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GnuCash: GPL vs. Qt


I'd to clarify a few facts about the GPL vs. Qt situation.

Some say that the GPL is not compatible with Qt.

Here is the hypothetical situation:

 a) A KDE developer releases source code under the GPL, but
    it needs the Qt libs to be compiled.

 b) Debian compiles the released source with Qt, and
    distributes binaries.

 c) Bad blood happens.  The KDE developer theoretically would
    have a case in court that Debian had violated the license
    on the package because it was linked with a piece of
    proprietary software.

Ok.  That was the hypothetical situation.

In reality, I don't think this would ever happen.  Even if it did, the
KDE developer would probably get laughed out of court.  But it still
remains a theoretical possibility given the language of the license.

It depends on your interpretation of the GPL.  The GPL was written
using fairly vague language, so interpretation is very important.

If you use a strict interpretation, it would be illegal to ship a
binary that is used with a proprietary lib such as Qt.

Using the same very strict interpretation, you could also say that
anybody that distributes a GNU binary for a non-GNU platform (ie. Sun,
HP, cywin32, etc) is also breaking the GPL.  Same goes for
distributing binaries that use Motif (ie. GnuCash).

If you have a looser interpretation of the GPL (as I do), linking with
some proprietary libs isn't really the end of the world.  The GPL

   However, as a special exception, the source code distributed need
   not include anything that is normally distributed (in either
   source or binary form) with the major components (compiler,
   kernel, and so on) of the operating system on which the executable
   runs, unless that component itself accompanies the executable.

That should cover off libraries such as Qt or Motif with little
problem.  It all gets down to what you consider a part of the
operating system.  Remember, Microsoft even claims that a web browser
is part of their OS - so there is a lot of room for interpretation

This should really just be a theoretical license problem only, and it
would be nice to ignore it.

This is more than a theoretical problem, unfortunately, because the
hard-liners are going to have a say in what gets into Debian.

Personally, I think this debate is a little bit ridiculous.

For the GnuCash developers, I would suggest avoiding the debate
entirely by:

 a) Place the backend of GnuCash under the LGPL.
 b) Place the Gtk front-end of GnuCash under the GPL.
 c) Place the Qt and Lesstif front-ends and the LGPL or some other

I'm going to write an application myself that has both a Gtk and Qt
front-end.  I am doing this because I want to build bridges over to
the KDE community, not burn them.  I guess this means I shouldn't use
the GPL (or I will get attacked for doing so).  I might end up
LGPL'ing everything.

It's unfortunate that the hardline GPL advocates in Debian are going
to force a situation where less code is going to be released under the
GPL than would otherwise be.


 - Jim

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