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Atheros driver and the legality of distributing it


I am working with the Linux Mint developers on testing the new Debian Edition. So I boot it up on my parents Acer 5820TG to try the latest spin on some new hardware and find that neither wired nor wireless network is working.

After getting and installing the driver I ask the project lead to include the Ethernet-card driver on the CD to be plugged in either via some fancy init-script or Jockey when appropriate, because it's proprietary. The answer I got was no, because the license states that it's forbidden to distribute the driver.

I was flabbergasted in the words truest sense; nobody can be that stupid. But upon reading the license agreement myself even I cannot deny the very words of the license: http://partner.atheros.com/Download.aspx?id=151

Section 2: You may not use, disclose, modify, reproduce or distribute the Software except as expressly permitted in this Agreement.

Section 3: You may not copy the Software except for archival purposes or as necessary to use it in accordance with this License Agreement.

Now, I'm in no way a lawyer or accustomed to reading documents of law. So maybe I'm wrong, please say that I'm wrong, but it seems to me like the license explicitly forbids redistribution of any sort of the driver. This means that Linux Mint cannot distribute this driver for the Ethernet-card, and without the Ethernet-card, how is the user supposed to get the driver? Using her Broadcom Wireless card maybe?

So I'm asking you, the penguin hivemind, are we reading this license wrong, is there any way we could distribute this driver?

TL;DR Atheros seem to be bastards. Is there any way that I'm wrong?


  • Goineasy9
    Goineasy9 Posts: 1,114
    I would make an inquiry to the company itself. As I'm sure you know, there are many Atheros drivers already in the kernel, and, this is the first time I've come across and Atheros networking device not working straight out of the box. (Well, that's recent history, I remember having to install the Atheros wifi driver after the fact back a few years ago when I was using Debian, but, that was before ath5k or ath9k.)
    I'm also curious because goggling the model of your machine, I find threads where ACPI is causing problems but no mention of the ethernet or wifi connections.
    Very Interesting.

    Edit: I'm wondering if the drivers are available in more recent kernels, or are set to be entered into the kernel. After all, this is a fairly new machine.
  • Rovanion
    The specific card model would be Atheros AR8151.

    I can find some information scattered around the internet, this message for example: http://comments.gmane.org/gmane.linux.kernel/
    But it was written in February and I have no clue what happened with the code.
  • Goineasy9
    Goineasy9 Posts: 1,114
    Your link got me to a blank page, but, doing a search on AR8151 got me:

    And it does look like it's being considered for entry into the kernel.

    Edit: Actually the post from June 1, 2010 says applied.


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