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

On Saturday, May 24, 2003, at 03:51 PM, Nathanael Nerode wrote:

Anthony DeRobertis then said:

At some point, we've got to draw a line where it's de-clawed. After
all, I think we all agree that if a shell script calls GNU grep[0], it
isn't required to be under the GPL.

This does not affect legal issue beyond programming to the interface.
If, for example, including header files is required to program to the
interface, the header files must be public domain or X11/BSD-style
licensed (since they're included in the program code when compiled) to
allow inclusion in proprietary software.

I'm not sure if you're thinking of this when mentioning "public domain", but many header files (for example, ones giving simple structs and numeric defines) probably have no copyrightable work in them, and thus would be essentially in the public domain. So, using those is fine, no matter what the copyright notice says.

Writing a script specifically for
undocumented features of "bash" would impose bash's GPL requirements,
at least on the distribution of the combination of the script and bash.

I must disagree with you here, and apparently even the FSF would! The FSF considers shell scripts as just data to an interpreter, though warns against linking external modules to the script.

I point out Lotus v. Borland[0] and note that the commands used by the shell script are the same as used by a human, and thus are a method of operation, not protected by copyright.

Using a secret interface is effectively
making use of the original program's source code to make a derived work,

Except if it is a human interface, which under Lotus v. Borland can't be copyrighted. Note that Lotus v. Borland even included arguments about a macro interpreter.

So in regards to "declawing", this makes a *non-arbitrary* distinction,

Not really. You essentially said that if I, as the author of a non-GPL program that wants to use a GPL'd work says "I need a program doing foo, bar, and baz to work, such as GNU frob" instead of saying "I need GNU frob to work" I'm fine. That's a rather pointless distinction, methinks.

It's a matter of whether the linkage is integral to the
program, or not.  Admittedly the distinction must be applied carefully
on a case-by-case basis, but that's often what makes good law.

I'd say its a matter of if the linkage causes program B to rely on copyrighted elements of program A, then there could be infringement. But I can at least agree that the border cases require careful case-by-case analysis.

[0] See <[🔎] 0E0C4999-8EFE-11D7-AAB4-00039317863E@suespammers.org> for full details

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