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Re: GPL-script to be run on a non-free interpreter

On Sun, Aug 04, 2002 at 02:59:17PM -0400, Alan Shutko wrote:
> Steve Langasek <vorlon@netexpress.net> writes:
> > It is ok to redistribute it by itself; if you distribute it with the
> > interpreter (which is the case in Debian), I believe the GPL requires you
> > to also distribute the interpreter's source under the GPL.

> What clause of the GPL requires you to do this?

The GPL's definition of source code is:

 The source code for a work means the preferred form of the work for
 making modifications to it.  For an executable work, complete source
 code means all the source code for all modules it contains, plus any
 associated interface definition files, plus the scripts used to
 control compilation and installation of the executable.  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.

Interpreters are not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the definition, but
their function is most similar to compilers and kernels -- the major
components of the operating system on which the executable runs.  There
is sufficient ambiguity that I believe obtaining an explicit license
exception is safest for all involved.

> It seems that this link is apropos:

> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#InterpreterIncompat

The question presented there is, "If a programming language interpreter
has a license that is incompatible with the GPL, can I run GPL-covered
programs on it?", but running such programs is not the issue --
distributing them is.  In light of the wording of the GPL, that FAQ
answer seems to only cloud the issue, IMHO.

It is also based on the FSF's interpretation of the GPL; their
interpretation is not legally authoritative, particularly when they don't
hold the copyright on the work in question.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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