of the review. We join Atheros in encouraging developers to avoid
 proprietary code in their work, using clean room approaches like the
 techniques used in the development of OpenHAL."
     About the Software Freedom Law Center
     The Software Freedom Law Center -- directed by Eben Moglen, one of the
 world's leading experts on copyright law as applied to software -- provides
 legal representation and other law-related services to protect and advance
 Free and Open Source Software. The Law Center is dedicated to assisting
 non- profit open source developers and projects. Visit SFLC at
     About OpenHAL
     OpenHAL is low-level interface software for Atheros 802.11 wireless
 cards. Previously, Linux-based systems needed a proprietary Hardware
 Abstraction Layer (HAL) plus a wrapper driver to make use of these wireless
 cards. OpenHAL is a free and open source replacement for the proprietary
 HAL. OpenHAL was initially based on ar5k, which was used as the basis for a
 proprietary HAL replacement for the OpenBSD project. Support for Atheros
 cards is important for Linux, as Atheros wireless chipsets are commonly
 used by many device manufacturers.

SOURCE Software Freedom Law Center