Licenses and subterfuge

Chris F Clark cfc at
Thu Feb 26 23:20:58 UTC 2004

First, I want to thank all that have contributed their insightful
comments.  Second, I want to apologize if I have started a contentious

I did get an answer that was generally sufficient for my needs.  Since
we want to avoid even the appearance of subterfuge, we are going to
avoid using libraries where we don't have a reasonable "non-viral"
implementation that we can include.  I have happily persuaded my
colleagues that simply using dynamic linking to access the library,
but not providing any reasonable implementation was folly at best.
Your responses were instrumental in getting them to realize that.

For example, in the case of readline, my colleague was only loking for
the command-line recall capacities using "the arrow keys" and the
application already has an implementation of command recall, so that
will be joined with reference to the curses library which is under an
acceptable license.  To my mind this is a much better solution to the
"viral license problem" than attempting to skirt the license in some
technical way, which could be viewed as subterfuge.  And corporate
policy has already made clear that our company's lawyers also reject
shim-code and other similar devices for skirting license requirements.

We are also going to be careful with the "standard" libraries, we use
and inform legal of those which exist on the platforms we target only
under viral licenses so that the corporate lawyers can inquire as to
whether our uses are acceptable.

Now, I understand that avoiding using open source libraries because
they have a viral license limits the quality of the resulting
software.  However, that is the corporate policy we work within and
while we can try to change it (likely futile, since the clients want
our corporation to have such a policy, but the water wears away a
mountain one drop at-a-time), we must abide by it.

I am further happy to note that corporate policy does not restrict us
from developing open source software, just that we distribute any
software developed in house under a non-viral open source license.

Best regards to all,
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