Dynamic linking, was: Re: Dispelling BSD License Misconceptions

Matthew Flaschen matthew.flaschen at gatech.edu
Sun Jan 28 07:46:15 UTC 2007

Fabian Bastin wrote:
> My feeling is that the question will not be solved until a
> judgement, following a trial, would have been made. But still the answer
> would then be country-specific, and probably quite artificial.

That's certainly right.

> And what if a library linking produce a derivative work in a country and not in
> another country. Would it not be a discrimation between users, so a
> violation of the open-source definiton?

No, as long as the license didn't discriminate.  However, copyright
holders might be able/have to discriminate in enforcement.

> We can also consider a different situation. Often, GPLd library are
> created as replacements to non-GPLd libraries (to my best knowledge, it
> is for instance the case of TLS, whose goal is to replace SSL)

These are protocols, not programs.  Free and unfree software exists for

> why should we still have to consider the work as a
> derivative of the GPLd library?

IANAL, but in my opinion, it would only be a derivative of the GPL if it
were built to specifically use GPL code.

> And by the way, how can we now with
> certainty that the original author has written is code in order to only
> allow the use of the GPLd library? It could be only a transitional
> development phase, a "better-than-nothing" solution.

I think that if the code wasn't written specifically for GPL code, it
probably isn't a derivative work

> I become more and more uncomfortable with the "all-GPL" (GNU project)
> vision behind this licence

The GNU Project is not all-GPL in any sense.  The GNU project itself
uses other licenses for its code, including LGPL and MIT.  They have
also "adopted" external code under other licenses, such as X11.  Their
criterion is simply whether they believe the license is free; in
practice these licenses overlap almost completely with OSI-approved licenses

, and I cannot accept to see for instance the
> GPL copyright notice in the beginning of the BLAS header in the GSL
> library. How can I think that using the GSL blas is producing a GPL
> derivative, while I could compile with ATLAS without changing a single
> line of code?

I don't know anything about this.  It would probably depend on what was
written when, designed for what.

 The rationale of GPL 3 is well designed on this point,
> since the "whole work" do not include such standardized API...

Are you trying to note some difference between GPL v2 and v3 here?  I'm
not understanding your point.  GPL v2 says (referring the requirements
for new code), "These requirements apply to the modified work as a
whole." and GPL v3 says, "You must license the entire work, as a whole,
under this License to anyone who comes into possession of a copy."  I
don't see a big distinction here.

> The licence GPL 3 becomes less and less clear, and it could produce a
lot of law problems,
> especially in Europe where trials are not as expensive as in North
> America, and law is different. For instance, GPL is a contract in view
> of European law, even if Moglen does not agree. But first of all, remind
> that United Stated is not the only country on earth, so you should try
> to avoid and location-specific consideration...

I'm really losing your point here, but GPL 3 is specifically written to
minimize such local variations in interpretations.  That's why it uses
custom terminology like "propagation" and "conveying"; the idea is that
these words don't have existing meaning in any legal systems.

Matthew Flaschen

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