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GPL clarification request (Debian GNU/NetBSD port)



[ Please note: this message is sent as an interested party who is working ]
[ on the Debian GNU/NetBSD project; I am in no way speaking on behalf of  ]
[ Debian in any official capacity.                                        ]

Recently I came across a possible licensing conflict on one of the Debian
projects I'm participating in (the Debian GNU/NetBSD port), and after some
discussion of it on the debian-legal mailing list, there wasn't much of a
concensus other than "RMS clarifying it would help". A quick summary:

1) The NetBSD source tree (that is, the sources which can be found at the
   official NetBSD CVS server, and from which the NetBSD releases are
   drawn) has a number of sections to it, with widely varying licenses
   (though most can be classed as 'old BSD', 'revised BSD', 'derived from
   old BSD', 'GNU GPL', or 'GNU LGPL').

2) Not all of the sections in 1 are relevant to the Debian/NetBSD port.
   In fact, quite a few of them are third-party software which is already
   packaged separately under Debian. However, the sections which can best
   be classed as "the kernel" (sys/ in the CVS tree), "system libraries"
   (lib/ and libexec/), and potentially some portions of the userland
   (bin/ and specific cases in usr.bin/ and usr.sbin/) are necessary. A
   preliminary inspection indicates that most of the required pieces fall
   under the old BSD license, with a few under the revised BSD license or
   the GNU GPL. The majority of these have copyrights by either UCB or The
   NetBSD Foundation, Inc. (TNF)

3) TNF has previously expressed a resistance to requests to move from an
   old BSD license to a revised one (that is, to drop the advertising
   clause). While it may be possible to convince them to change this at
   some point in time, it would be infeasible to assume that this can be
   accomplished soon, if at all.

4) While significant portions of the code have been retroactively
   relicensed by UCB's fiat, there remain significant portions which have
   not, as they are not under UCB's copyright.

The question:

Is it the intent of the GPL, as it currently stands, that this situation
(system libraries which are under a 4-clause/old BSD license) should
permit binaries licensed under it to link against those system libraries,
when the system libraries are distributed as part of one package, and the
GPL-licensed binaries as part of a separate package? (Specifically, both
the binary and source forms of the packages would be available in the
standard Debian distribution archives.)

I understand that this doesn't apply to normal libraries which are not
GPL-compatible (Debian does not, of course, knowingly ship packages which
have GPL-licensed binaries linked to libraries which are not under a GPL
compatible license); this question is solely about linking against the
libraries which are build from the non-third-party source found in the
NetBSD souce tree.

While it would seem likely that prohibiting this is not the intent of
the GPL or the FSF (since NetBSD distributes GCC along with it's current
releases, and has not, to the best of my knowlege, received complaints), it
would be of great assistance in clarifying the situation for Debian if you
could comment on it.
-- 
***************************************************************************
Joel Baker                           System Administrator - lightbearer.com
lucifer@lightbearer.com              http://users.lightbearer.com/lucifer/

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