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Re: The worst that can happen to GPLed code

From: Paul Jarc
Subject: Re: The worst that can happen to GPLed code
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 2004 11:47:31 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.110003 (No Gnus v0.3) Emacs/21.3 (gnu/linux)

Stefaan A Eeckels <> wrote:
> But as we don't have the source, it wouldn't allow
> us to do much more that redistribute the odd DLL.

Which is still something.  It might be useful for A/V codecs.

Maybe a more serious downside would be that proprietary copyright
holders might remain likely to sue over such uses, so even though we
might win in court, we'd probably avoid those uses anyway to avoid

> And, of course, the licenses used by the likes of
> Microsoft stipulate quite clearly that no sale is
> involved, so they wouldn't be affected at all...

s/sale/transfer of ownership of a particular copy/, I guess.  That's
assuming they have the legal authority to make such a declaration.
Maybe they do; I don't know.  They don't, for example, have the
authority to say what constitutes a derivative work.  I wonder whether
this might be similar.  But see also above anyway.

> It would mean that the GPL becomes like the BSDL, ie
> that we would see products that incorporate (modified)
> GPLed code, but without any source (either for the
> GPLed work or the compilation).

If the modifications are more extensive than simple extraction of some
parts and recombining those with other parts, then it's a derivative
work, even under Alexander's view, and so the GPL must be accepted.

If the modifications don't go that far, then the source that's
available from the original author is just as good.

> And if it were to remain at compilations (ie. essentially unmodified
> works combined into a new one), the effect might be marginal (as you
> say, more use would be made of GPLed code).

It might.  With my optimistic hat on, proprietary vendors seeing GPL
code used this way might be more willing to make parts of their
software Free.  (Gather many eyes to help debugging for the libraries,
etc., and keep just enough secret to stop competitors from riding

> Finally, people who choose the GPL do so because they
> like the ideas it stands for, and it would not be
> unrealistic to fear a significant drop in people working
> on GPLed software if the license lost its teeth.

If they learned that the law doesn't allow them to be as aggressive as
they want to be, will they stop working on free software?  Or will
they simply be less aggressive in their licensing?

(Note, I haven't accepted Alexander's argument; I'm just playing
devil's advocate.  I guess it depends on whether copyright provides an
exclusive right to make compilations, and whether the eventual
compilation stored on a particular medium is an acceptable substitute
for the original copy for purposes of first sale.)


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