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Re: System libraries and the GPLv2

* Richard Fontana:

> On Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 05:08:24AM +0200, Carlos Alberto Lopez Perez wrote:
>> Do you (or anyone else) _really_ think the copyright holders of the GPL
>> program in question had any intention ever of not allowing their program
>> to be used along with OpenSSL, when they where the ones implementing
>> support for using it on the first place?
> This, I would say, encapsulates the real Fedora/Red Hat position on
> this issue to the extent there is one. It assumes that the intent of
> the copyright holders can be determined from their actions.

But it's not clear that applies when at the time the software was
released by upstream, the libraries were GPLv2-compatible, and we
started linking against GPLv2-incompatible versions only later.  This
has already happened with readline (GPLv3 and later), and libgcc
(GPLv3 and later with GCC exception).  It was avoided for GMP, which
used to be LGPLv2+, briefly LGPLv3+, and finally GPLv2 or LGPLv3+.

You could argue that if upstream continues to make compatibility fixes
for later readline versions, or enable compiling with later GCC
versions, they give implied permission to link with those
GPLv2-incompatible library versions.  But I think this argument breaks
down, at least formally, when there are many copyright holders, and
not everyone contributes to the changes that enable this kind of
forward compatibility (first technically, and then implicitly
license-wise).  On the other hand, when a larger upstream project
granted us a linking exception for OpenSSL, they probably did not
obtain consent from all the copyright holders, either.

What really annoys me about this whole situation is this: I think no
one presently argues that the GPLv2 prevents people from distributing
pre-built binaries for proprietary operating systems.  I can take
Hotspot (a component of OpenJDK which is GPLv2-only), compile it with
Microsoft Visual Studio, and distribute the result.  But I suddenly
can't ship pre-built binaries, as a free software distribution,
because I happen to have upgraded the system compiler past GCC 4.2,
thus got the new GPLv3+ license for libgcc, and can't link GPLv2-only
Hotspot against that anymore.  This can't be right, can it?

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