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Re: BSD license, core libraries, and NetBSD

Scripsit Matthew Garrett <mgarrett@chiark.greenend.org.uk>
> In chiark.mail.debian.legal, you wrote:

> >The system-library exception expressly only applies "unless that
> >component accompanies the executable". Traditionally we hold it to
> >count as "accompanying" when the library as well as the GPL'ed stuff
> >appears in Debian's main archive. I've argued that this is the
> >interpretation that is most likely to fit RMS's intentions with the
> >GPL.

> This interpretation does seem to have the side effect of rendering
> NetBSD's distribution of gcc (for instance), uhm, interesting.

It would seem so, but it's not easy for to find the exact license
terms on the NetBSD libc without downloading some tens of megabytes
of source tarballs.

> Has anyone actually asked RMS what his intention here was?

I don't know, but I can think of no other way to make sense of the
"unless" part. See my full reasoning in the list archives at

> (And does it suddenly become legal if we distribute a bootstrap install
> which contains no GPLed software from somewhere else and then provide
> the rest of userland from debian.org? This seems a little, uhm, bizarre)

I'm not sure that physical location would be the thing a court (or the
FSF) would emphasise. If it all was integrated in what the user sees
as a single OS product installation, I'd expect problems.

Essentially, since the GPL cannot distinguish non-free from
free-but-not-GPL, the result would be that someone is peddling an OS
with a non-free kernel and libc which relied on the GNU tools for most
of its user interface and POSIX compliance. I cannot see how the FSF
could accept that without weakening their position for the day when
someone did it with a system that was really proprietary and not just

Henning Makholm                   "We will discuss your youth another time."

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