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

From: Barry Margolin
Subject: Re: GPL and statically linking with non-GPL standard C library
Date: Wed, 26 May 2004 13:25:25 -0400
User-agent: MT-NewsWatcher/3.4 (PPC Mac OS X)

In article <x57juz1584.fsf@lola.goethe.zz>, David Kastrup <> 

> 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.

At the time the GNU project started, all Unix systems came with a C 
compiler and libraries.  That's why the exception for components 
normally distributed with the OS came is in the GPL -- it allowed for 
this bootstrapping.

It's true that it doesn't require that the program be portable; even GNU 
code from the FSF is only as portable as the autoconf scripts are able 
to make it.  But I believe the intent was that if a particular OS is 
supported, the end user should not have to purchase anything beyond what 
is normally necessary to do program development.  If the OS comes with a 
compiler and libraries, those should be sufficient; if it's necessary to 
purchase a third-party compiler, the user should not be forced to 
purchase a specific one (so if a user already has a Microsoft compiler, 
he doesn't have to *also* get the Borland compiler in order to customize 
the application).

Barry Margolin,
Arlington, MA
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