Misunderstanding GPL's terms and conditions as restrictions

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Mon Jul 28 12:57:44 UTC 2008

Alexandre Oliva wrote:
>> You only have to agree to the GPL requirements if you need the
>> permissions for modification and distribution the GPL grants.
> Who forfeited the opportunity to distribute gnothing under the GPL by
> violating the license, then?  Under your theory that the GPL imposes
> restrictions on the code licensed under it, someone must have, because
> the author only released lib.c as part of a GPL program, and some
> licensee managed to somehow escape what you call the restrictions of
> the GPL.

Who? Anyone who did something contrary to those terms.  It's not a 
theory, it is what the GPL says. Other licenses can exist, so you aren't 
prohibited from adding them as long as they don't conflict with the GPL 
  or you are the owner and use either/or dual-license terms , you just 
can't use those alternate terms if you agree not to.

> At the very least, this shows that your allegations about the
> impossibility of using code released as part of GPLed programs under
> their former licenses was false.

I've always said that it is your acceptance of the GPL that prohibits 
using other terms.  If you agree, then you've agreed not to violate 
section 2b.

> Now it remains for you to realize that, even if you accept the GPL,
> your faulty assumption remains incorrect.

I can't realize something that is the opposite of what it actually says.

>>> Show me.  I'm pretty sure you're getting it backwards: the case you
>>> cited is one of GPLed library and derived program distributed under an
>>> incompatible license.
>> The main work was released in source and might have been GPL'd or
>> dual licensed but could not because of this library dependency.
> Distributed along with the main work, right?

No, RSAREF was done by someone else and was available in source with 
some distribution restrictions because of export restrictions. You had 
to obtain your own copy separately.

>> And because gmp was under GPL at the time
> See?  The work was derived from a GPL library.  You got it backwards.

But that would not have been an issue if the other library had not been 
required.  Read the rest of the license and notice that that exception 
for system libs wouldn't be there if third party libraries in general 
were permitted.

>> It was impossible to re-implement the needed functions from RSAREF
>> because of the patent
> Why couldn't that implementation be GPLed?  And why couldn't it just
> be left out of the main work?

It couldn't be GPLed because it wasn't part of the work and it had other 
distribution restrictions.  Note also that the gmp library was not 
included either.  End users were expected to have their own copy and 
compile with it.  The legal threat from the FSF came even though no 
GPL-covered code was being copied as part of the work.  The claim was 
that the source that would require the library's functions was a 
derivative work even though no copying took place.

>> Now for the really strange part: no one ever actually used the fgmp
>> library because gmp performed better. However, since it existed and
>> it was the linking user's choice which to use, it was no longer
>> possible to claim that the main work was derived from the gmp
>> library.
> A "beautiful" case of circumvention of the spirit of the GPL and of
> copyleft by legal technicalities.  Way to go!  NOT

Just one example of the near-infinite combinations of works that would 
be useful but are made difficult or impossible by the GPL restrictions. 
Having to re-implement the functionality of code that claims to be free 
so an end user can link it to a source-available work is insane.

    Les Mikesell
     lesmikesell at gmail.com

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