Platform limitations and GPL clause 3

J.H.M. Dassen jdassen at
Thu Apr 15 09:13:43 UTC 1999

On Thu, Apr 15, 1999 at 18:32:32 +1000, Martin Pool wrote:
> I've been wondering about the interactions between GPL clause 3
> (requirement to distribute source with modified redistributions) and
> non-free OSs.

gnu.misc.discuss is often viewed as the definitive forum for discussion the
GPL; you may want to consider posting there too.

> Suppose Charles wants to port the driver to non-free platform W. However,
> on platform W one can't write drivers using a normal compiler, linker,
> library, and so on: one has to pay $2000 for a developer's license for the
> "Device Driver Kit" from W's vendor.  Let's suppose for the time being
> there's no NDA involved, but that the DDK can't be redistributed.

OK. The DDK doesn't qualify as a "major component" then. This makes your
hypothetical example quite similar to the case of KDE, a GPLed piece of
software, that requires Qt, a library that's licensed under terms
incompatible with the GPL. See for
an analysis of that case.

> If Charles wants to redistribute his version of the driver under the
> GPL, he can't do so because there's no way to fulfil clause 3's
> requirement to include all the source necessary to work on the driver on
> platform W.

Clause 3 governs copying and distributing of the Program in object code or
executable form. Charles could distribute the driver in source form only.

> Charles isn't even allowed to make the port for his own use,

Charles is allowed to make the port for his own use. Clause 0:
"[...] Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not
covered by this License; they are outside its scope. [...]". The GPL
explicitly doesn't cover use.

Tevens ben ik van mening dat Nederland overdekt dient te worden.

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