Misunderstanding GPL's terms and conditions as restrictions

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Tue Jul 29 05:46:21 UTC 2008

Alexandre Oliva wrote:
>> On Jul 28, 2008, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> RSAREF didn't stop the program from being created in the first place,
>>>> or from being distributed under the GPL in source form.
>>> Per the FSF, RIPEM was a derived work of gmp and could not be
>>> distributed execept under the GPL.  However that was impossible
>>> because RSAREF was needed and had other terms.
>> I don't see where the FSF said such a thing.  I see the FSF discussing
>> restrictive patent licenses that SSH developers had accepted, and that
>> didn't permit them to distribute the work under the GPL, with as
>> little as plugs for RSAREF to be used.
> Err...  Digging further, I found out that RIPEM included RSAREF, and
> it was RSAREF itself that had been modified in such a way that it
> became a derived work of GPLed work. 

No, RSAREF couldn't have been modified.  It had restricted distribution 
and everyone had to get their own copy. 
(much later, slightly before the patent ran out, the rsa algorithm was 
release into the public domain)

The linkage to a main program that also linked to gmp is what triggered 
the claim that it was a derived work. It's hard to find stuff this old 
on the internet but I did run across this indication that we are in a 
time warp regarding discussions of what RMS claims are derived works:
http://kerneltrap.org/mailarchive/linux-activists/1993/7/7/36929  (2nd 
hand quote saying you can't run anything but GPL'd code on Linux...).

> So this modified version of
> RSAREF could only be distributed under the GPL, which neither the
> patent license nor the copyright license under which RSAREF were
> provided permitted.

It was the linkage to both libraries that made any usable terms for 
distribution impossible, even though separately both needed libraries 
were available in source.

> So is looks like it is the main program (SSH?) that was the
> distraction.

RIPEM was more of a PGP-alike - ahead of its time: 

> Anyhow, if you have pointers to more specific
> information about what the FSF actually wrote (all I found was
> second-hand hearsay), I'd love to know more about it.

I haven't been able to find the after-the-fact summary where the policy 
of considering a work a GPL derivative if it used library functionality 
that was only available under the GPL, but would not be when another 
compatible library became available was explained but I remember seeing 
it.  Here's the usenet thread where Stallman announced the problem and 
an assortment of reactions follow.  In an even stranger time warp, one 
of the comments was mine  - along with some interesting trivia by Alan 
Cox, Dan Bernstein and even Linus.   Ah, nostalgia...

   Les Mikesell
    lesmikesell at gmail.com

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