How To Break The GPL

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. rod at
Tue Mar 7 05:46:42 UTC 2000


I certainly agree with your analysis regarding Alice. It seems correct to

As for your last observation on the clarity of the GPL as it distinguishes
between independent works and works that are not independent, I tend to
think that the wording is clear, but the application of those terms to facts
is difficult.

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

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Schilling, Richard [mailto:RSchilling at]
> Sent: Monday, March 06, 2000 3:17 PM
> To: 'rod at'; 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
> >this?
> 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
> applies:
> ( 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
> P.S.
> 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
> this?
> 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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