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Re: GPLed software with no true source. Was: Bug#402650: ITP: mozilla-foxyproxy

On 31/01/2007, at 9:48 AM, Don Armstrong wrote:

On Tue, 30 Jan 2007, Joey Hess wrote:
Don Armstrong wrote:
The bright line is actually pretty straight forward: Do you modify the
file with syntactic whitespace or the file without? Is it preferable
to modify the file without the keyword expansion or with?

Preferable by whom?

The upstream maintainer. Whatever form(s) of the work the upstream
maintainer actually uses to modify the work is the prefered form for

Perhaps you could add a "wheeeeeee" every time you mention this here -- it would help to convey the huge leap you're making there.

"Preferred" is subjective, and the subject is *not* specified in the license, and certainly not to be the original author. As someone else mentioned, if they'd meant "the form the author uses" then surely they'd have said so. Fortunately, they were sufficiently with-it to see the problems that that would cause, and went with "the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it".

I don't think you're going to be able to come up with a clear answer here, for several reasons. I think the most important is probably going to be that intent matters. In the case of one piece of software, standing alone, it's less important, but when we're talking about interactions between works and license compatibility, it becomes much more "interesting".

Say A writes a library and releases it under the GPL.

B later comes along and, as he's studying computer architecture, decides as a challenge to himself to write a program directly in machine code. It's not intended to be a useful program except as an example of this process. He then releases that under the GPL.

C then sees B's program, decides that actually it could be really handy, hacks it around so it now links to A's library, and makes the result available under the GPL (including distributing the library).

A sees the result, tells C that he's obviously not releasing source as specified in his license and to stop it. C points out that actually, he is.

Do you think that this is acceptable? What about if B cheated at some point and reused some previously assembled code? What about if B had written it in C and then hand-compiled and assembled the code? The extreme is of course that B is $evil_company, had foreseen C's modifications, written the thing in C and not even pretended otherwise.

Where's the line? I think you'll find you just have to be reasonable in each case, and hope that everyone else (particularly the court) is too.



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