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Re: IBM doesn't like the GPL

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: IBM doesn't like the GPL
Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2009 19:54:20 +0100

Hyman Rosen wrote:
> Alexander Terekhov wrote:
> > GPLv3 is clear as mud.
> >
> > Outside the Definitions section it purports to define an "is called"
> > term "aggregate"
> It seems clear enough to me. The distinction is between putting a
> bunch of unrelated code together on one disk and linking libraries
> together into a program. It is only called unclear by people who
> want to deliberately blur the distinction in order to try to use
> the aggregation permission to allow them to create a combined work
> without having to license the whole work under the GPL. They would
> get laughed out of court if they actually dared put this nonsense
> in front of a judge.

Go tell it to Larry Rosen. ("He currently advises many open source
companies and non-profit open source projects including Apache Software
Foundation and the Python Software Foundation.  In 2005-2006 he was a
Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School. Larry currently serves on the
board of directors of International Characters, and on the advisory
boards of SpikeSource, Black Duck Software, and JasperSoft.)

Subject: RE: Comments on GPLv3 Actions... 
From: Lawrence Rosen ( 
Date: Jun 6, 2007 3:12:33 pm 

At Niclas Hedman's request, I'm copying legal-discuss. 

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Niclas
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2007 9:27 PM
Subject: Re: Comments on GPLv3

Does this mean that the virality of Collective Works is gone?

1) Copyleft for derivative works remains.
2) Copyleft for collective works never was.

The skill comes in learning how to distinguish them. GPLv3 uses clearer
language and makes the distinctions more obvious than GPLv2. In
particular, "verbatim copies" may be used in "aggregations." 
Ultimately, though, copyright law defines those terms.

Ok. But how does that relates to the "Derivative Works" definition of
dynamically linked languages, such as Java?? IIUIC, FSF always
maintained that the runtime linked result is always a derivative
works. More importantly, got any info on how this affects LGPL ?? Or 
is it not part of v3 at all?

On list would be much better. I know a lot of people
are following this closely.

[LR:] The definitions of derivative works and collective works are in
the Copyright Act, and are not specific to dynamically linked 
languages such as Java. 

The law deals with copyrighted works. When work A is aggregated with
work B to form a collective work C, the law doesn't ask about the 
type of glue that is used in the book binding to collect those works 
together. An expressive work that contains a data base module A and a 
file system module B can be collected into a larger program C that 
serves as a software application. Copyright subsists in C to the 
extent that the aggregation is itself an expressive work. As long as 
the individual licenses for A and B allow the aggregation and 
distribution of verbatim copies (and all FOSS licenses do!),
then it matters little whether the aggregation is via Java mechanisms 
or old-style linking in C. It makes no difference if the resulting 
work is dynamically loaded or pre-etched onto computer chips. 

To call every such aggregation a derivative work misapplies the
copyright law. Independently-written software modules are not 
derivative works of each other simply because they are copied, 
verbatim, into an operating computer and operated together. In fact, 
for one copyrighted work to attempt to control (through its license) 
the licenses of independent works may be, in some situations, 
copyright misuse resulting in the loss of the copyright. 

The only thing new that GPLv3 brings to the table about this point is
that its language is now clearer than GPLv2. Verbatim copies of
GPLv3-licensed works can be made and distributed without any effect 
on the licenses of aggregated works. (See GPLv3 §4 and last 
paragraph of §5.) The GPLv3 license continues to apply to those 
verbatim copies.

I have not focused at all on LGPLv3 and so I have no comment on it at
this time. But it certainly will be interesting to see if LGPLv3 
attempts to do more or less than what GPLv3 does for aggregations of 
verbatim copies. 


P.S. Be aware that RMS doesn't agree with me. I'm not surprised.

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(GNG is a derecursive recursive derecursion which pwns GNU since it can
be infinitely looped as GNGNGNGNG...NGNGNG... and can be said backwards
too, whereas GNU cannot.)

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