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Re: BSD license, core libraries, and NetBSD

On Tue, Oct 15, 2002 at 10:03:27PM +0100, Matthew Garrett wrote:

> > > 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
> > http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2002/debian-legal-200205/msg00158.html

> On the other hand, if RMS had intended that then I'd have expected earlier
> complaints about gcc on NetBSD. gcc has been in NetBSD for a very long
> time (a quick search seems to suggest that 386BSD had binary distributions
> including it). I think second-guessing him here isn't sensible.

Do we know for a fact that:

a) the FSF is aware that the NetBSD folks ships gcc with their operating
b) the FSF is aware that the NetBSD code that gcc links against is still
   old-style BSD,
c) the FSF has *explicitly stated* that NetBSD can legally ship gcc with
   their OS under these circumstances


I think the odds of RMS *personally* pursuing legal action against Debian
for this while he still has an NM application out there are pretty slim,
but we're still assuming a lot by saying that "because BSDs have been
doing this forever, it must be safe".  I'm not sure the license conflict
between old-style BSD and GPL had even been evaluated at the time 386BSD
was current.  Also, copyrights are not diluted by non-enforcement; the
FSF may have decided in the past that it was in the best interest of Free
Software to not stand on formality, and if there's not been an explicit
license clarification, they may decide tomorrow that they want the BSDs
to comply with this part of the license.

> Based on my experience of dealing with Irix package management, if you get
> the SGI freeware CD then you can install gcc at the same time as you
> install the rest of the OS using the same package manager. Again, the fact
> that people have been doing this for years doesn't mean it's right - but I
> would have expected complaints earlier if it was the case.

And why is it shipped on a separate freeware CD?  Because this isolates
it from the "operating system", in order to comply with this clause of
the GPL.  So *somebody's* lawyers think that this is a necessary and
sufficient precaution to protect them from legal liability in this

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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