Corba interfacesand GPL freedom

David Johnson david at
Sun Sep 14 01:59:48 UTC 2003

On Saturday 13 September 2003 02:15 pm, Iain Barker wrote:

> A proprietary vendor could create non-free software that functionally
> would amount to a derived work, without actually making a derived
> work within the meaning of copyright law. Would this break the spirit
> of the GPL while complying with its terms, hence not be enforcable?

Either a work is a derived work or it is not. "Functionally" has nothing 
to do with it. The GPL places itself fully within the boundaries of 
copyright law. Anything that extends beyond copyright law is against 
the spirit of the GPL.

> A GPL application is modified by a vendor of non-free software, who
> adds a Corba server API to the application. The vendor releases the
> source code to the GPL application and modifications per the GPL
> terms.
> The vendor then creates a non-free Corba client application which
> uses that API but incorporates none of the GPL code. The source code
> to the client application is not released by the vendor. Non-free
> applications could also be used as Corba servers to a GPL client
> application in the same manner.
> Essentially the freedom of the GPL codebase is reduced either way
> around.

Not at all. The freedom of the GPL code is still there. 100% free. You 
can take the server with the new API and write a free client for it. So 
can anyone else. That there happens to be proprietary client available 
is irrelevant. You seem to be arguing that the provisions of the GPL 
should extend beyond the code it is attached to and regulate external 
and non-derivative works. The would make the GPL an offensive weapon, 
instead of the defensive shield it currently is.

Trying to extend the GPL beyond the boundaries of copyright law is 
extremely dangerous. The client application above is not your code. You 
have no legal, ethical or moral rights over it. Attempting to control 
it is tyranny, the very thing the GPL is fighting against. Freedom is 
about removing restrictions, not replacing them with others.

David Johnson

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