Warning: Grsecurity: Potential contributory infringement and breach of contract risk for customers

It’s my strong opinion that your company should avoid the Grsecurity product sold at grsecurity.net because it presents a contributory infringement and breach of contract risk.

Grsecurity is a patch for the Linux kernel which, it is claimed, improves its security. It is a derivative work of the Linux kernel which touches the kernel internals in many different places. It is inseparable from Linux and can not work without it. it would fail a fair-use test (obviously, ask offline if you don’t understand). Because of its strongly derivative nature of the kernel, it must be under the GPL version 2 license, or a license compatible with the GPL and with terms no more restrictive than the GPL. Earlier versions were distributed under GPL version 2.

Currently, Grsecurity is a commercial product and is distributed only to paying customers. Under their Stable Patch Access Agreement, customers are warned that if they redistribute the Grsecurity patch, as would be their right under the GPL, that they will be assessed a penalty: they will no longer be allowed to be customers, and will not be granted access to any further versions of Grsecurity. GPL version 2 section 6 explicitly prohibits the addition of terms such as this redistribution prohibition.

By operating under their policy of terminating customer relations upon distribution of their GPL-licensed software, Open Source Security Inc., the owner of Grsecurity, creates an expectation  that the customer’s business will be damaged by losing access to support and later versions of the product, if that customer exercises their re-distribution right under the GPL license. Grsecurity’s Stable Patch Access Agreement adds a term to the GPL prohibiting distribution or creating a penalty for distribution. GPL section 6 specifically prohibits any addition of terms.  Thus, the GPL license, which allows Grsecurity to create its derivative work of the Linux kernel, terminates, and the copyright of the Linux Kernel is infringed. The GPL does not apply when Grsecurity first ships the work to the customer, and thus the customer has paid for an unlicensed infringing derivative work of the Linux kernel developers with all rights reserved.  The contract from the Linux kernel developers to both Grsecurity and the customer which is inherent in the GPL is breached.

As a customer, it’s my opinion that you would be subject to both contributory infringement and breach of contract by employing this product in conjunction with the Linux kernel under the no-redistribution policy currently employed by Grsecurity.

I have previously endorsed a company that distributes enhanced versions of GPL software to paying customers, but that company operated differently (and in a way that I would recommend to Grsecurity). They did not make any threat to customers regarding redistribution. They publicly distributed their commercial version within 9 months to one year after its customer-only distribution.

This other company was essentially receiving payment from its customers for the work of making new GPL software available to the public after a relatively short delay, and thus they were doing a public benefit and were, IMO, in compliance with the letter of GPL though perhaps not the spirit. In contrast, Grsecurity does no redeeming public service, and does not allow any redistribution of their Linux derivative, in direct contravention to the GPL terms.

In the public interest, I am willing to discuss this issue with companies and their legal counsel, under NDA, without charge.

I am an intellectual property and technology specialist who advises attorneys, not an attorney. This is my opinion and is offered as advice to your attorney. Please show this to him or her. Under the law of most states, your attorney who is contracted to you is the only party who can provide you with legal advice.

SpaceX Over-Stated Re-Use of Dragon Capsule on CRS-11 Mission.

SpaceX has made a tremendous achievement in recovering 11 first stages so far, and recovering one after re-use. However, the re-use of the Dragon capsule during the CRS-11 mission was over-stated. What was re-used was the pressure vessel. This means that the craft from the CRS-4 mission was stripped down to its hull and then rebuilt. It’s essentially a new spacecraft built upon an old shell.

SpaceX is not able to re-use the capsule after it lands in salt water without this complete rebuild. Someday they may be able to achieve full reuse, when they can land the capsule on solid ground.

Update: At the ISS R&D conference, Elon Musk stated that the first capsule re-use cost as much as, or more than, a new Dragon capsule. Water intrusion was listed as one of the causes. All of this confirms what I previously stated. However, SpaceX has expressed that they may be able to prevent water intrusion in later flights, leading to a capsule that is more readily reusable.

At the same conference, Musk announced that non-parachute landings for Dragon 2 were being abandoned, so apparently there will be no ground landings. Apparently the original propelled landing design used legs protruding from the heat shield, and these were deemed unworkable.