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Re: GPL traitor !

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: GPL traitor !
Date: Thu, 14 May 2009 15:52:53 +0000 (UTC)
User-agent: tin/1.6.2-20030910 ("Pabbay") (UNIX) (FreeBSD/4.11-RELEASE (i386))

In gnu.misc.discuss Hyman Rosen <> wrote:
> Alan Mackenzie wrote:
>> We have been discussing, in the main, a single computer program,
> > the GCC compiler.

> No, we have not. We have been discussing a single computer program,
> written from scratch, whose source code contains no part of the code
> of GCC, but is written in a stylized way such that it may be bound
> into a single executable also containing the rest of GCC and which
> then will interoperate with the rest of GCC to carry out some function.

This single "program" you're talking about, a new code generator for GCC,
isn't a program, any more than a video card is a computer.  The code
generator is useless and non-functional, except when it is linked with
GCC, just as the video card is useless and non-functional except when it's
plugged into a motherboard.  The "program" is nothing more nor less than
an extension of GCC, just as the video card is a mere component of a
computer, not a computer in its own right.
> I assert that the source code of this separately written part does not
> fall under the copyright of GCC and may be distributed under any terms
> the author wishes.

You're also asserting you may may link it with GCC without regard to
GCC's copyright.

>> It DOESN'T mean that they can crack MS-Word and plug code for ODF into
>> it.

> Please reread section (4):
>     (4) For purposes of this subsection, the term ?interoperability?
>     means the ability of computer programs to exchange information,
>     and of such programs mutually to use the information which has been
>     exchanged.
> I do not believe that your interpretation is correct. Adding a plug-in
> to an existing program appears to be the very exemplar of programs
> mutually using exchanged information.

I've read it thoroughly, thanks.  That whole section has one purpose and
one purpose only - to prevent a firm such as MS creating an obstacle to
cracking where one didn't exist before, by wrapping its formats/protocols
inside a bogus "technical measure".  It has application only when there's
a "technical measure" and to cracking a program.  I doubt that clause
would have any effect if there were some copyright restriction without it.

It can have no relevance whatsoever to GPL'd code, because there's no
need to crack GPL code, and GPL code is never embellished by "technical
measures".  It's an utter irrelevance.

A "plug-in" can only be added when the program provides a "socket", a
defined interface designed for plug-ins.

[ .... ]

>> Stop being so evasive.  Courts understand that there is a thing "a
>> program", as contrasted with "173 lbs. of programming" - it is coherent
>> whole with well defined boundaries separating it from the rest of the
>> universe, just as a novel is.

> <>
> The SFLC's own web site describes the abstraction-filtration-comparison
> test used to determine copyright violation for computer programs. One of
> the things that is filtered away is elements dictated by external factors:
>     [] the mechanical specifications of the computer on which a particular
>     program is intended to run;
>     [] compatibility requirements of other programs with which a program
>     is designed to operate in conjunction;
>     [] computer manufacturers? design standards;
>     [] demands of the industry being serviced; and
>     [] widely accepted programming practices within the computer industry

> Notice the second item? Notice "operate in conjunction"? You are simply wrong
> in your assumptions.

Yes, I notice.  Notice that it also says "programs", in the plural.  If
your interpretation of "program" were to prevail, it would permit any
hacker to modify any program any way he wished, without regard to its
copyright, merely by saying his modification is a "separate program" and
he's "maintaining compatibility" with the original.  That would be

>> Extracting a piece of a program into a separate library file doesn't
>> make it any less a part of that program.

> And you keep talking about extraction when no such thing has taken
> place, if by extraction you mean copying. Studying a program to
> learn how to interoperate with it and writing code which fits in is
> not prohibited by US copyright law - the law specifically allows it.

OK, then, artificially refraining from putting the new code into the old
for the sole purpose of maintaining it's really a separate program.

Judges are intelligent people who understand copyright; if some
smart-alec hacker artificially keeps his enhancements separate from the
existing program, you reckon the judge won't notice?  Textual copying
is not essential to violating copyright.

Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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