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Re: The sad decline of copyleft software licenses? :(

From: Jean Louis
Subject: Re: The sad decline of copyleft software licenses? :(
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 2020 17:35:11 +0300
User-agent: Mutt/1.14.0 (2020-05-02)


* Pen-Yuan Hsing <> [2020-09-25 04:35]:
> This reminds me of two worrying examples I recently saw where even
> GPL-licensed software are still used to create proprietary software!
> 1. As someone with an academic background, I've seen and used many
> statistics/analytical software. There is a proprietary statistics GUI
> program called Brodgar that uses the GPL'ed R kernel as its "backend".
> Technically, Brodgar doesn't violate the GPL because it simply sends
> commands to R and receives its output, but in my opinion it really exploits
> the GPL-licensed R in a sadly anti-social way. What's particularly striking
> is that Brodgar prominently emphasizes why it *doesn't* violate the GPL on
> its homepage:
> This really left a sour taste in my mouth. I gotta admit it really looked to
> me that the developer wanted to be in my face to say: "Ha! Look at how I can
> take advantage of this GPL'ed software even though my program is
> proprietary!"

If program is using other program by invoking it, it is, in my
personal opinion, not a violation of a GPL license, and not some
kind of a security loophole in the GPL license.

And I also think, regardless if company has proprietary software or
not, it is good to make proper legal research and legal consultation
with R authors, or free software attorneys, to verify if some company
is in violation of the license or not.

I cannot see there possible violation of the GPL.

You can use R and make R programs which are proprietary. You can have
bash shell and have shell scripts which are proprietary. You can have
proprietary program producing automatically shell scripts executed by
shell, whereby such shell scripts would be proprietary. I do not vouch
for proprietary software, as free software has a lot to do in the
world. But that is how it is, the GPL license have been designed in
such a way to allow such usages of software.

> 2. To my surprise, the highly proprietary messaging app WhatsApp uses the
> GPL-licensed implementation of the Signal protocol developed by Open Whisper
> Systems for its self-proclaimed end-to-end encryption:
> I suppose the Facebook army of lawyers were able to perform the necessary
> legal gymnastics to make a GPL program fit in their proprietary app, perhaps
> by technically keeping the GPL'ed binary separate from the rest of the app?
> (can someone more knowledgeable speak to this?)

Distributing binary version of Whatsapp that uses GPL software, would
make the Whatsapp also GPL. But I am not sure of details. They need
not distribute the source with the binary immediately, but they need
to make it available.

So how about you or somebody, makes the request for the source of
Whatsapp due to fact that GPL software is used in Whatsapp, rendering
Whatsapp also GPL?

But let us find that as a fact, than we can look into Whatsapp sources.

> My point with the above two examples is that even with GPL software,
> there are still ways people/companies who want to make proprietary
> software can exploit it.

Your two examples are not adequate:

- for first example with R, it is not example, as there is no fact
  that there is any GPL license violation. I have given you few other
  examples, which are million times multiplied by similar
  software. Proprietary software can invoke other free software, that
  is not forbidden and does not represent any abuse to free software.

- WhatsApp using GPLv3 library is not clear to me, it has to be
  proven, but if it is so, then all Whatsapp would become free
  software, so make request for sources from Whatsapp company, as
  maybe they give you source, based on that. Maybe not, but only if
  they don't we can start speaking of violaitons.

> If so, permissive free software licenses are *even more* dangerous
> from the perspective of user freedom and strengthens the argument
> for copyleft licenses.
> Any thoughts?

You speak of free software licenses, so you speak of authors that are
producing free software, please think of people when speaking of
licenses, and those people who are producing free software deserve
acknowledgments in the free software world.

I do not share opinion that they are even more dangerous from
perspective of user freedom.

I also do not share opinion that they strengthen the argument for
copyleft licenses, what strengthens the argument for copyleft is when
somebody publishes new software under GPL license. As simple as

Please see here detailed list of licenses:

Non-copyleft free software licenses have been made by friends, not
competitors. It is choice of author to permit others to do what they
want, including create proprietary software, that does not make them
less friends in the free software movement.


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