How To Break The GPL

David Johnson arandir at
Sun Mar 5 06:09:13 UTC 2000

On Sat, 04 Mar 2000, John Cowan wrote:
> > If everything that *works* with some piece of code is derived from that code,
> > then everything in my current OS distribution is ultimately derived from
> > Linux and Glibc!
> Glibc is deliberately not under the GPL, so the issue doesn't arise.
> The Linux kernel is under the GPL, but by a special exception, applications
> running under the kernel are not treated as derivatives of the kernel.

Ah, but the question is whether everything is a derivitive or not. If they
are, then it is only because of provisions within the Linux and Glibc licenses
that allow many of them to exist in their current form. In other words, if
there were no Linux exception and the Glibc were under the GPL, then would
Linus and Richard be able to sue SuSE for Yast? I would strongly argue that,
regardless of license, Yast is not derived from either Linux nor Glibc.

On Sat, 04 Mar 2000, Mark Wells wrote:
> Unfortunately, while taking a principle to extremes is useful in logic,it's
> somewhat less effective in law.  The courts frequently overrule logic in favor
> of what seems right to them.

Of course, a judge could rule that black is white and fish are birds, and then
get appointed to a higher seat for his daring judicial activism :-) It's much
better to attempt an application of logic than to continually second guess what
a court will do.

> I'm not just talking about the run-time vs. compile-time linking
> question that's important for Java and Perl.  What about a shell script?  You
> might call 'grep' an application, but if I use it to perform some task in a
> Shell script it's acting more like a library.  (And my shell script itself
> might be a library from the perspective of other applications that pipe data
> through it.)

99 out of a hundred, the usage of a shell script is just that, usage. Even if I
call it from within another script, it's still just a normal use by the end
user. That's because (nearly) everything I can do in a shell script I can do
manually at the command prompt. 

David Johnson...

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