How To Break The GPL

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. rod at
Sun Mar 5 16:20:11 UTC 2000

Under the law of copyright, a derivative work is an original work of
authorship based on a pre-existing work. If Trent had written a book in
English and Alice translated the book into French, her book would be a
derivative work. Hence, she would have infringed Trent's work unless she had
a license. If Alice created software that allowed Bob to translate Trent's
book without permission, then Bob and Alice would both be infringers (Alice
would be a contributory infringer). The rub is that the GPL permits the
creation of derivative works.

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M.
rod at

> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Johnson [mailto:arandir at]
> Sent: Saturday, March 04, 2000 8:30 PM
> To: jon.marks at; Jonathan Marks;
> license-discuss at
> Subject: Re: How To Break The GPL
> On Sat, 04 Mar 2000, Jonathan Marks wrote:
> > 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.
> We definitely need to define the term "derive", both in the
> copyright sense,
> and as it applies to code. My Dodge automobile works with my
> Bridgestone tires,
> but it is hardly derivitive of the tires :-)
> A sometimes useful tool of logic is to take something to it's
> absurd extreme.
> 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!
> > 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.
> I would agree with everything expect for the "added to" part. In
> code terms, it
> may very well be derivitive, but it hardly demands an identical
> copyright or
> license. As an example, neither the GTK nor the Qt libraries require that
> additional widgets be handed over to GNU or TrollTech, or even use their
> licenses.  It is only in the area of GPL libraries that there
> exists a problem.
> --
> David Johnson...
> _____________________________

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