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New Intel EULA Prohibits Benchmarks on Microcode Patches on Linux

Intel Microcode

Intel has recently provided major microcode updates for major Linux distributions such as Red Hat, Debian, and Gentoo. This comes in the wake of numerous security vulnerabilities found in specific Intel CPUs such as Meltdown and Spectre. Debian specifically has rejected one of these microcode updates from Intel because of a license conflict. The specific term in question prohibits the use of new Intel CPUs benchmarks to be published and compared.

Here is the specific clause which applies to new Intel microcode updates:

“You will not, and will not allow any third party to (i) use, copy, distribute, sell or offer to sell the Software or associated documentation; (ii) modify, adapt, enhance, disassemble, decompile, reverse engineer, change or create derivative works from the Software except and only to the extent as specifically required by mandatory applicable laws or any applicable third party license terms accompanying the Software; (iii) use or make the Software available for the use or benefit of third parties; or (iv) use the Software on Your products other than those that include the Intel hardware product(s), platform(s), or software identified in the Software; or (v) publish or provide any Software benchmark or comparison test results.”

In a nutshell, this basically prohibits users and organizations from performing benchmarks specifically based on the microcode update. It seems like proving whether or not running microcode targeted benchmarks would be difficult. So far Debian, for example has already published benchmarks. Whether or not a violation of the EULA has actually happened, has yet to be determined.

UPDATE: Intel has since responded to this:

“We are updating the license now to address this and will have a new version available soon. As an active member of the open source community, we continue to welcome all feedback.”

We will provide updates as to the exact update to the EULA if any, as well as the reactions of affected Linux distributions to the terms surrounding microcode benchmarks.


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