How To Break The GPL

Schilling, Richard RSchilling at
Mon Mar 6 20:17:29 UTC 2000

>I am interested in this point. Do people think that the GNU GPL applies to
>run-time linking? If so, what provision in the GPL leads you to believe

To answer this question (which gets back to the original scenario that
started this whole thread), here's the part of the GPL (section two) I think

( Section two, the first paragraph
after the modification requirements:

"These requirements apply to the modified work as a whole. If identifiable
sections of that work are not derived from the Program [the original program
licensed under the GPL], and can be reasonably considered independent and
separate works in themselves, then this License, and its terms, do not apply
to those sections when you distribute them as separate works. But when you
distribute the same sections as part of a whole which is a work based on the
Program, the distribution of the whole must be on the terms of this License,
whose permissions for other licensees extend to the entire whole, and thus
to each and every part regardless of who wrote it."

Take note of the following :

The second setence (starts with "If identifiable sections . . . ") says that
if your program - lets call it Alice's Program - is not not derived from the
GPL licensed program than the GPL license does not apply to Alice's Program.

BUUUUUUUUUUUUT (here it comes) . . . in the third setence, (starts with "But
when you distribute . . .")  if Alice's Program is BASED ON software
licensed under the GPL, then the GPL applies to Alice's program.  In the
original scenario, where Alice distributed a library to Bob, Alice's work
was BASED ON the GPLed code, and therefore would fall under the GPL.

One thing really clear about the license is that it is meant to preserve the
copyright and openness of any code released under the GPL.  So, by
intention, I would say another reason Alice's code falls under the GPL is
she used someone else's code that was intended to be released, distributed
and PRESERVED under the GPL. 

I would also note, that a major difference between the GPL and the FreeBSD
license is just this point.  Under the FreeBSD license, you can make
proprietary programs using the publically released code.  The GNU license
was intended to not allow that to happen.  Microsoft the FreeBSD foundation,
and especially the FSF has recognized this difference.

Of course, all this could be wrong.

Richard Schilling 
Web Integration Programmer


Another observation:
The way this paragraph of the GPL is written suffers (IMHO) from a common
problem that many software licenses seem to suffer from.  The author is
trying to write the paragraph so it applies to a complete independent
software program and to an "identifiable part" of a software program (like a
specific moule or function, procedure, etc. . . ).  Perhaps it would be more
clear if the author changed this section to deal with complete, independent
programs, and added an additional section to deal with code written to be
included in a larger framework of an application.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. [mailto:rod at]
Sent: Sunday, March 05, 2000 7:02 AM
To: Mark Wells; David Johnson
Cc: license-discuss at
Subject: RE: How To Break The GPL

I am interested in this point. Do people think that the GNU GPL applies to
run-time linking? If so, what provision in the GPL leads you to believe

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

> > > I'm not just talking about the run-time vs. compile-time linking
> > > question that's important for Java and >Perl.

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