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GPL clients for non-free services

> On Wed, Mar 12, 2003 at 10:02:23AM -0800, Terry Hancock wrote:
> > and you're starting to say that the GPL denies you the right to look 
> > at http://www.microsoft.com with a free web browser, or http://www.fsf.org 
> > with IE.

On Wed, 12 Mar 2003, Steve Langasek wrote:
> The main point to consider here is the intent of the person providing
> the GPL client.  Remember that the GPL says it is ALWAYS ok to create
> non-free derivatives of GPL works, if you don't distribute them at all.
> This means that, even if you regard a remote website as an RPC call,
> when the *user* combines the browser and server by typing in a URL or
> following a link, no GPL violation can have occurred.

I'm confused - are you talking about GPLv2 or the theoretical GPLv3 with 
some way to close "non-recipient user loophole".  The current GPL is 
pretty clear IMO.  The possible changes are very murky.

Let's look at the right to distribute a GPL client for a non-free RPC
service.  For instance, can I give out a copy of Lynx with a default
homepage of http://microsoft.com?

My reading of GPLv2 is that this is perfectly fine UNLESS it's distributed 
"as part of a whole" with the non-free code.  Since the code behind 
microsoft.com isn't shipped as part of the modified Lynx, the GPL allows 
me to distribute.

If I distribute the server itself, and include a modified Lynx as a way to 
access it, then I AM in violation if the server isn't avaialable under the 
GPL as well.

> not necessarily a GPL interpreter.  There are some hairy issues with GPL
> interpreters that could indeed prevent Debian from shipping
> GPL-incompatible scripts together with GPL interpreters, I believe.

I hadn't put much thought into this before, but I believe you're right.  
Unless the interpreter includes additional freedoms to distribute along 
with non-free scripts, the whole work (interpreter + non-GPL-compatible 
scripts) is probably not distributable.  The interpreter is, and the 
script is, but not together.  
Mark Rafn    dagon@dagon.net    <http://www.dagon.net/>  

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