"Derivative Work" for Software Defined

Lawrence E. Rosen lrosen at rosenlaw.com
Wed Jan 15 19:20:05 UTC 2003

> Assume that someone statically links 
> object modules compiled from G and object modules compiled 
> from H into a single executable file (call this executable file G+H).
> I believe that there is wide agreement that the GPL is 
> interpreted such that the author of G has not given 
> permission for distribution of that single executable file. 
> (I also believe there is less widespread agreement on the 
> alternative where the linking occurs at runtime.)

I don't know that there is widespread agreement to either of those
propositions.  Indeed, isn't that really what we've all been discussing?
[I must admit, I once publicly argued the point your way, but I have
since recanted because I couldn't find any statutory or case law support
for my earlier position.]

> H is not a derivative work of G. So, how does one get to this 
> widely agreed result? I believe that that interpretation 
> assumes that G+H is a "work based on the Program". So, it 
> looks to me like it is generally agreed that the GPL does 
> indeed concern itself with whether G and H are parts of 
> something larger (not necessarily every larger thing, but at 
> least some sorts of larger things). Thus, it seems that 
> stopping analysis at the point of determining that H is not a 
> derivative of G is failing to complete the analysis needed to 
> judge compliance with the GPL. 

I am still not certain what is meant by the phrase "work based on the
Program."  Under your scenario, G and H are entirely independent
creations.  If G+H requires merely the making of copies of G and H, an
act permitted without restriction by the GPL, then why is it a
derivative work?  Why is that a work based on the Program?


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