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Re: license question with non-GPL library

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: license question with non-GPL library
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 2006 10:26:44 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.0.50 (gnu/linux)

Alexander Terekhov <> writes:

> Merijn de Weerd wrote:
> [...]
>> Distributors of GPL code are required to make available the full
>> source code of all modules, 
> All modules constituting a GPL derivative work (or original GPL'd 
> stuff).
> One must be a total idiot to think that a preexisting BSD library is 
> a derivative work of the GPL'd "application". Are you a total idiot,
> Merijn?

My dearest Alexander, you are confused again.  The question is not
whether the library is derived from GPLed software.  That is
irrelevant.  The problem is that the GPL states:

    2b) You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that
    in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any
    part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third
    parties under the terms of this License.

Of _course_ an independently created BSD library is not a derivative
of a GPLed application.

But if the complete work or application includes the BSD licensed
library as a necessary part, then one must distribute only the
complete work licensed as a whole under the GPL.  If one can't do
that, one can't redistribute the GPLed portion, since one would be
breaking the conditions of its license.

So the question is not, as you seem to think, whether the BSD library
is a derivative of the GPLed "application" according to copyright law,
but whether it is an indispensible part of the complete GPLed
application according to the notion of "complete work" put forward in
the license text (the license, since it does not require acceptance,
can put forward arbitrary conditions that can be met before you are
allowed to do more with the software than the defaults of copyright
law permit).

The situation you appear to be confusing this with is the use of a
GPLed library as part in a non-GPLed program, quite the other way

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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