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Re: PHPNuke license

On Wed, Mar 05, 2003 at 01:55:18PM -0800, Mark Rafn wrote:
> On Wed, 5 Mar 2003, Steve Langasek wrote:

> > Let's see if we can build consensus around a few points.

> > Does anyone here hold the position that requiring the copyright notice on
> > the front page would not be DFSG-free, if that's a valid interpretation
> > of the GPL?

> I believe this is not free unless it can be removed when the page is
> changed by the site administrator enough not to be considered a derivative
> work of the PHP-Nuke copyrighted default homepage.

> This fails DFSG9 - it's contaminating my wholly-original homepage.

> This is a blurry line, though it's one that may come up in other software 
> which has output that can be considered derivative of the software rather 
> than derivative of the input.

Well, note that a lot of other GPL software (including all GNU text/code
processing tools I'm familiar with) specifically exempts the output from
being regarded as a derivative work of the processing tool.  For bison,
gcc and the like, there may be enough originality in the structuring of
the output to support a copyright claim.

Similarly, I would argue that, if you derive benefit from using the
PHP-Nuke engine to assemble your homepage into its final form for
presentation, it is not *wholly* original.[1]  Even if it is no longer a
derivative work of the PHP-Nuke copyrighted default homepage, it might
legally be a derivative work of the PHP-Nuke engine itself.

> > Does anyone believe the GPL unambiguously *dis*allows that
> > interpretation?

> I do.  2c applies to running of the program, which is done on behalf of
> the administrator by the webserver which hosts PHPNuke, not the computer
> making an HTTP request.  Nothing is truly unambiguous, but this doesn't
> seem close to me.

You believe there is *no* ambiguity regarding the words "reads commands
interactively when run" and "started running for [...] interactive use",
that this is always limited to cases where a single invocation of an
executable program presents an interactive interface?

> > Does anyone believe that this interpretation is sufficiently wrong-headed
> > that it should not be considered valid, in spite of statements from the
> > copyright holder or a court ruling?

> It's clearly the author's wishes, so I'd personally rule that this isn't
> actually GPL software - it's GPL with an incompatible rider.  We generally
> honor author's stated wishes even when the license doesn't encode it
> fully, and in this case that means keeping it out of Debian.

> If a court were to rule that this is the correct definition of GPL2c, we 
> likely will find that we have some infringing software in Debian, and 
> we'll need to deal with it.

If you believe this interpretation of interactivity would imply that
Debian includes infringing software, I suspect you've misunderstood the
scope of my argument.  I am only talking about the instance of a web app
which, though it exists as a series of discrete scripts that communicate
with the user through a stateless HTTP connection, presents a unified
"interactive session".  I don't pretend to be familiar with all the
software in Debian, but my experience suggests to me that it's unlikely
that GPL code not originally intended for use in such a web app would be
incorporated into one.  (Perhaps because most web app writers suffer
from a heavy dose of NIH syndrome. ;)

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

[1] I might argue that the use of PHP-Nuke entirely precludes originality
on the part of the user, but such spitefulness would not serve to advance
our discussion here. ;)

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