Jump to content
  • Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  
blueshogun96

NVIDIA's Linux Driver legalities

This topic is 605 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

I had a brief discussion the other day about the legalities of the NVIDIA Linux driver, and none of us came to a concrete conclusion. Since I'm not a lawyer (and currently don't even have a dollar in my name to even afford a lawyer for the most part) I won't make the assumption here.

 

The question is this. Let's say I/we are building a customized Linux distribution based off of LFS or something, and this Linux distro's purpose were to be used for an embedded platform, such as an arcade cabinet. Would it be illegal to sell such an arcade cabinet if it has the official NVIDIA driver installed? The OS or the driver itself is not going to be sold or anything, but it since it's intending to make money, it seems like there'd be some legality issues. My initial thought was that it may be similar as someone selling their old PC that happened to have an NVIDIA card installed as well as the latest forceware, but then the reality that an arcade cabinet is a platform that is patented, licensed and sold for profit by a vendor, so that likely would be an issue.

 

http://www.nvidia.com/content/DriverDownload-March2009/licence.php?lang=us <- this is the license.

 

Although I won't say much about it, I once worked at Microsoft for the Surface Hub team. The 84" model uses a Quadro K2200 and a specialized driver. My assumption is that Microsoft had to contact NVIDIA and work out a deal with them, that or one of the devs basically just took out everything from the driver that was unnecessary, such as the OpenGL driver and so on. Now, I do understand that there is nouveau that could be used in place of the official driver, especially considering the license is MIT. Although nouveau lacks the performance of the official driver, it's shown some significant improvement within the last month, so depending on the game's visual complexity and feature integration, it may still be a feasible driver to use instead. And considering that it's open source, there's also the possibility of using the nouveau driver API directly (although that's significantly more work for someone who is not skilled in driver level development; and I am more used to Windows driver development practices).

 

Lastly, I know this is going to be brought up, so I'm going to address it to avoid the thread going off into a tangent for an extended amount of time. Are you really building an arcade cabinet? If so, are you seriously going to attempt to sell one in 2017 when you could just do id@xbox, steam, App Store, Google Play, Amazon, and so forth? The answer to both questions is yes. Back in 2010, I started a thread on coin-op game development (https://www.gamedev.net/topic/563187-coin-op-game-dev/). At the time, I didn't have any money, any sort of hardware to use, nor did I have a place of my own to live (I was technically homeless) so it had to be put on the backburner. Unfortunately, I never was able to have all three within the right time period as now I have the personal space to do/store it but I've been out of a job for 3 months so I can't buy the materials. If everything goes according to plan, I'll be out of the hole soon so I can actually attempt this and plan things out appropriately beforehand. And also, before it's mentioned, I know that the arcade business has been dying for years now and likely never will be the way it was back in the 90s. That is... if you're targeting the US. I would rather (almost exclusively) target Japan/Asia as it still has some market over there (and HTC is planning on opening up a certain number of arcades over there, and a small number in the US/UK). Also, SEGA still does a few arcade titles here and there, but most, if not all of them exclusively in Asia (Japan). Do I plan for it to be lucratively profitable? That's not my goal. It's a personal goal that I want to try at least once in my lifetime. If all else fails, I'll give it to one of my buddies who owns a bar downtown.

 

So, that's where I'm coming from for the most part. I know some of you will try to talk me out of it, but I'm still going to try once.

 

What's your opinion on the legalities of the driver distribution? If the license is too much trouble or if nouveau does not suffice, then I will simply use AMD instead if necessary. Thanks in advance. Shogun

 

EDIT: Sorry for the lack of formatting.  I'm using Knoppix and my paragraphs did not get formatted somehow.

Edited by blueshogun96

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement

I would fire off an email to NVIDIA to make sure, but after skimming their EULA here http://docs.nvidia.com/cuda/eula/index.html#attachment-a I think you are fine. Particularly, you are allowed to redistribute the drivers, so I suppose it hinges upon this being considered a form of redistribution.

Great suggestion, but when I try to email NV, it's mostly redirecting me to their product support page.  I was expecting to be able to email someone who is qualified to answer directly, but if not then I guess I'll have to send the email and hope that they are willing to forward it to the right person.

 

Shogun

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great suggestion, but when I try to email NV, it's mostly redirecting me


Try telephone or snailmail to the corporate office.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I would fire off an email to NVIDIA to make sure, but after skimming their EULA here http://docs.nvidia.com/cuda/eula/index.html#attachment-a I think you are fine. Particularly, you are allowed to redistribute the drivers, so I suppose it hinges upon this being considered a form of redistribution.

Great suggestion, but when I try to email NV, it's mostly redirecting me to their product support page.  I was expecting to be able to email someone who is qualified to answer directly, but if not then I guess I'll have to send the email and hope that they are willing to forward it to the right person.

 

Shogun

 

There shouldn't be any legal problem but asking cost nothing, send them an email or ask in their forum (better the dev. one) they actively monitor them so there's a good chance you can get an answer.

In my experience if they aren't able to answer they get you in touch with who can. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Great suggestion, but when I try to email NV, it's mostly redirecting me


Try telephone or snailmail to the corporate office.

 

Just tried calling them, seems not to be a straight forward process of getting someone who can answer such a question.

 

 

 

 

I would fire off an email to NVIDIA to make sure, but after skimming their EULA here http://docs.nvidia.com/cuda/eula/index.html#attachment-a I think you are fine. Particularly, you are allowed to redistribute the drivers, so I suppose it hinges upon this being considered a form of redistribution.

Great suggestion, but when I try to email NV, it's mostly redirecting me to their product support page.  I was expecting to be able to email someone who is qualified to answer directly, but if not then I guess I'll have to send the email and hope that they are willing to forward it to the right person.

 

Shogun

 

There shouldn't be any legal problem but asking cost nothing, send them an email or ask in their forum (better the dev. one) they actively monitor them so there's a good chance you can get an answer.

In my experience if they aren't able to answer they get you in touch with who can. 

 

The forum is a good place to start.  I should have done that before.  Let's give it a go.

 

Shogun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just tried calling them, seems not to be a straight forward process of getting someone who can answer such a question.
 

 

Yes, that's to be expected. Welcome to the corporate world. Keep trying, and ask for leads, try "please connect me to the legal department" or "please connect me to business development" and other such titles - and sound professional. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll just chime in with some data points here, which should not be construed as any kind of legal advice.
 
I work at the company behind a major Linux distribution as one of the people involved with the packaging and distribution of the nVidia drivers.  We repackage and distribute the binary drivers from nVidia, including making a number of changes and enhancements to the installation code they ship.  We also work directly with nVidia developers for feedback and fixes in early pre-releases, and they contribute fixes and feedback to major components of our software that use the drivers.  Software for nVidia is something that enables hardware sales, especially on Linux, a major profit centre for them, and it's not really something they jealously guard as their milch cow.
 
Our packaging includes and redistributes the text of the License For Customer Use of NVIDIA Software, which contains this paragraph.

2.1.2  Linux Exception.  Notwithstanding the foregoing terms of
Section 2.1.1, SOFTWARE designed exclusively for use on the Linux
operating system may be copied and redistributed, provided that
the binary files thereof are not modified in any way (except for
unzipping of compressed files).

The packaging also contains the text of an email from an individual at nVidia named "Andy" (unfortunately no further details) in response to a written request and confirming the license to redistribute the binary and containing the paragraph "Please feel free to redistribute the NVIDIA graphics driver."  From that I get the impression that not only it is permitted by the license terms, but encouraged by the copyright holder.
 
Note that we redistribute the binary drivers to OEMs who bundle it with their hardware, which is not unlike OP's proposal.
 
Also note that we do not ship with the proprietary binary blob video card drivers by default, not because they do not license this, but because some in the GNU/Linux community are uncomfortable with having non-Free software on their machines.  We provide a one-button, one-time  installation step for an end user to painlessly install the binary drivers not unlike how Windows works, but without the pain of having to go to the manufacturer's site and download an installer first..  Other derivative distributions simply include the binary drivers directly to make it even easier, but they do not expect hardcore Free Software zealots to come anywhere near their product in the first place.
 
My suggestion is to remain persistent in trying to contact nVidia for confirmation that it is OK to redistribute the binary drivers so you can CYA in writing, and go ahead with other plans in the meantime assuming they're going to say it's fine.  Don't block on this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

We are the game development community.

Whether you are an indie, hobbyist, AAA developer, or just trying to learn, GameDev.net is the place for you to learn, share, and connect with the games industry. Learn more About Us or sign up!

Sign me up!