[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: GPL, yet again. (The kernel is a lot like a shared library)

Sean Kellogg <skellogg@u.washington.edu> writes:

>> The thing is that the kernel is indeed much like a library, but not
>> like a static one.  The kernel is a lot like a shared library in
>> that it exists in memory, and has functions that can be called. It
>> is different mainly in that it stays in memory, and on some
>> architectures has special capabilities not available to regular
>> shared libraries.
>> Note that it is not different by being a critical part of the
>> operating system, as other libraries, especially things like the c
>> library, or even the runtime linking library (ld.so)
> I've written about this very issue in law school.  It seems to me
> there are two ways to view the issue.  One is that the GPL is a
> Contract (*shudder*) and thus the parties are free to restrict what
> is done with code they distribute.  Consider it a contract that says
> "you can have this code, but only if you free the code you combine
> it with...  otherwise you can't have the code" That is a perfectly
> fine contract, mutual promises and all.
> However, many say that the GPL is not a contract and must be
> considered a pure license and the sole product of copyright law.  If
> so, then the GPL can only exercise power over (s)106 rights (US
> copyright law).  Any item outside of those rights cannot be
> controlled by the license.  The GPL tries to do this by claiming a
> derived work or out-and-out copying.  I think you very much hit it
> on the head by asking whether it is either...  and based on my
> understanding of what is and is not a derivative work, what
> constitutes copying, and applicable caselaw, I don't think it is.
> But then again, I think the GPL is a contract...  so I don't see it
> as much of a problem.

Even if the GPL is a contract, it doesn't matter.  Read section 0:

  0. This License applies to any program or other work which contains
  a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it may be distributed
  under the terms of this General Public License.  The "Program",
  below, refers to any such program or work, and a "work based on the
  Program" means either the Program or any derivative work under
  copyright law: that is to say, a work containing the Program or a
  portion of it, either verbatim or with modifications and/or
  translated into another language.  (Hereinafter, translation is
  included without limitation in the term "modification".)  Each
  licensee is addressed as "you".

Note particularly the phrase "derivative work under copyright law".
Whatever terms the parties of the contract agree to, they apply only
to the program itself and the aforementioned derivatives, specifically
not other programs that merely use the code covered by the contract.
The contradictory rephrasing following the colon doesn't pose any
problems either, as a program dynamically linked to a library doesn't
contain the library, or any parts of it.  All it does is makes
reference to it, and does so in a very non-specific way.

The section continues:

  Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not
  covered by this License; they are outside its scope.  The act of
  running the Program is not restricted, and the output from the
  Program is covered only if its contents constitute a work based on
  the Program (independent of having been made by running the
  Program).  Whether that is true depends on what the Program does.

The phrase "running the Program" is not directly applicable to a
library, so we have to assume that for libraries, this translates into
using the library, i.e. causing its code to be run, typically by
running a program that uses the library.  This act being unrestricted
per the quoted paragraph, it follows that any program can link with a
GPL library, no matter what license that program has.

Måns Rullgård

Reply to: