GPL issue at my work place

Mahesh T. Pai paivakil at
Thu Jan 17 15:50:52 UTC 2008

Dirk Dierickx said on Tue, Jan 15, 2008 at 11:21:56PM +0100,:

 > It is an open question what constitutes/does not constitute
 > distribution. Some consider on-site access/use by contractors to be
 > distribution; and, if memory serves me correctly, the FSF has previously
 > stated that remote access/use by contractors is distribution. The
 > unfortunate part with the GPL is that it defines modifications broadly
 > and, at least under v.2.1 of the GPL, linking to/with other programs
 > whether dynamically or statically, is considered a modification.
 > ... and in another mail ...

Remore use of the program *is* distribution (according to the FSF);
but not remote access to *output* of a program. 

 > The GPL, especially v. 3.0, contains provisions which are adverse to
 > CompanyX's intellectual property right interests. What constitutes
 > distribution is not clear -which is why internal use does not fully
 > negate some of the more onerous provisions of the GPL (e.g., access/use
 > by non-CompanyX employees is considered by some to be distribution;
 > remote access by non-CompanyX employees is considered by almost all to
 > be distribution).
 > ...

"Distribution" depends on what your program does. If you use Server
Side Iincludes s to generate dynamic HTML, you are not distributing or
allowing "remote access" to the webserver program.

But if you have written a web application which uses SSIs to accept
user input and allow the user to store some data on the server, you
have allowed remote access to the *web application*; which is still
not the same thing as allowing access to the web server.

IMO, the same holds true for scripting languages - PHP, perl,
whatever. And if the scripting access info from a database engine, it
makes no difference. Therfe is no "remote access" to the software.

 > - Applications written in the LAMP stack, are _not_ a modification, and
 > such you also don't need to provide any code for it.

Precisely. Not a modification of the LAMP stack. I understand the FSF
as saying that output of an applicaion written on the LAMP stack (out
put of a content management system, for example), is not
copyrightable, but the application itself it. The conclusion FSF wants
to arrive at is that hosting the site on the CMS amounts to
distribution of the CMS; but the copyright in the contents held by the
CMS are still owned by you.

 > Am I correct, or is the legal-department? What arguments can i bring to
 > the table to convince them otherwise?

Write a short program (say, in C). Apply the GPL version <random> to
it.  The program should take user inputted 2 numbers and gives out the
result of multiplying them. Put the program on a computer which is
placed on a sidewalk - any place accessible to the public.

Do the same in the LAMP stack and make the application accessible
through the www.

 (Assume, for the purpose of this illustration , that numbers are

Ask your lawyers to explain why they should oppose use GPL in the
latter (LAMP) scenario and not in the former (C).

As to avoiding getting sued - nothing prevents a random individual
suing your employer because your employer allows its employees
(indluding you) to drive cars to work, thus adding to climate change
and pollution, which has melted a glacier in Nepal, thus reducing his
choice of holiday destinations.
 Mahesh T. Pai <<>>

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