[License-discuss] Intimacy in open source (SSPL and AGPL)

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Wed Jan 23 05:13:18 UTC 2019

On Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 7:10 PM Bruce Perens <bruce at perens.com> wrote:

People who write highly reciprocal licenses have, in general, reserved a
> territory for people who want to link proprietary software in the form of a
> different license: for FSF this is LGPL or GPL-with-exception. If you want
> to combine your proprietary software with software under the license they
> have reserved for an exclusively Free territory, do not expect them to
> cooperate.

No doubt.  But what is "linking" and what is "combining"?  We used to know,
but now we don't any more.  As far as I can tell, if I create a one-line
shell script that pipes a proprietary program (say, Windows NET PRINT,
whose output is not documented anywhere, I've just eyeballed it) into a
GPL-licensed program, say GNU sed, I have created a work in which the
proprietary part is in "intimate data communication" with the GPL program,
and so I can't do that.  And if I can, nobody at the FSF will tell me so,
because they want to reserve the right to sue me till my eyes bubble.

And this from an organization that has backed itself so far into a corner
that an LGPL3 library can be linked (in a relinkable way) with purely
proprietary code, but if if you want to link it with a GPLv2-only program,
something which in no way undermines the purposes of free software,
_that's_ not allowed.

John Cowan          http://vrici.lojban.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
Even the best of friends cannot attend each others' funeral.
        --Kehlog Albran, The Profit
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