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Re: Big blow to proprietary linking nonsense.

From: Hyman Rosen
Subject: Re: Big blow to proprietary linking nonsense.
Date: Wed, 08 Dec 2010 15:56:00 -0000
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv: Gecko/20091204 Thunderbird/3.0

On 5/18/2010 8:53 AM, amicus_curious wrote:
So to please the SFLC, Rjack conveys the original version of,
say, Busy Box, by posting the source somewhere.


But the GPL goes beyond the pall here.

A cloud of smoke? Or do you mean "beyond the pale"?

> Rjack has simply augmented the program that was properly conveyed
> to the end user by means of adding in  his improvements

Are these improvements conveyed in combination with the
GPLed program as a work as a whole, or are they sent to
the end user separately? If the former, then the source
to these improvements must be provided by the terms of
the GPL, because otherwise there is no permission to
convey the GPLed work. If the latter, there is no problem.

> and authorizes the end user to use the combination via
some proprietary license that restricts the user from further
redistribution of the combination.

That's fine, as long as the extra non-GPLed portion is
conveyed separately. It is not a violation of the GPL
to instruct end users on how to build a program combining
GPLed and non-GPLed components, or for those end users to
do so. And those end users will not be able to further
convey the combined work.

You say that a
user may take a GPL work and modify it and use it himself with no
obligations to anyone and that is the key to the issue. Say that some
company wishes to to just that, for example Google. Now there is no
"Google user" per se, just a company that employs a lot of people who
know how to code. So one or more of them make the modifications and
receive payment for those services in doing that work. The result is
conveyed to Google as a legal entity and no disclosure is made of the
exact modifications in use. That is no different than an end user hiring
Rjack to make necessary modifications and receiving the result and not
disclosing any source.

That's correct. In both of these cases, the companies or users
who have contracted for the changes may not convey the changed
program to other entities (this does not include their own
employees in their capacity as employees) except in compliance
with the GPL, which would include providing the source to the
modifications and extra components. But they may freely use the
modified works themselves.

I don't see what you find noteworthy about this. It has been
true from the moment of conception of the GPL that anyone may
make changes to GPLed software for their own use (including
entire companies as the "anyone") without incurring any
disclosure requirements. GPL requirements take effect when
its permissions are used to convey covered works from one
person or entity to another. This is because, mock as you like,
the purpose of the GPL is to preserve the freedoms of users,
and so users must be given the source code to GPLed works they
receive. The modifying users in your example have already had
this freedom - they have the sources of the GPLed work which
they are using. But they cannot choose to convey covered works
to other users while denying them the same freedom they have
themselves received, namely the source code of the entire work.

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