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Re: GPL and statically linking with non-GPL standard C library

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: GPL and statically linking with non-GPL standard C library
Date: 26 May 2004 19:13:47 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.09 (Gnus v5.9.0) Emacs/21.3.50

Barry Margolin <> writes:

> In article <x5n03v2vdi.fsf@lola.goethe.zz>, David Kastrup <> 
> wrote:
> > (Alexander R. Pruss) writes:
> > 
> > > I'd like to distribute GPL code compiled with Borland's C
> > > compiler, and statically linked with Borland's C library.  Is
> > > this permitted?
> > 
> > According to what?  The GPL clearly tells you that you have to add
> > the source code of your stuff.
> > 
> > > The question comes down to the GPL exception: "However, as a
> > > special exception, the source code distributed need not include
> > > anything that is normally distributed (in either source or
> > > binary form) with the major components (compiler, kernel, and so
> > > on) of the operating system on which the executable runs, unless
> > > that component itself accompanies the executable."
> > 
> > If you have a program intended for a particular compiler/build
> > environment, a valid case can be made that the respective
> > libraries belong to the program.
> > 
> > However, since in most cases for a private person the most
> > interesting question is not "what is the likelihood for my view to
> > prevail in court" but rather "how do I avoid getting into court in
> > the first place", the easiest solution is to just ask the
> > copyright holder whether your application is what he considers
> > permitted within the rights of the licence.
> What about "what is the intent of the GPL in this case"?  The intent
> is that the end user should be able to modify the program and
> rebuild it.

If he has the tools for doing so.  If the program is dependent on the
Borland compiler in the first place, there is no point in having it
be independent from the Borland libraries: for rebuilding you will
need the compiler which can, for that reason, well be considered part
of build environment/system.

The GPL does not force you to create portable code: it is certainly
allowed to create derivatives that will only be recompilable with a
proprietary compiler.  If that compiler always comes with system
libraries, I don't see how the GPL can enforce that they be free:
they are part of the build system.

If the GPL could prohibit that, the GNU project could never have been
legally distributed while there were no free systems available yet for
bootstrapping them.

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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