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Re: GPL traitor !

From: Hyman Rosen
Subject: Re: GPL traitor !
Date: Thu, 14 May 2009 12:51:42 -0400
User-agent: Thunderbird (Windows/20090302)

Alan Mackenzie wrote:
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.

That's false. The definition of a computer program in copyright law is
    A “computer program” is a set of statements or instructions to be
    used directly or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about
    a certain result.
Notice the use of the word "indirectly".

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

If you link it statically with GCC, then the linked binary as a whole
must be distributed under the GPL, including the (formerly) standalone
piece. That's because in this case, copying of a GPLed work occurs.

to prevent a firm such as MS

Preventing a firm such as MS from doing something is no different than
preventing a person named RMS from doing something. The same law applies
to both.

It can have no relevance whatsoever to GPL'd code

Of course it does - it indicates that copyright of one work shall not
be used to prevent another work from interoperating with it.

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 absurd.

Modifying an existing program is specifically legal:
    <> Page 69
    § 117 · Limitations on exclusive rights: Computer programs
    (a) Making of Additional Copy or Adaptation by Owner of Copy.—
    Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an
    infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to
    make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of
    that computer program provided:
     (1) that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an
     essential step in the utilization of the computer program in
     conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other
And courts have given extremely wide latitude to the definition
of "essential step in the utilization", allowing any kind of

What is absurd is your failure to distinguish between copying and
new work. A modified existing program may not be copied except as
defined above or with permission. A new work which interoperates
with an existing one needs no permission from the copyright holder
of the existing work.

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

There is nothing artificial about it. It really and truly is a
separate program, as defined by law.

if some smart-alec hacker artificially keeps his enhancements separate
> from the existing program, you reckon the judge won't notice?

There is nothing to notice; such separate enhancements are perfectly legal.
You seem to be unaware that this specific procedure has a long history;
programs which were open source but did not permit modified versions to be
distributed have been accompanied by patch files which are intended to be
applied by the recipient to produce a modified version. This is legal under
the adaptation law cited above, unless the patches themselves contain copies
of significant portions of the copyrighted work.

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