GPL and LGPL question

Wilfredo Sanchez wsanchez at
Wed May 19 00:03:36 UTC 1999

| You are confusing aggregation with derivation. Agggregation is  
when you put
| two separate programs on the same CD. That is what OSD #9 addresses.
| Derivation is when you incorporate someone else's work into your own new
| work. That is what the GPL addresses. This is a very common  
mistake and I think
| it is addressed in my anotated OSD which appears in the O'Reilly  
Open Sources
| book.

  But where's the line?

  There is no real definition of "derived work" in the GPL. While  
the GPL does list "mere aggregation" as not qualifying, it goes no  
further. In fact the word "derived" appears twice in the GPL; in  
neither case as part of a definition.

  Say I have I program... BSD tar.  It want to handle gzip'ed files,  
so it invoked gzip in order to accomplish this. I include a gzip  
binary with each tar binary.  Is tar a derived work?  I would argue  
that it's a separate program, so no. And RMS to my knowledge uses  
"same address space" as the test.  But that's merely interpretation,  
because the GPL lack a real definition.  Once could also reasonably  
argue that my tar program is a derived work, and that I have  
therefore infected my program with the GNU license.

  Or say I write a program in awk, and stick "#!/usr/bin/gawk" at  
the top.  The script gets read into the interpreter's address space.   
How about that?

  I think I know where the FSF stands in this area, but they aren't  
the only holders of copyleft software.  The lack of clarity in the  
license itself is therefore a major drag.


       Wilfredo Sanchez, wsanchez at
Apple Computer, Inc., Core Operating Systems / BSD
          Technical Lead, Darwin Project
   1 Infinite Loop, 302-4K, Cupertino, CA 95014

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