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Re: Bug#158529: vcg does not have a usable license

On Tue, Aug 27, 2002 at 06:19:19PM -0700, Walter Landry wrote:
> > Should this be done in the debian diff, or a new orig.tar.gz?
> You would have to make a new orig.tar.gz.  Debian is not allowed to
> distribute the "original" sources at all, since they aren't in the
> preferred form for modification.

Hmm, interesting.  I was about to argue against this, but a careful
reading of the GPL shows that you are right.  Permission to distribute
the "original" sources would have to come from GPL section 1 or 2
(and 2 ends up referring back to 1), which only gives permission to
distribute "copies of the Program's source code".

It looks like the GPL forbids any modification that would make the
source code unusable as source, unless that modification turns it into
"object code or executable form" so that it qualifies under section 3.
Of course, the definition of "object code" could be stretched a long
way... but I wouldn't want to rely on that in court!  It could easily
be argued that "object code" has a precise technical meaning, namely
the one used by compilers and linkers.

This affects more than just obfuscators.  For example, if a GPL'd
program includes Yacc sources, then I don't think the C files generated
by Yacc are distributable at all.  Also, it does seem to make the GPL
unusable for documentation, unless you can define PDF as "object code".
I think this is a bug in the GPL, which I hope will be addressed in the
next version.  It could be as easy as changing section 1 to say
"copies of the Program".

(Note: one possible interpretation that gets around this would be
that the phrase "copies of the Program's source code" in section 1
does not use the same definition of "source code" as section 3 does.)

Richard Braakman

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