[License-discuss] GPL and proprietary WebAPIs
chris at metatrontech.com
Fri Dec 23 11:38:04 UTC 2011
On Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 2:00 PM, Lawrence Rosen <lrosen at rosenlaw.com> wrote:
> Rick Moen wrote:
>> You know, Clark: Speaking for myself, I have no interest in advising
>> querents about how closely they can lawfully skirt the requirements of
>> copyleft licences, or how they can creatively circumvent those
>> requirements entirely, in order to use copylefted properties in
>> proprietary works.
>> You keep asking basically the same question, but are seeing scant
>> interest in helping you. Might be that my view is common.
> Might be, but it is not unanimous. Indeed, I'm glad to advise companies how
> to circumvent the *purported* and *frequently misunderstood* requirements of
> the GPL.
Good for you (I mean that). As I say in the LedgerSMB project we hold
API's (however invoked) to be freely usable with the minor exception
that inheritance probably crosses the line into derivative works land
(because once inheritance is much more expressively intimate than mere
> My opinion of the GPL licenses is that they do not prohibit the use of
> so-called "creative circumventions" to avoid having to disclose
> non-derivative works, despite the desire of some to call it morally evil.
> Linking GPL software to proprietary software is legal as long as one doesn't
> create a derivative work. If GPL advocates insist upon distinguishing among
> types of functional linking, then talented software engineers will avoid
> disputes by building shims, APIs, or use dynamic linking to accomplish their
> functional goals. More power to them!
The only caution I would give here is what I clearly stated in my
first reply. The GPL is not only a legal document but also to some
extent a social contract as well. In general what is legal under the
license and what is beneficial in skirting that edge may be separate,
and taking on the wrath of the community is not so good however a
court might rule. The social costs of violating accepted norms may be
significant even if the action is technically legal. Similarly even
if technically infringing (i.e. some interpretations of the BSD
licenses are incompatible with some interpretations of the GPL v3),
staying within accepted norms will never give you trouble.
Thus in general I think one is generally better off talking with
upstream projects and trying to get them on board.
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