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Re: GNU licenses

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: GNU licenses
Date: Sun, 06 Aug 2006 22:44:17 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.0.50 (gnu/linux) writes:

> I've been wondering about the GNU software and documentation license.
> For one thing, although the goals are decent, I don't like what I
> percieve as it's "viral" nature.

Too bad, since it is that which ensures the status.

> Furthermore, does this actually exist, anyway? For example, if I
> write a 1,000 page book, and take ONE PARAGRAPH of a GNU document
> and stick it in, does this mean all 1,000 pages of MY OWN ORIGINAL
> WORK are all suddenly GNU, or can I just mark that 1 paragraph as
> such, while keeping copyright to my _original work_?

Nothing ever is "all suddenly GNU".  Everything written by yourself is
yours to license at your choice.  Like everything written by some GNU
maintainer is his to license at his choice.  And his choice is "if you
make this or parts of it a part of something else, I grant you
permission for that only if you license your stuff under the GPL."

You are free to decide _not_ to license your stuff under the GPL, but
then you have no business sticking GPLed software in it.  If you do,
this does not make your software GPLed (this never happens
automatically), but it means that you are breaking the license of the
stuff you use, and you can be sued to amend this.  It will usually be
your choice whether you amend by removing the GPLed part, or by
complying to the license.

> If it's the former, then it sucks. I'm sorry, but it does.

Sure.  Of course it sucks.  It is the purpose of _any_ regulation or
law or license to make it suck when you want to go against the

> Same thing goes for software. If I include 2 lines of GNU code (yes,
> just two lines) in my big fat 300,000 line program, does that mean
> all the remaining 299,998 lines of original work are suddenly GNU?

No.  It means that you are doing something with the 2 lines of GNU
code for which you have no permission.  Now concerning 2 lines, you
actually might not need permission (they might well be under the
"trivial" threshold after which copyright law actually starts being
relevant).  But if you do, you have the choices of either complying,
or taking the 2 lines out, or negotiating an individual license with
the author of the 2 lines so that you don't need to GPL your stuff.

But the one thing that you can't do is take his material and do with
it as you like without heeding its license.

> Or could I just release the two lines and keep the majority of my
> program closed-source or under a different license? If it's the
> former, it sucks too. If it's the latter, it's OK.

Sure it sucks.  It is intended to suck.

> So, is this "viral" thing true? If so, I don't like it. Free
> software, free documentation, "free" stuff is a good idea, but this
> implementation of it, sadly, is not. It's creating "open" stuff by
> FORCE, and that's not acceptable (and it's not really "open" either
> since you've got to GNU and "open up" your own code (GNU definition
> of "open it up") even if you don't like the GNU method!!!). The idea
> of keeping the free code free is good, but the idea of FORCING a
> person to "free" their ORIGINAL WORK is not.

It is the only thing that works on a large scale, seemingly.

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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