GPL issue at my work place

Chris DiBona cdibona at
Thu Jan 17 20:30:01 UTC 2008

I hate to play the popular kid, but you can ask them succicntly what
they know that Google doesn't. We use gpl'd code on our production,
internal corporate and shipping on the search appliance.


On Jan 17, 2008 10:50 AM, Mahesh T. Pai <paivakil at> wrote:
> 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
>  copyrightable).
> 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 <<>>

Open Source Programs Manager, Google Inc.
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