"viral" (was RE: Licensing options for firmware)

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Apr 6 18:54:25 UTC 2005

Quoting Scott Miller (scott at opentrac.org):

> As for the 'reciprocal' term, I think what's misleading there is the scale.
> As I understand it, if I integrate a 1,000-line GPL'd module into a
> 500,000-line program, the whole thing must be GPL'd.

This is not quite correct.  If you redistribute the derivative work, your
failure to issue an instance under GPL would create the tort of
copyright violation against the upstream author, as you would be using
his/her work in a fashion inconsistent with his/her rights grant.
Nothing grabs you by the throat and forces you to comply.

People who find themselves under threat of litigation (and adverse
publicity) as a tort-feasor, if they take that threat seriously, most
often get out of it by simply ceasing to commit the infringing action.

> To me, 'reciprocal' would tend to imply a more balanced exchange.  

The implication is, of course, that the _obligation_, not the
"exchange", is reciprocal -- which it is.  And, anyway, value is in the
eye of the beholder:  If you don't like the implications of those 1,000
lines' terms of usage for your 500,000, on balance, then presumably you
won't use them.  

> 'Viral' also implies propagation, and 'reciprocal' doesn't.

Exactly.  And, as already been pointed out to you, the former term's
implication of propagation by infection is simply false.  To call
something "viral" (as in infectious) simply because people choose to use
it despite attached obligations is to commit massive rhetorical excess.

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