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Re: GPL traitor !


From: Doctor Smith
Subject: Re: GPL traitor !
Date: Fri, 8 May 2009 15:33:38 -0400
User-agent: 40tude_Dialog/2.0.15.1

On Fri, 8 May 2009 14:09:58 -0500, Erik Funkenbusch wrote:

> On Fri, 8 May 2009 09:58:11 +0000 (UTC), Alan Mackenzie wrote:
> 
>> Hi, Erik!
>> 
>> It's good to talk to somebody with a name.  :-)
>> 
>> In gnu.misc.discuss Erik Funkenbusch <address@hidden> wrote:
>>> The GPL is misunderstood on a daily basis by many people.  In fact,
>>> even GPL advocates can't seem to come to a consensus over what it
>>> means, so how is any "normal" person supposed to know?
>> 
>>> Here's an example.  Some GPL advocates believe that dynamic linking is
>>> not covered by the GPL, while others (including the FSF) believe it is.  
>> 
>> Dynamic linking, along with static linking, compilation, interpretation,
>> profiling, and other specific techniques used by hackers are not covered
>> by the GPL - they're outside its scope, and would be more of matter of
>> patents than a copyright license, were they patentable.
> 
> Gee, you should really tell the FSF that.
> 
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#GPLPluginsInNF
> 
> "If the program dynamically links plug-ins, and they make function calls to
> each other and share data structures, we believe they form a single
> program, which must be treated as an extension of both the main program and
> the plug-ins. This means that combination of the GPL-covered plug-in with
> the non-free main program would violate the GPL."
> 
> Funny, but even YOU don't seem to understand the GPL that nobody could
> possibly misunderstand.  Or maybe it's the FSF that doesn't understand it.
> 
> You're not doing a good job of proving your point.
> 
>>> Another example is XMLRPC (or SOAP or other similar technoloties) in
>>> which a function is called via network request on a distributed system.
>>> Some believe that this is covered by the GPL, others believe it isn't.
>> 
>> I'll assume that by "this" you mean the invocation of a GPL licensed
>> function over a network, or a GPL licensed program invoking something
>> over a network.
>> 
>> The GPL doesn't differentiate between calling technoloties.  It's _what_
>> gets called that matters, not the technoloty by which it gets called;
>> whether the thing getting called is a program independent of what's
>> calling it, or is really part of it.  The same applies to functionality
>> in a separately compiled library.
>> 
>> It is not always quite clear whether a library function or network
>> function is "an independent program".  That's just life; software isn't
>> simple and the GPL can't make it so.
>> 
>> The GPL doesn't distinguish between calling methods for a good reason,
>> namely it would allow anybody to incorporate GPL code into his
>> proprietary program.  All he would have to do is make his proprietary
>> extension callable via a network call (say, a BSD socket, much like
>> X-Windows does (I think)), and then publish the source code only for
>> the GPL bit, to which he's added a network call.
> 
> Yet you can do the exact same thing by making the program into an
> executable that gets called from the command line.  Again, your argument
> just doesn't stand up.  
> 
> The GPL is vague, and frequently misunderstood.  
> 
>>> Many people think the GPL prevents you from charging money for GPL
>>> software, yet the FSF says they encourage you to do so.
>> 
>> A less intelligent, less literate class of people, perhaps.
> 
> You mean like judges?  Those that make it their job to interpret legal
> documents?
> 
> There was a recent lawsuit in which the judge's ruling stated that you
> could not charge a fee for GPL code.  I can't seem to find the right search
> terms to locat it right now, but it was quoted several times here in COLA.
> 
>> SuSE, Redhat,
>> and friends have been charging money "for" GPL software for years.  You
>> may charge money for distributing GPL software, or for offering support.
>> You may not charge money for a GPL license.  A slightly subtle difference,
>> but really not all that hard to grasp for people who've actually read the
>> GPL.
> 
> Actually, no.  The GPL says nothing about charging for the license.
> However, in effect that is correct.  The FSF says you can charge any fee
> you like for the software.
> 
> From the FSF:
> 
> "Does the GPL allow me to sell copies of the program for money?
> 
> Yes, the GPL allows everyone to do this. The right to sell copies is part
> of the definition of free software. Except in one special situation, there
> is no limit on what price you can charge. (The one exception is the
> required written offer to provide source code that must accompany
> binary-only release.) "
> 
> The point is, many people think the GPL only allows you to charge a
> "nominal fee" for the software, when in fact the GPL says you may only
> charge a noninal fee to distribute the source.  It says nothing about the
> fee to sell the program.
> 
>>> Many people think the GPL requires you to "give back" your changes to
>>> the author, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Even if you
>>> consider the GPL's software requirements to provide source to anyone
>>> you provide binaries that doesnt' require you to give that source to
>>> the upstream authors, only the downstream customers.
>> 
>> That might be true, but is of piffling importance.  Generally, the author
>> can get the binary just like anybody else, hence is entitled to get the
>> source corresponding to that binary.
> 
> Nope.  He is not entitled to anything, *UNLESS* he's given a copy of the
> binary.
> 
> Again, from the FSF:
> 
> "If I know someone has a copy of a GPL-covered program, can I demand he
> give me a copy?
> 
> No. The GPL gives him permission to make and redistribute copies of the
> program if he chooses to do so. He also has the right not to redistribute
> the program, if that is what he chooses."
> 
>>> So no, the GPL is *NOT* perfectly plain and straight forward.  And yes,
>>> you do need a lawyer to explain it to you, particulary when the issues
>>> of "derived work" are brought up, since the GPL does not define the
>>> term and relies on the accepted legal definition of the term, which is
>>> not as simple as it would seem.
>> 
>> Of course the GPL relies on the legal definition of "derived work", since
>> the notion of creating derived works is central to it.  That this can be
>> complicated, particularly at boundary cases, is simply a reflection of
>> the real world.  But that complexity lies outside of the GPL - the world
>> of copyright law is complex, and it's clearly unreasonable to expect the
>> GPL somehow to eliminate that complexity.
> 
> That is what you are implying when you say that nobody can misunderstand
> the GPL.  Because not all terms the GPL uses are defined by the document
> itself, it's impossible for everyone to fully understand it because
> interpretations will be different.
> 
>> That said, it's usually fairly easy for somebody acting in good faith to
>> see whether some piece of software is derived from GPL software.  The
>> difficulties arise when somebody not acting in good faith attempts to
>> find some loophole through which she can legally violate the intention
>> and spirit of the GPL.
> 
> Even the spirit of the GPL is not fully understood.  We have a good idea of
> what the FSF thinks the spirit is, but many other people, including die
> hard GPL advocates disagree with the FSF.
> 
> Larry Rosen, for instance.
> 
>>> The only people who do *NOT* find the GPL difficult to understand are
>>> those thoat think they understand it when they really do not.
>> 
>> That's a wild thing to say.  I think you're failing to distinguish the
>> GPL, which is easy to understand, with the wider chaos of copyright and
>> licensing law, which is anything but.
> 
> You cannot understand the GPL without understanding the wider chaos of
> copyright law.  That's why the GPL is not easy to understand.

This is exactly what I am trying to say !

People in these groups all seem to have their own interpretation of what
the GPL is or isn't.

I'm not passing judgment, I am simply saying that the fact these uber
threads go on for pages is a good indication that people are confused.


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