"Derivative Work" for Software Defined

Ian Lance Taylor ian at airs.com
Tue Jan 7 00:31:49 UTC 2003

Andre Hedrick <andre at linux-ide.org> writes:

> > > One of the questions about "Derivative Work" as it relates to binary
> > > only loadable objects, is the creation of a boundary layer of execution.
> > > Specifically, the design and publishing an API which properly glues into
> > > an open source gpl program or kernel(ie loadable modules services) designed
> > > to provide an execution layer between the GPL and Commerial private code.
> > > Where as no GPL code in any form is allowed to touch the Commerial code.
> > > The converse is true, obviously.  The execution layer or boundary.
> > > Now using this reference from 1995, many companies have gotten legal
> > > positions about binary modules.
> > > 
> > > http://groups.google.com/groups?as_umsgid=4b0rbb%245iu%40klaava.helsinki.fi
> > 
> > What Linus says presumably is valid for Linux.  RMS agrees with that
> > in the message you forwarded.  It doesn't necessarily apply to any
> > program other than Linux.  Note in particular the last paragraph in
> > Linus's message.
> If all one is using are headers or .h files and everything else is from
> scratch, does using the headers under the statement above comply with the
> intent?
> I am not seeking an opinion without paying for it.

I guess I'm not sure which you mean when you say ``the statement
above.''  The statement by Linus or the statement by RMS?  I expect
that the answer is different.

I think it's clear that you can sell binary loadable modules for
Linux--or, at any rate, as clear as it can be in the absence of actual
law or precedent.  Given Linus's public statements, I personally would
have no legal concerns about a business plan based on selling binary
modules for Linux.

If you're talking about something other than Linux, it might help if
you said what you are talking about.

I am not a lawyer.  My experience is that different lawyers will give
you different advice in this area.

> > > I ship and sell binary only products, so I have an interest in not
> > > restricting people.
> > 
> > Other than your customers, presumably.  Restrictions cut both ways.
> In what way would a restrict cut both ways here?

Binary only products restrict your customers, by comparison to source
code products.  I'm not questioning your decision to sell binary only
products; I'm just pointing out that by following a scheme of not
restricting module distributors, you are choosing to restrict module
users.  It's not a case of ``not restricting people,'' as you put it;
it's a case of choosing which restrictions to use.

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