GPL and LGPL question

Seth David Schoen schoen at
Wed May 19 17:29:46 UTC 1999

Pat St. Jean writes:

> >> If you have some proprietary code which may ship alongside  
> >> GPL'ed code, you may accidentally fall into the "derived work"  
> >> category.  Certainly, it is reasonable to be wary of this.
> Yup.  You decide to give away a library that you use in other software
> that is proprietary.  No GPL, no LGPL because some competitor of yours
> could invoke clause 3 and release whiz bang improvements under it.

The part you quoted was talking about something that ships alongside
GPLed code that _someone else_ wrote.  You're talking about something
that ships alongside GPLed code that _you_ wrote.  The rules for
what happens in each case are extremely different.

When using someone else's GPLed code, you may not distribute a
proprietary derived work without that person's express permission.  When
using your own GPLed code, you may distribute a proprietary derived
work (because, among other things, you automatically have your own

> I think that some clarification of OSD #3 and #7 would help this
> immensely.  It would be nice to put a non-infecting clause in there.  By
> that I mean that a OS'd chunk of code cannot infect the work it is
> incorporated into with its license.

The infection that the GPL does is different from what you think.  The
GPL requires that all derived works of a GPL-covered copy of a program
must themselves be GPL-covered.  It does not require that derived works
of a non-GPL-covered copy be GPL-covered.  This is a common misconception
about the GPL.

The requirement to redistribute under the GPL is _only binding_ on
people whose right to distribute a piece of software only derives from
the GPL.  If you are the original author, your right to distribute
doesn't derive from the GPL, and the GPL doesn't bind your redistributions.

As I said in my previous message, it would probably be more trouble
than it's worth for the GPL to try to get around this.

> That is my big gripe with the FSF's
> licenses, because they're using it to further a political agenda, not help
> the programming community at large.  Leave politics to politicians.

If you prefer, you could think of the FSF as a political activist
organization that happens to produce brilliant and extremely useful code
on the side.

                    Seth David Schoen <schoen at>
      They said look at the light we're giving you,  /  And the darkness
      that we're saving you from.   -- Dar Williams, "The Great Unknown"  (personal)  (CAF)

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