GPL and closed source

David Woolley forums at
Tue Jun 7 20:27:54 UTC 2011

Tzeng, Nigel H. wrote:
> On 6/6/11 3:29 AM, "David Woolley" <forums at> wrote:

> If the work is an aggregation why would the second group not be GPL
> compatible?

I'm assuming that <----> means "linking" in the sense understood by the 
FSF.  Actually, the FSF's definition of aggregation, seems fairly 
liberal, in that they seem to accept closer coupling than simply a 
collection of independent programs.

> If I write a GPL program that uses a BSD graphing package where
> proprietary plug-ins (additional graph types, renderers, skins, whatever)
> are available why would that BSD graphing package not be GPL compatible?
> Because someone has the ability to buy a proprietary plug in for it?
> As to whether the work is an aggregation reverts back to the deliberate
> confusion regarding what is or isn't a derived work.
To, me, the creation of a derivative work is pretty fundamental to the 
design of the GPL.

The GPL dates from a time before DLLs and plugins, so they have 
complicated the issue.

As I see it, the FSF aim are that:

- a non-"open source" program should not benefit from GPLed subroutines 
(aimed at the proprietary program developer) - i.e. an anti freeloading 

- an open source program should be usable without having to pay for a 
proprietary library, and should be modifiable except for interfaces that 
a fundamental to the OS or compiler - a freedom provision.

It was drafted at a time when all OSes were proprietary and 
bootstrapping gcc would typically require a proprietary compiler.

I've used not-"open source" as the source for a proprietary program 
could be available, but encumbered.
David Woolley
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