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

From: Byron A Jeff
Subject: Re: GPL and statically linking with non-GPL standard C library
Date: 28 May 2004 15:08:06 -0400

In article <x5zn7ux2ig.fsf@lola.goethe.zz>, David Kastrup  <> wrote:
-Barry Margolin <> writes:
-> In article <x5oeobyq04.fsf@lola.goethe.zz>, David Kastrup <> 
-> wrote:
-> > Barry Margolin <> writes:
-> > 
-> > > In article <x5u0y3yt3x.fsf@lola.goethe.zz>, David Kastrup <> 
-> > > wrote:
-> > > 
-> > > > (Byron A Jeff) 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 
-> > > > > -> and statically linked with Borland's C library.  Is this 
-> > > > > -

I was going to snip, but realized that the whole thread is required for this

-> > > > > -According to what?  The GPL clearly tells you that you have
-> > > > > -to add the
-> > > > > -source code of your stuff.
-> > > > > 
-> > > > > I think you missed the point. The OP wants to compile and statically 
-> > > > > link 
-> > > > > GPL code with a proprietary compiler and library.
-> > > > 
-> > > > Which was the only way to get binaries for GPL programs at one time.
-> > > > What point am I missing?
-> > > 
-> > > They were typically distributed as source code, not pre-linked
-> > > executables.
-> > 
-> > Come off it.  Of _course_ for example the GNU utilities for
-> > DOS/Windows were distributed as binaries as well as source code.  And
-> > as binaries that would need proprietary static libraries to link with
-> > if you wanted to compile them, and proprietary compilers.
-> I wasn't talking about DOS/Windows.
-So it would be your contention that every distribution of binaries
-was illegal when the recipient did not happen to have the compiler and
-libraries around used for compiling them.

As a standard part of the system. That's correct. The whole point of the
exception is so that end users can recompile/relink the system as required.

-> I was talking about the period before the GNU utilities were ported
-> to those systems.  Source distributions were the most common way to
-> distribute free software in the 80's.
-Oh, come off it.  I happened to be living in that time.  It was the
-time before autoconf.  Compiling any piece of software, in particular
-GNU software, was a major feat.  Which is why compiled versions were
-often passed around, once somebody managed to do all the work.

If it was GPL then I do believe that it was in violation of the copyright then.
I have to admit I'm unsure if it's OK to package the source and a binary
together. Anyone have an opinion?

[small snip finally]

-But enough of the weaseling around.
-Is it your contention that every distribution of GPL software with
-binaries included was illegal on proprietary systems not usually
-coming with the compiler and static system libraries?
-Yes or no?

Yup if it was a binary distribution only. Still unsure if you sent the sources
with it.

-If yes, then distributing Emacs binaries compiled with mingcc is
-illegal, as long as you don't distribute the compiler and everything
-it links with in source as well.

That's about right. Though mingcc is a funky case for a few reasons:

1) The compiler itself is free software.
2) It uses Windows own system libraries which are standard.
3) Other than space considerations, it would be no problem bundling the 
-If no, then why would the Borland compiler's system libraries of the
-OP not be permitted under the GPL?

Because you can't freely distribute that compiler and library package with
the software. 

You keep looking at this from a common sense point of view instead of a GPL
one, which makes sense in a twisted sort of way. Common sense states that the
end user will be happy to have the software. Probably right. The GPL view is
that the user has the right to modify and update the software. This means that
they have to have access to all the code, tools, and libraries required to 
do that update. In this context the special exception makes sense, since the
end user will have that commonly distributed code on their system. But
the Borland compiler and its libraries are not common. So you have three 
choices: distribute the compiler and libraries with the code, use a compiler
and library that you can distribute with the code, or don't distrubute the
code. Each protects the user in a GPL sense because they will be able to build
the system just like the original author did.


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