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Re: BSD license, core libraries, and NetBSD

On Tue, Oct 15, 2002 at 12:07:47PM -0600, Joel Baker wrote:
> On Tue, Oct 15, 2002 at 07:49:29PM +0200, Henning Makholm wrote:
> > Scripsit Joel Baker <lucifer@lightbearer.com>
> > > On Tue, Oct 15, 2002 at 03:08:38PM +0200, Henning Makholm 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.

> > > Since the relevant packages would be Required+Essential (libc12) or
> > > Standard (libc12-dev), mapping the current libc6/libc6-dev in i386, this
> > > seems like it should meet that qualification.

> > I have a feeling we're talking past each other. Do we agree that

> >   We can *not* have a Debian port with a GPL-incompatible libc,
> >   because the GPL forbids us to distribute GPL'ed binaries linked
> >   with a GPL-incompatible libc when the libc itself accompanies the
> >   binary.

> > ?

> 1) I agree that we can't have a port with a GPL-incompatible libc.

> 2) I assert that NetBSD's libc, while under a 4-clause license, qualifies
> under the GPL clause exempting system libraries from the linking
> limitations (that nailed OpenSSL and others).

> Part 2 is why I'm asking -legal.

It is clear to me that it is the intention of the framers of the GPL to
impose certain obstacles to the use of their software together with
non-free software, in order to encourage the development of a completely
free system; that certain limited compromises have been incorporated into
both the GPL and the LGPL, as part of the bootstrapping process of
creating this free OS; and that although the FSF acknowledges the BSD
licenses as free, it has been their position that license incompatibility
with some other Free Software is an acceptable loss in order to guarantee
a strong copyleft with the GPL.  This sets the precedent that the FSF
will not grant permission to distributors of GPL-incompatible BSD
software to do things it would not allow vendors of closed-source
operating systems to do.

It is also clear to me that the wording of the GPL does *not* clearly
grant an exemption to distribute GPLed binaries that are linked against
GPL-incompatible libraries, if this distribution takes place in the form
of an OS.  It may be possible to *infer* this; however, inferring is
legally risky, and I would not recommend that Debian distribute any GPL
software linked against incompatibly-licensed libs together in main
without first getting a license clarification from the copyright holders
of the GPLed work.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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