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Re: Bug#189164: libdbd-mysql-perl uses GPL lib, may be used by GPL-incompatible apps



On Thu, May 08, 2003 at 01:04:08PM -0500, Steve Langasek wrote:
> I am specifically addressing the case where:
[...]

I'm afraid I cannot come up with very much to add to your analysis.

I am uncomfortable with some of the ramifications but I am also
uncomfortable with totally declawing the GNU GPL by adopting and
interpretation of it that would let people wrapper and language-bind
their way out of the copyleft commons.

> > Is it any help to cite the libreadline/libeditline case?  Readline is a
> > GPLed library authored by the FSF.  Editline is a BSD-licensed clone
> > (with a limited feature set) developed by people who weren't happy with
> > Readline's licensing.
> 
> I think it's an interesting case to consider because of the question of
> whether an interface is copyrightable, but I think that discussion is
> best left for another thread.  In any case, I believe the "generic
> interface" defense is only applicable when the distributor is not
> distributing a combination that requires selecting one specific
> implementation as the default.

I am not sure the U.S. courts agree.[1][2]

Also worthy of note are the opinions of RMS himself[3].

However, it's possible that RMS feels that only visual interfaces should
not be protectable by copyright, and programming interfaces should be.

> To restate:  If distributing a statically-linked binary that combines a
> GPL library with GPL-incompatible code is a violation of the GPL, then
> shipping *any other combination of files* which constitute a program
> that, when run, result in a corresponding intermingling of GPL and
> GPL-incompatible code in memory is also a violation of the GPL.  You
> cannot circumvent the GPL's requirements on source code by shipping your
> combined work in the form of a GPLed library and a GPL-incompatible
> program; nor can you circumvent them by writing (or reusing) a GPL
> interpreter and shipping it together with the GPLed library and your
> GPL-incompatible script (bytecode).  (I'm going to ignore the much
> hairier RPC question for the moment. :)
> 
> > Because the two libraries are interface-compatible, the FSF is not in a
> > position to forbid people from distributing code that "links" against
> > libreadline if that code is not licensed GPL-compatibly, because the
> > code could be linked against libeditline instead.[1]
> 
> Yes, but they are in a position to forbid distributing such code
> together with readline itself.

I hate to say this because I love my bright-line tests, but I think
intent matters here.  Shipping "such code together with readline
itself", and nothing else, should be distinguishable from what Debian
does, which is ship "such code", "readline itself", a clone or two of
readline, and a whole boatload of other stuff that has nothing to do
with any of the above.

[1] Apple Computer v. Microsoft Corp., 35 F.3d 1435, 1446-47 (9th Cir. 1994)
[2] Lotus Dev. Corp. v. Borland Int'l, 49 F.3d 807, 815 (1st Cir. 1995).
[3] http://lpf.ai.mit.edu/Links/prep.ai.mit.edu/demo.final.release

-- 
G. Branden Robinson                |       The only way to get rid of a
Debian GNU/Linux                   |       temptation is to yield to it.
branden@debian.org                 |       -- Oscar Wilde
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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