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Re: [Firebird-devel] Warning: readline is GPL - incompatible with MPL

On Wed, Aug 07, 2002 at 08:53:18AM -0600, Joe Moore wrote:
> [sent only to debian-legal.  Comments are program-independant]

> Steve Langasek wrote:
> > Users do not violate the GPL: the GPL does not govern use of a program.
> >  But it would be illegal for Debian to *ship* a version of FireBird
> > that uses libreadline.

> On further research, http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#IfLibraryIsGPL
> seems to imply that linking a program to a GPL library (even for personal
> use) means the program must be GPL.

> This seems like a contradiction.

I've noticed that the FSF's GPL FAQ does a rather embarrassing job of
distinguishing between use and distribution/modification.  Section 0 of
the GPL says:

  Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not
  covered by this License; they are outside its scope.  The act of
  running the Program is not restricted, and the output from the Program
  is covered only if its contents constitute a work based on the
  Program (independent of having been made by running the Program).

This clearly trumps anything that might be in the GPL FAQ.

> > That is, if all you need are your private headers and stub library,
> > that's fine -- as long as that's what FireBird uses by default when
> > installed.  If FireBird ships with a Depends: libreadlinex, then
> > clearly we are linking against libreadline.

> So would pseudocode like:
> if ( lib = dl_load("libreadline") )
> 	//Use libreadline code
> else
> 	//Use internal stub
> 	lib = dl_load("libreadline_stubs"); 

> be a way around this?  Especially if the program only Suggests: libreadline?

Even if I knew nothing else about the GPL, I would say the answer is "no"
just by virtue of the fact that you're asking for a way to get around the
restriction.  By adding this code to the application, you as the
distributor/modifier have had a hand in linking the GPL-incompatible app
to the GPL library, and so your actions are under the purview of the GPL.
Any action to link the app against a GPL lib must be taken entirely by
the user.

In context, you'll find that the FSF also has a FAQ entry about GPL
plug-ins, where they give the same "no" for an answer.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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