GPL and closed source

David Woolley forums at
Sat Jun 4 10:07:03 UTC 2011

Mahesh T. Pai wrote:

>  > However, copies can only be redistributed if the licences for all
>  > the GPLed components grant specific permission to link against that
>  > proprietary library.
> I cannot grant X permission to use works owned by Y. Sorry, not
> because I tell you so, but the law says so.

Generally Y has granted a royalty free redistribution right under 
conditions like: no-reverse engineering, no access to raw interfaces, 
and no source code to be provided.

With the standard GPL, the complete program has to be redistributed 
under conditions that completely contradict these, so the permission to 
  to copy the GPLed component is void for the purposes of redistributing 
with Y's code, because the result would contravene at least one of Y's 
or X's conditions (X requires that Y's source code be made available 
under terms at least as liberal as the GPL, Y requires that it should 
not be made available under any condition).

However, if X is allowed to and exempts Y's code from the GPL's required 
permissions relating to X's code, there is no longer a conflict in terms 
of the provision of source etc., although there may still be a conflict 
in terms of the  exposure of interfaces.  The exemption is to a 
condition imposed by the use of X's code, not to anything that is 
imposed by Y, so is not using any rights that are exclusive to Y.

Where derived works come in is that, if it should be ruled that the 
complete program is not a derived work of X's work, and you accept the 
bare copyright theory, then the clause in the GPL requiring the whole 
program to be distributed on the GPL terms is void.

I sense that Mahesh and I will never reach a consensus on this, so I 
think that Dale will just, as a minimum, have to take away the view that 
the legal position is not actually at all clear.

David Woolley
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