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Re: What GPL requirements are implied by publishing an ISO with GRUB bin

From: Thomas Schmitt
Subject: Re: What GPL requirements are implied by publishing an ISO with GRUB binaries ?
Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2017 10:01:01 +0200


Tom Davies wrote:
> This might not be the best place to ask about legal issues for edge-case
> scenarios.

At least it would be the place to discuss what should be written in the docs.

The problem is quite specific to grub-mkrescue or people who equip computers
with GRUB and then pass them on to other people.
If i had general questions about GPL, then i would ask fellow GNU maintainers
in general.

My own GNU sub project would not invite the question because it does not
need to spread software in order to do its job. It spreads ISOs instead.

An illustration of the special constraints with GRUB equipped media is
this statement which is obviously intended for a person or organisation which
permanently offers GPL'ed software:


"you must take care to make sure that the source remains available for as
 long as you distribute the object code."

If i take this literally, then i can hand a GRUB equipped DVD to a friend,
offer for the durance of the handover to provide the sources, and would then
be free of further obligations.
(I do not have to ask Richard Stallman about his opinion to that theory.
 The answer is easy to guess.)

As said, the normal way to fulfill GPL, if you do not modify the original code
but only distribute binaries, is to simply tell the public source from where
you got it and to show due dilligence with verifying that this source still
exists as long as you offer the binary.

The problem is how to properly point to GRUB sources when redistributing
GRUB binaries on bootable media. Especially when there is no official GRUB
release to which one could point. (E.g. caused by the long release gap which
ended not very long ago.)

> Note that the licence is not intended to make things difficult!

The FSF will not contradict if i state that ease of use is not the first
priority of GPL, but that it is rather about rigidly ensuring the Four
Essential Freedoms (

Just look at the situation with GPLv2-only (without "+") and LGPLv3.
( )
The official answer is: Urge the license givers of the GPLv2-only software
to expand their license to GPLv2+, or else do not combine it with LGPLv3.
No grandfather clause is offered by LGPLv3 for GPLv2-only despite the fact
that LGPLv3 is compatible with many non-free licenses.


Urm. The headline is "How to use GNU licenses for your own software".
Not the situation i am asking about.

It gives advise for the normal situation, though:

  "(Optionally) make the program display a startup notice."

If the version id in the notice was significant enough to find the source
version in GRUB's git, then there would be no problem with fulfilling GPL
for binaries from unmodified source code.

Have a nice day :)


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