How To Break The GPL

David Johnson arandir at
Sat Mar 4 06:13:36 UTC 2000

On Fri, 03 Mar 2000, Forrest J. Cavalier III wrote:> > I would very much like to hear that there is a flaw in this logic.  If so,
> > where is it?
> In my understanding, Alice must not have used the GPL'ed software
> in her design and testing.  It would be very hard to avoid this
> in practice. Claiming to have avoided it, and still distributing
> instructions for Bob to do it, should be regarded with grave
> suspicion.

Your argument is irrelevant in the case of the GPL, as mere usage is beyond the
scope of the license. The potential violation under discussion hinges solely
upon the distribution of Alice's code.

[from a separate message}
> > Alice didn't distribute any actual GPL'd software with her proprietary
> > code.

> 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.

Unless the libraries header files contains certain macros, templates or
inlines, there would be exactly zero bytes of GPL code in Alice's software. All
that exist are references Macros, as meta-code, are problematic, but inlines would
throw a monkey wrench into Alice's schemes.

> >  So I can't use, say, GCC to compile my non-GPL program?

> GCC has a special exception.  If it did not have that exception,
> then anything compiled with gcc might be considered a
> derivative work.

Section 0 of the GPL excludes the output of programs like gcc. The
exception in the gcc program is merely a clarification.

[and from another separate message}

>  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

The GPL defines "work based on the Program" to be "either the Program or any
derivative work under copyright law". Your distinction does not exist in the

David Johnson...

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