Platform limitations and GPL clause 3

Ken Arromdee arromdee at
Thu Apr 15 15:21:02 UTC 1999

On Thu, 15 Apr 1999, J.H.M. Dassen wrote:
> > 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.

I don't see how this is different from the normal compiler case.  A compiler
is considered to be part of the operating system even if you purchase it
separately.  What's the difference between a compiler and a DDK?

> > 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.

(Assuming a DDK is not like a compiler...)

Under the common interpretation of the GPL which prohibits "user does the
link" cases, he could not.  While this is not identical to the normal "user
does the link" case (where non-GPL material is distributed and the user has
to link it against GPL material), it's similar.  Distributing something and
saying "link against something else" is considered to be a disguised
distribution of the combination, and the programmer must provide source for
everything in the combination.

More information about the License-discuss mailing list