Re: GPL/LGPL confusion
>On Mon, Jul 02, 2001 at 02:33:12AM -0500, Ben Burton wrote:
>> Hi.. thank you both for your replies. Unfortunately the two responses gave
>> opposite answers, so I'm no less confused, but at least I'm feeling a little
>> less embarrassed about my confusion now :).
>The GPL requires derived works of GPLed software to be distributed
>under the GPL. But it only becomes a "derived work" when it gets linked.
Suppose you create a GPL'ed program and it includes a file
whose copyright is owned by MIT and was covered by the
(GPL-compatible) MIT X11 terms. Someone else could still extract that
(unmodified) file from the GPL'ed source tree and use it under the MIT
X11 terms in some GPL-violating way, and not be infringing any
copyrights. You have no copyright ownership of that file, and MIT has
already given permission for everyone to use it under the MIT X11
The term "license" is a sloppy and often misleading
abstraction and does not exactly match the monopoly granted by
copyright. I recall reading a recent ruling from the 6th federal
circuit (US), which I just can't remember, that happened to mention
how ill-defined the idea of "license" is with respect to software
copyright, although it did not appear to be a "holding" of their
Your right to copy a piece of content comes from the
permissions granted to you by the owners of its copyrights, not by
intermediaries who have no actual copyright interest or authorization
to act as an agent for the copyright owners. To the best of my
layman's knowledge, there is no law or court doctrine that gives you
an ability to revoke the copyright-related permissions that have been
granted by the copyright owners to the public with respect to some
other content that you are including.
So what can the GPL mean when it says that a derivative works
must be "licensed AS A WHOLE [...] under the terms of this License?"
I believe this condition is met if the GPL is a true statement when
applied to the whole work. In other words, with respect to the whole
work, you have the permissions that the GPL grants when meeting the
conditions that the GPL requires. So, as long as the requirements
imposed by other components of the work are a subset of the GPL's and
the permissions are a superset of the GPL's, the work can be described
as licensed as a whole under the GPL.
As always, I am not a lawyer, so please do not rely on this
as legal advice.
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