Please, I need this clarification

Ben Tilly btilly at
Sun Jan 29 19:39:43 UTC 2006

On 1/28/06, Dismer Ronda Betancourt <dismer.ronda at> wrote:
> Hello all,
> I have an application that is not GPL and i want to use OpenVPN (GPL) with
> it. I will not use the source code, just calling OpenVPN command line
> program to stablish a virtual connection to an OpenVPN server to guarantee
> privacy in data transmission. May I distribute OpenVPN binaries along with
> my application? I´m not charging my client for the use of OpenVPN at all, in
> fact i´m trying to help him saving money through the use of a free VPN
> solution. Does it violates VPN License? I have read GPL and I´m confused. My
> program is not derived from OpenVPN nor modify it, my program just configure
> OpenVPN and run it to simplify the users opperation.

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

First of all if you distribute OpenVPN binaries, then you must follow
the license.  For instance you either must include source code or you
must offer source code for at least 3 years to anyone who asks.

But that doesn't answer your real question which is about whether you
can include it with your code.  The answer to your question depends
upon whether your code is derivative of OpenVPN according to copyright
law.  If it is, then you can only distribute your code under the GPL,
whether or not you include OpenVPN.  If it is not then it is fine to
distribute them together.

Whether or not it is derivative depends strongly upon how intimately
the two relate.

At one extreme you might have a program that allows people to connect
in many ways, and it just stores a user-typed connection line.  In
that case your program knows nothing about and is derived in no way,
shape, or form from OpenVPN.

At the opposite extreme you might have a program whose entire job it
is to provide a nice graphical interface to OpenVPN.  It not only
knows about OpenVPN, but its design is centered around being able to
make sense of every configuration option and error message.  Even
though that program just calls the command line, it is derivative and
likely should be GPLed.

If you have any doubt about where your program falls in that spectrum,
consult a lawyer.

> I´ll greatly appreciate your help to clarify this.

I hope my response helped.


PS An economic note that is more appropriate for the free software
business list.  People generally decide how much a given problem is
worth to them, and then have to split that cost among the parts of the
solution.   Therefore if you can save people money on one part of the
problem, they're generally more willing to spend on other parts.  So
even though you might be offering the GPLed code for free, you'd be
well advised to charge more for the rest.  (This is part of how IBM
etc make money on free software.  They can charge more for Websphere
because Apache is free.)

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