Corba interfaces and GPL freedom

David Johnson david at
Mon Sep 15 03:21:41 UTC 2003

On Sunday 14 September 2003 09:00 am, Iain Barker wrote:

> Yes, Corba is just one example, any similar RPC mechanism can be
> substituted for the same purpose. Anything that essentially allows
> two otherwise distinct and separate programs to make use of each
> others functionality via some type of abstract interface.

You've just made the "incredibly fuzzy line" much fuzzier. There needs 
to be drawn a clear and distinct line, but making use of "others 
functionality" is way too vague. Everything in the UNIX/POSIX 
environment makes use of the functionality of other distinct and 
separate programs. All of my programming work would come to a complete 
standstill if I had to examine the license to each and every program 
whose functionality I might possibly use via some type of abstract 

> My view is that the freedom of the GPL code is reduced because at its
> most extreme, such an API could be added to the GPL code to export
> *all* of the functions for use by separate programs. The term Mr
> Perens used was "server-ized"

If they are truly separate programs, then the freedom of the GPL code 
has not been diminished at all. Everyone who receives the code receives 
the full right to copy, distribute and modify it. That there is now a 
new interface or front end to the code makes no difference.

Free Software should not be afraid of competition. If someone comes 
along and "serverizes" the software, we should not be wringing our 
hands, but busy writing Free clients instead.

> so it looks to me like there is nothing to prevent
> proprietary code from server-izing any GPL code and exploiting it for
> non-free purposes, without any obligation to give back the greater
> work to the community.

You've hit the nail on the head. Sometimes you have to just step back, 
sigh, and accept that fact that there will always be proprietary 

David Johnson

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