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Re: Distriution of GPL incompatible libraries

"Glenn L. McGrath" <bug1@iinet.net.au> wrote:
> Hi all;
> This question doesn't directly relate to debian, but i hope you can
> help straighten me out with this.
> I'm trying to understand licensing obligations in regard to GPL'ed
> binaries that link to GPL incompatible libraries.

First of all, don't pay attention to anything that Alexander Terekhov
writes.  He is the biggest troll I have seen on debian-legal for a
long time, and I wish people would stop feeding him.

> The current situation.
> A GPL'ed binary links to a shared library that is under the revised BSD
> license, the licenses are compatible so the distributer of unmodified
> GPL binaries must make the source to both projects available.
> The questionable situation
> A company distributes a GPL incompatible shared library that replaces
> the above mentioned BSD license library.
> A customer who downloads and installs this GPL incompatible library
> then has GPL'ed apps linked to GPL incompatible library.
> My understanding is that licences havent been violated by either the
> company or customer at this stage.
> However, what if the customer then wanted to sell the machine, or if
> the company wanted to sell machines with this incompatible binary and
> library preinstalled. Would this violation the GPL, or is it possible
> that the companies modifcations are "hiding" behind the BSD license
> library ?

This is tricky.  The relevant section in the GPL is 

  But when you distribute the same sections as part of a whole which
  is a work based on the Program, the distribution of the whole must
  be on the terms of this License, whose permissions for other
  licensees extend to the entire whole, and thus to each and every
  part regardless of who wrote it.

So, is the library part of the "whole"?  If the company does not
distribute the BSD licensed library on the machine, then it is fairly
clear that the proprietary library is part of the whole.  However, if
the BSD library is also included, then it becomes unclear.  I could
see it going either way, depending on the judge and lawyers.

This is what you call lawyerbait.

Walter Landry

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