Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Fri Jul 18 21:07:13 UTC 2008

Antonio Olivares wrote:
>> But the GPL concept of prohibiting redistribution unless
>> requirements on 
>> the 'work as a whole' are met makes this impossible
>> in many cases, 
>> especially at the kernel level where components like
>> drivers and 
>> filesystems become part of the 'whole'.
>> -- 
> I like FreeBSD and I see that it has GPL'd code as well as BSD code.  The Desktop environments KDE and GNOME are released as GPL code, but they are included in FreeBSD.  They do not care that it is released as GPL, they still include it.  Now if I get your point right, the GPL requires that since BSD uses KDE which is GPL'd to then release BSD under a GPL license because of its restrictions.  I know that the above is not true, but it is an analogy of what the requirements would be.  

Copyright/licenses apply at the individual work level, not on the whole 
distribution which may have thousands of different programs.

The first question you have to answer when GPL'd components are involved 
is what is the 'work as a whole'.  The traditional answer is that code 
compiled/linked into the same process are part of a whole that might be 
considered a derived work of any component, but separately executed 
programs are not, even though they might interact closely through pipe 
or socket connections.  I don't believe there is any real legal 
definition of this or court decision that might establish it, though. 
Then, even if a GPL'd library is linked, if the compile or dynamic link 
is done by the end user and there is a non-gpl'd alternative library 
that might have been used instead, the result would not be a derivative. 
  Also, there is a different, less intrusive set of rules for LGPL'd 
components that permit the other parts of the same program to have their 
own license terms.

> I see many people got mad because of cdrtools had issues with GPL and Jorg released his code under the CDDL, which is a free/opensource license, but it cannot live with the GPL and thus had to produce a GPL'd one and they created the fork which now lives in many Linux distributions:
> http://lwn.net/Articles/198171/
> However, some distributions still use cdrtools from Jorg, they did not buy into the idea that the fork was needed and still release cdrtools with their products.  Was it the GPL that forced cdrtools removal from many distributions, or what is more personal between Debian developers and Jorg?

I think this particular thing is personal between Jorg and everyone else 
  (pretty common...) and relates partly to differences with kernel 
developers about how devices should be handled.

> Is this is an example of how the GPL messes up the freedoms to share and improve code?

Maybe - I don't understand the internals well enough to know why it 
needed modification in the first place.  Given decent interfaces, there 
should be no need to modify a user level program to drive it from a GUI 
on one side and talk to devices on the other, and if you don't need to 
make modifications, there should be no issue with distributing a 
standalone CDDL package in a mostly-gnu distribution.  But, it does show 
the potential for the problem.

   Les Mikesell
    lesmikesell at gmail.com

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