GPL for JS libraries (Was: Re: Redefining GPL?)

Chuck Swiger chuck at
Thu Nov 30 21:10:52 UTC 2006

On Nov 30, 2006, at 12:46 PM, Michael Bernstein wrote:
> On Thu, 2006-11-30 at 20:37 +0000, David Woolley wrote:
>>> ...which, if you view the start of the HTML source:
>>>> <html>
>>>> <head>
>>>> <title>GPL JavaScript Public Key Encryption Demo</title>
>>>> <script language="JavaScript"><!--
>>>> /* The following functions are (c) 2000 by John M Hanna and are
>>>> * released under the terms of the Gnu Public License.
>> That looks like the HTML file is GPLed as well, because it is a
>> derivative of the scripting code.
> Well, including the JS code inline in the HTML page isn't a good idea
> anyway, except for pedagogical purposes.

Well, gentlemen, it seems entirely reasonable that a site which  
describes itself as providing a demo for how to implement PKI using  
JavaScript is trying to teach the reader.  :-)

Getting back to the original question asked by Ben Tilly:

> What are your obligations now?  I am not a lawyer, but it looks to me
> like my copyrighted content was distributed to that user.  Does that
> user now need to have a copyright notice, a copy of the license, etc
> all distributed in addition?  Reading the GPL like someone with
> Asperger's syndrome would, you need to do that.  In the real world,
> I'd consider it crazy to require you to do that.  (For a start,
> sending you the license slows the site.  Plus there is no way to send
> it without either modifying it in some way - like putting it in an
> HTML comment - or else breaking the web page.)  What ARE your
> obligations?

There exists a vast amount of source code under the GPL.  The normal  
practice is to provide the text of the GPL in a separate file called  
"LICENSE", and for each file consisting of source code to have a  
copyright statement in a comment at the beginning of the file, and a  
reference to the license status which says the code is under the GPL,  
and to please read the "LICENSE" file.

A more specific version of my description above is actually found at  
the end of the GPL in the section titled "How to Apply These Terms to  
Your New Programs".  It is not standard practice to actually include  
the text of the GPL into every source code file, and I cannot recall  
any of the esteemed practitioners of law who grace this mailing list  
suggesting a requirement for doing so.  Perhaps they might recommend  
that the "DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTY" statement also appear in all files,  
in all-caps, as the end-section of the GPL also suggests.

Whether the source code is ANSI-C or Javascript seems to make little  
difference, at least as far as the GPLv2 is concerned.  Perhaps the  
GPLv3 will have some additional implications for web-based software...


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