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Re: web services and GPL

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: web services and GPL
Date: Sat, 02 Sep 2006 19:14:10 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.0.50 (gnu/linux) writes:

> I have read some of the posts in this group that deals with web
> services, as well as the GNU FAQ
> (http:/, but could not find the
> answer I am looking for.
> I'll quickly describe my situation: My boss is a supporter of free
> software, and with his blessing, I have licensed all my work under
> GPL (not LGPL).  As part of our infrastructure, I have also wrapped
> some of the code in a web service, and thus used as library by other
> code or system.  My understanding from reading the FAQ is, anything
> that uses this web service (I see the web service like a library),

The law doesn't.

> must then also be GPL'ed:

Nonsense.  The web service is provided by your company, under
conditions set by your company.  Whether or not it is implemented with
GPLed components is irrelevant to the customer, as long as he does not
get physical access to the executables in question.

> Not a big deal, since this is a company internal setup, and not a
> problem because I have GPL'ed all of the pieces.  However, recently,
> another company aquired us.  It is very likely that some of my web
> services will be accessed by non-GPL'ed code.
> Is this a violation of GPL?

The code is _owned_ by the company.  The company can't violate the GPL
since the company does not need _any_ license at all for using the
code however it wants to, whether mixed with proprietary material or

Unless you programmed the stuff in your free time and gave the company
explicit permission to use it under the GPL.

> Also, what if the new management asked me to re-license the code to
> something else?  The old group (free software supporters) used GPL
> with the intention that we will eventually release some pieces back
> to the community, but I guess the "company" technically owns all of
> our work... so then does the new company have the right to ask me to
> change the way I license my software?

Look, you said "intention that we will eventually release" above.
There is no point in "ask you to change the way you license your
software" if you did not previously license the software to _anybody_,
and if it is not "your software", anyway.

A license is something that comes into play when material gets
licensed to a third party.

Up to now, the stuff has not been licensed to anybody at all.  The
GPLed license notices in it are nothing more than a bit of fluff
without meaning up to the time where the code gets transferred to
third parties with an understanding that those may use the code
according to the license accompanying it.

The state currently is that the code is owned by the company and can
be used however it wants to.  Including handing it to whoever they
want under whatever conditions they want.

The cat is not yet out of the bag.  Once it _is_ (namely released to a
third party), the license concerns only the particular cat let out of
the bag.  It does not concern the company-internal possession of the
code: it still can be locked away, licensed under anything under the
Sun, kept proprietary in future versions, whatever else or a
combination of those.

_Unless_ it contains GPLed (or otherwise licensed) software from
_third_ parties: in that case, of course, you need to heed the
licenses of those parties, whatever they may happen to be.

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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