How To Break The GPL

John Cowan jcowan at
Fri Mar 3 20:56:06 UTC 2000

"Forrest J. Cavalier III" wrote:

> Says who?  If she distributed a derivative work of GPL'ed software,
> then it must be GPL'ed.  The question is whether or not Alice has
> a derivative work.

In my first scenario, Alice made a derivative work but didn't distribute
it.  She then distributed her own original work to Bob, who made another
distributed work (identical to the first one) but didn't distribute it.

Again I propose the analogy:  I mark up my copy of a certain copyrighted
book, correcting certain errors in it.  I now mail you *only* the errata
and corrigenda, which you incorporate into your copy.  Now we each have a 
copy of the same derivative work, but nobody *distributed* the derivative work.

> Someone in this thread suggested that Alice could have used a common
> API and never used GPL software during development.  That was NOT
> the theoretical example proposed.

That was my second scenario, just to make things hard if you shot down
my first scenario.
> GCC has a special exception.  If it did not have that exception,
> then anything compiled with gcc might be considered a
> derivative work.

I think that exception is primarily to remove FUD; otherwise you are
in the position of saying that a house built according to the plans in 
a book is a derivative work of the book.


Schlingt dreifach einen Kreis vom dies! || John Cowan <jcowan at>
Schliesst euer Aug vor heiliger Schau,  ||
Denn er genoss vom Honig-Tau,           ||
Und trank die Milch vom Paradies.            -- Coleridge (tr. Politzer)

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