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Re: Forking and relicensing issues (different)

Brian Ristuccia <brianr@osiris.978.org> writes:

> > I suggest going to ftp.be.com and checking out the /pub/gnu directory.
> > They have done exactly this with their boot loader. It uses some parts of
> > the Linux kernel (those parts are released in source), and some parts are
> > proprietary (thos parts are only in .o object format). So you can
> > conceivably rebuild the boot loader with the source and objects provided.

> I think NeXT tried to do this and ended up releasing the full source to
> their Objective C compiler. 

RMS relates the story somewhere on www.fsf.org.

I must admit that I do not entirely follow the legal logic of
that. Sure enough it would be illegal to *distribute* a binary
that consists of part GPL, part proprietary code, linked together.

(And if the above quote is true to what Be indeed does it sounds
like they are stepping on very thin ice - I find it hard to imagine
how to distribute an operating system if the *boot loader* cannot be
distributed in a ready-to-run form).

However in the case of the objective C compiler I cannot see what
would legally prevent the NeXT model. NeXT would distribute GPL'ed
source code; which they are allowed to. They would also distribute
some proprietary object files which just happened to be able to
link together with the GPL'ed source code. FSF can't prevent that.
The end user would link the object files into the GPL source, forming
a GCC deriviate which the GPL forbids her to redistribute. But GPL
allows one to make private modifications to the software as long as
you do not distribute the modified binary. How would it be different
if NeXT happened to have supplied code that was used for the private

Henning Makholm

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