[License-discuss] Is Web application including GPL libraries covered under GPL?

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed May 15 22:17:10 UTC 2013

Quoting Grahame Grieve (grahame at healthintersections.com.au):

> About Java and GPL:
> http://www.healthintersections.com.au/?p=1225

Meaning no disrepect to FSF, but asking them the legal application of
GPL v 3 to a specific situation commits a depressingly common category

  (1) In the general case, they are not even the licensor.  

  (2) In any court case, the judge will be looking primarily to 
  the wording of the written licence to determine licensor's intent, 
  not to somebody's essay on a Web site.

FSF has a famously maximalist notion of what 'derviative work' means, 
particularly in the GPL FAQ -- which you quoted as if it were an
authority on the subject.  I do not concur about it being that.  It
expresses, in effect, what FSF would like, not what is.

I would also expect the licensing and compliance manager at FSF (meaning 
no disrespect to Mr. Joshua Gay), whom you likewise quoted as if he were
an authority, to reflect FSF's view about what it would like to be true.

You say 'perception is reality' and therefore FSF's opinion has real
weight.  Again, with no offence intended to FSF, no, sir.  Perception is
not reality.  Relevant court-precedent citations are reality.  ;-> [1]

It is indeed quite valuable to develop an understanding of what
'derivative work' (the copyright-law term of art you are indirectly
reflecting when you quote GPLv3's jargon about 'covered work').  I
recommend reading caselaw.

If you have sufficient money and interest, you could instead pay a
really competent copyright attorney to analyse for you how the law
applies to your situation.  (I would recommend listening attentively but
also skepically, and asking sharp questions, as there is plenty of bad
advice available from lawyers, too.)  Personally, I find reading caselaw
to meet my needs, but Your Mileage May Differ<tm>.

[1] As is common with civil law, you look for application of the legal
principals, regardless of the industry in question.  So, the cases
concern games (Lewis Galoob Toys v Nintendo America, Sega v. Accolade),
music (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose), and only rarely software (Kelly v.
Arriba, Perfect 10 v. Amazon).  No, you won't find a Circuit judge
saying exactly where the edge of derivative works is for GPLv3-covered
works used by Java coders, but that's not necessary to get the general
gist of how the concept works.

Cheers,                                  Actually, time flies hate a banana. 
Rick Moen                                                    -- Micah Joel
rick at linuxmafia.com
McQ! (4x80)  

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