"Derivative Work" for Software Defined

David Johnson david at usermode.org
Wed Nov 13 03:24:41 UTC 2002

On Tuesday 12 November 2002 07:36 am, Ravicher, Daniel \(x2826\) wrote:
> Free / Open Source Software ("FOSS") licensing relies critically on the
> concept of
> derivative work since software that is independent, i.e. not derivative, of
> FOSS need not abide by the terms of the applicable FOSS license. 
> Therefore, one
> is left to ask, just what is a "derivative work?"  This article
> (http://www.pbwt.com/Attorney/files/ravicher_1.pdf) addresses that
> question. Your comments and thoughts would be most appreciated.

Some good information, but it doesn't really address the important questions 
that may be facing open source developers:

1) If I include a five line macro in my software, will it be a derivative 
work? (ditto for inline and regular functions) Is there a difference if this 
macro is copied via cut-and-paste versus a reference to a header file?

2) What about templates and template instantiation by the compiler? This is an 
important issue in C++. There are some major works that are nothing but 
templates (stl, libsig++).

3) What about dynamic and runtime linkage? Is the mere availability of 
functionality at runtime sufficient to determine derivation? Are all GUI 
Windows programs derivatives of Microsoft's win32.dll?

3a) Related: does it make a difference if the library in question exports a 
standard or otherwise common API?

4) Does OO inheritance (ei class derivation) constitute derivation in terms of 

The AFC test might help a tiny bit for 1 and 2, but not for 3 or 4.

David Johnson
pgp public key on website
license-discuss archive is at http://crynwr.com/cgi-bin/ezmlm-cgi?3

More information about the License-discuss mailing list