[forum] Mission statement and 1.1 license issues
Mon, 29 Mar 2004 11:59:43 +0200
Richard Stallman wrote:
> I say that XFree86 1.1 license is fully compatible with the GNU
> GPL. A compilation is NOT a derivative work.
> You are right about the distinction.
Bah. Let's see.
The Lesser GPL, or LGPL, is a second software license written
by the Free Software Foundation. It sheds some light on the
FSF's view of linking and derivative works, both for the GPL
When a program is linked with a library, whether
statically or using a shared library [i.e., dynamically],
the combination of the two is legally speaking a combined
work, a derivative of the original library.
The GPL's language, then, tries to swallow every piece of
software that incorporates a GPL program or portions of it.
However, it probably cannot do so under the copyright law it
purports to follow. This definition of a derivative work
proves highly controversial in the software world, and may
not stand up in court.
I asked two prominent representatives of the Free Software
Foundation -- Eben Moglen, general counsel, and Richard
Stallman, founder -- to clarify thorny issues of linkage to
GPL code, and came up with two divergent opinions on
derivative works in specific contexts. Their responses (to
the question of whether or not they would consider the
following derivative works) are recorded below:
A driver loaded as a module into the Linux kernel?
Stallman: Yes. I think Linus made a mistake when he said
he would interpret the GPL so as to regard these as NOT
extensions to Linux.
A module written to be plugged into an API defined
specifically to support dynamic loading?
Stallman: It depends on the detailed circumstances.
A program which uses a library? (i.e., Would it be fair
to say that this is generally not a derivative work of
Moglen: This depends. Code statically linked to other
code is a derivative work of the code with which it is
linked, as far as we are concerned. But what follows
from that depends on the license involved. That's the
difference between the GPL and the LGPL, which is
designed to permit proprietary code to be linked and
distributed with free libraries.
Stallman: I think that depends on the detailed
A library linked to a program? (i.e., Is this a derivative
work of the program?)
Moglen: Code statically linked to code constitutes a
derivative work of the code to which it is linked,
without question, regardless of license terms. More
specifically, now regarding licensing as well as the
status of the work, code that cannot be used at all
unless dynamically linked to GPL'd code, and which is
distributed along with that GPL'd code, must be
distributed under the terms of the GPL. This provides
a competitive advantage to free software, requiring
those who wish to make unfree software to undertake
proprietary reimplementation of feature sets only
available in GPL'd libraries, such as GNU readline.
Stallman: That is normally true, but it one needs to
be careful drawing conclusions from it. Also, there
can be ambiguity in the definition of "library" which
can cause confusion about this.
A program running as a process on a Linux system? (A
derivative work of the Linux kernel?)
Moglen: Certainly not a derivative work of the kernel,
or of anything else, simply by virtue of executability
on free software systems, whether the kernel they
employ is Linux, the Hurd, or some other kernel.
Stallman: I agree here [that the program running as
a process on a Linux system creates a derivative
work] -- except that it's a misnomer to speak of "a
Linux system". Linux is the kernel; the system is
really the GNU operating system, modified to use
Linux as the kernel.
> However, the GNU GPL conditions
> apply to creation of combined works, ...
Take also this:
So, if I'm right about the distinction, then your rather
creative interpretation of the GPL (on the grounds of "that's
good for the movement") constitutes misuse of the copyright.
Note that the penalty for copyright misuse – unenforceability
of the copyright in court until the misuse has been purged
and its effects no longer exist – is tantamount to losing the
copyright. And, BTW, you might want to take a look at
http://creativecommons.org share-alike licenses. Note that
they do NOT try to expand the scope of share-alike to