distributing GPL libreries

dtemeles at nvalaw.com dtemeles at nvalaw.com
Tue Jul 15 21:29:47 UTC 2008

This is not legal advice - consult an attorney for your specific situation.

Good afternoon Scott,

I don't see how your response supports the conclusion that the three  
classes of parties you mentioned in your prior post are excluded from  
the definition of "third parties" or "other parties" under GPL v 2 or  
v 3.

Even if the FAQ supported your position in relation to GPL v 2, the  
parole evidence rule typically prohibits the introduction of external  
documents and evidence to contradict or explain a term in an agreement  
unless the term is ambiguous.  Assuming that a court would find the  
term to be ambiguous and permit the submission of explanatory  
evidence, is a FAQ describing what a third party (FSF) thinks the term  
means either relevant or admissible in establishing the meaning of the  
term in the license agreement entered into between the two parties?   
That would seem to be a stretch.  Are the parties even aware of the  
FAQ?  Do they agree with the FSF's interpretation? Does the court  
agree that the FSF's interpretation is consistent or contradictory?

Quoting Scott Shattuck <scott.shattuck at gmail.com>:

> The question of what constitutes "other parties" is likely to vary not
> only from state to state but from country to country etc.
> Nevertheless, at least up through GPL 2 the FSF's stance, from their
> own FAQ, was:
> Does the GPL require that source code of modified versions be posted
> to the public?
> The GPL does not require you to release your modified version. You are
> free to make modifications and use them privately, without ever
> releasing them. This applies to organizations (including companies),
> too; an organization can make a modified version and use it internally
> without ever releasing it outside the organization.
> But if you release the modified version to the public in some way, the
> GPL requires you to make the modified source code available to the
> program's users, under the GPL.
> Thus, the GPL gives permission to release the modified program in
> certain ways, and not in other ways; but the decision of whether to
> release it is up to you.
> What's an "organization"? Well, that's also open for interpretation.
> And the fact they specifically call out companies as being included in
> that definition implies that the FSF recognizes other types of
> organizations (which aren't specifically delineated). Further comments
> speak specifically to contractual work:
> Does the GPL allow me to develop a modified version under a
> nondisclosure agreement?
> Yes. For instance, you can accept a contract to develop changes and
> agree not to release your changes until the client says ok. This is
> permitted because in this case no GPL-covered code is being
> distributed under an NDA.
> You can also release your changes to the client under the GPL, but
> agree not to release them to anyone else unless the client says ok. In
> this case, too, no GPL-covered code is being distributed under an NDA,
> or under any additional restrictions.
> The GPL would give the client the right to redistribute your version.
> In this scenario, the client will probably choose not to exercise that
> right, but does have the right.

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