How To Break The GPL

Forrest J. Cavalier III forrest at
Fri Mar 3 22:14:09 UTC 2000

From:          John Cowan <jcowan at>

> > 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.

I see where we have not met in understanding.

Let's distinguish between 
    "derivative work" (which I believe is a term in copyright law 
     meaning a new work which incorporates material from a previous work),

     and "work based on the Program", which is a phrase used
     in the GPL.

I admit to using the term "derivative work" sloppily in the text
you have quoted.  Let's start again....

Did Alice create a derivative work?  Not in the definition I
just gave.

Did Alice create a work based on the GPL'ed program?  She
had no other way of writing and testing her program.  Others
must obtain the GPL'ed program to use hers.  So I say yes.

Now I believe what others have said I RMS and the FSF say the GPL
says in this case: that Alice must GPL her work.

But after another close reading of the GPL 2.0, I am not

The phrase "derivative work" and "work based on
the Program" are used in several places, and if one of
these terms applies to Alice's work, and the other doesn't,
then it may indeed be a loophole!

What do others think of the language in section 2, 3, and 5,
and 6 in this case?

I think section 6 could be reworded to clear the problem.

>From the GPL 2.0:  (I added the carets below)
  6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the
  Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the
  original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to
  these terms and conditions.  You may not impose any further
  restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein.
  You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to
  this License.

This should also include "any work based on the Program."
Would you agree?

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