"Derivative Work" for Software Defined

John Cowan jcowan at reutershealth.com
Wed Jan 15 21:52:47 UTC 2003

Lawrence E. Rosen scripsit:

> > 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 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.]

Since it is settled that object code is a derivative work of its source code,
it seems to me to be maximally perverse to argue that object code is not
a derivative work of *part* of its source code.  A fortiori, the static-linking
case seems to me uncontroversial even in the absence of a case on all fours
with it.

> 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?

Because G+H is not merely G concatenated with H, but the result of combining
compiled-G and compiled-H into an executable form.

They do not preach                              John Cowan
  that their God will rouse them                jcowan at reutershealth.com
    A little before the nuts work loose.        http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
They do not teach                               http://www.reutershealth.com
  that His Pity allows them                         --Rudyard Kipling,
    to drop their job when they damn-well choose.   "The Sons of Martha"
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