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Re: GPL link against non-free in original work

Peter S Galbraith <GalbraithP@dfo-mpo.gc.ca> writes:

> So, Debian might be happy because they have clarified that
> linking against XForms is okay.  But, am I to conclude that
> Debian doesn't agree with their argument that while they were
> using the GPL without clarification they were still okay
> license-wise because they were doing the linking in original
> work?

Careful here. The authors themselves were okay before. They don't need
to stick to the restrictions they impose on others.

Debian, however, would not have been okay to do what the author's did,
because the authors had not permitted Debian to do it.

The the authors issued a statement that they'd never had anything
against third parties (such as Debian) linking their code against
XForms. There's no reason to believe they lie, but legally, we need
more than the copyright holder's lack of opposition. We need a
positive approval.

> Any original work linked against Qt or XForms that is GPLed
> cannot be redistributed by Debian, even if the linking was an
> obvious intent of the copyright owner.  Right?

The point, as I see it, is whether the intent is that obvious. A
copyright holder COULD take the position that
   "I'll release my source code under GPL lest RMS start
   talking evil about me. It's not my problem whether people
   can find a GPL-compatible gui library it'll link to.
   If they want XForms they can use my binaries, but I don't
   allow XForms in binaries I don't control".

Granted, it would be a somewhat bizarre positions (in the eyes of
traditional copyright law the intentions of the GPL itself are
bizarre), but it is possible, and there is nothing that LEGALLY
distinguishes it from the former legal status of LyX.

> I mentioned this problem to the author earlier
> and he didn't see a problem since he was doing the linking
> upstream, so it was implied to be okay.

Debian does its own linking and needs permission to do so.
Think of build demons. Think of NMUs, security fixes...

> Would adding the email
> from the copyright holder be enough of a clarification?

I would think so, if it satisfies the common conditions about not
being specific to Debian etc.

Henning Makholm

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