How To Break The GPL

Jonathan Marks jon.marks at
Sat Mar 4 22:17:40 UTC 2000

Hi People.
Attempting to follow the Alice / Trent thread here:

1.  Alice's software requires Trent's library to work; much like a car needs 
wheels to work.  A manufacturer of cars could choose to supply you the vehicle 
without wheels and give you the option to get the wheels from the wheel 
manufacturer.  Alice's choice here (clearly in an attempt to avoid licensing 
issues) is not to supply Trent's library, but give end user the opportunity to 
pick up the library from Trent's web site.  From my understanding of the GPL, 
Alice's work is derived from Trent's as Alice's *intent* is for her software to 
work with Trent's library.  Alice does not get around the licensing issue she 
is attempting to avoid, and Trent's GPL is (perhaps unnecessarily) restricting 
Alice's intended distribution of her software.  Is this appropriate reasoning?

2.  Perhaps the word "Derived" is inappropriate to this licensing situation.  A 
distinction I have held for some time is:  If a body of software has it's 
direct funcionality added to, modified or changed, then the resulting outcome 
should become part of the body of software in terms of copyright and licensing. 
(Additional copyright notices permissible for the contributions).  On the other 
hand, if use is made of the body of software to create other distinctly 
different software, then the resulting software should not be part of the body 
of software, although consideration for use of the body of software may be 

An example.  If Bob develops an Opensource (perhaps GPL) Widget Library that 
Tracy uses in her General Ledger(commercial proprietary) application; it is 
hard for me to concede that Tracy's GL app is derived from the Widget Library.  
However from my read of the GPL this will be the case.  If a hypothetical 
Opensource license had "Terms of Use of Direct Functionality" and "Terms of 
modification (addion, deletion, changes)to Direct Functionality" could we not 
better address this issue.  That is Bob could stipulate in Terms of Use, things 
like: displaying copyright, must be supplied with source, considerations, etc.. 
In Terms of Modification, it could be stated that all modification remain part 
of the body of software, etc.

This is one of the reasons I have been struggling with the GPL, and other Open 
Source licenses.  The square term "Derived", is being forced through a round 
hole.  Could this be the case?



   Anything free is worth what you pay for it.

Jonathan Marks,
11360 Clipper Court, Richmond, B.C. V73 4M3, Canada
Tel:(604) 274-2277, (604) 805-4035. Fax: (707) 221-3689 

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