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GPL scripts with a GPL-incompatible interpreter


What is the list's opinion of this entry in the FSF's GPL FAQ?


Does the argument that a script is "just data" really hold water legally?
I would think they are "just data" in the same sense that all binary
executables are "just data" to a kernel; yet the vendors of proprietary
Unices have always gone out of their way to make sure GPL software is not
shipped together with their kernel, in order to take advantage of the
GPL's "OS component" exception.

I would think that the real protection the GPL provides for such scripts
is in fact the OS component exception, since such scripts are rarely
distributed together with their GPL-incompatible interpreters; but of
course, this means that Debian is not able to take advantage of this
protection, just as we cannot distribute GPL applications linked against
OpenSSL without an exemption from the copyright holder.

If this is the case, there are a number of GPL PHP packages in Debian
which would need to be examined.  I don't believe that licensing a PHP
script under the GPL can be seen as implicit permission to distribute the
script together with the interpreter, if this can be understood as
prohibited by the letter of the license.  In particular, the history of
phpnuke and its author, as well as the text of the package's copyright
file, make me wary of possible repercussions.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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