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Re: [ox-en] Does the GPL imply exchange?

Hi Kermit and all!

2 weeks (20 days) ago Kermit Snelson wrote:
I disagree.  I think that's exactly what Stallman and the GPL are saying.
Anyone who uses GPLed code in her own program (which makes it a derivative
work under copyright law, according to Stallman) must, under force of law,
release that program under the GPL and therefore make it freely available to
anybody.  Even if she doesn't want to.

As Thomas already pointed out that's not true. The FSF may have been
not always as clear as they could be, but today they dismiss the Apple
Source License (IIRC) as a Free License because the Apple License
enforces exactly that. The FSF argues that it takes away freedom if
you are forced to release every patch. You're only forced to release
your patches if you release the whole derivative work.

And that's the basis for Stallman's
claim that using copyleft is not only idealistic, but also pragmatic.  Read
the example he gives.  Because we published a free C compiler, he writes, we
got a free C++ compiler.  "The benefit to our community is evident."  That's
an appeal to a bidirectional flow, isn't it?

Yes, but not on the basis of forced exchange. There is a
multi-directional flow but it's in the best interest of *everyone*.
And this is the completely sufficient reason for it to happen.

By the way, I think it's interesting to note that in the case of libraries,
the only possible purpose of which is to create "derivative works", the FSF
found it necessary to create a weaker (i.e., less "free") version of the
GPL.  Of course, the FSF had no choice; without this LGPL (and I'm thinking
of the GNU C library here), GNU/Linux would have been a complete
non-starter.  But what does this tell us about the principles of Free
Software if they had to be weakened by the FSF themselves in order to bend
to economic reality?

In fact, I think the FSF's definition of "derivative work" is the Achilles
heel of the GPL.  Even assuming that their interpretation of this legal term
of art would hold up in a court of law (and as far as I know, it's never
been tested),

AFAIK: No. However, the reason for this is, that lawyers when
confronted with the GPL they recommend their clients to not take the
risk of loosing the lawsuit. Actually the FSF *does* ask corporations
to stop violating the GPL. For instance they asked Apple to do so some
years ago. Though I have no evidence for that I guess Apple used BSD
for Mac OS X instead of GNU/Linux exactly because of that.

there are grave problems with its practical enforcability.
First of all, the FSF FAQ itself[2] is enough to send most corporate counsel
running for their lives.  Their definition of derivative work is absurdly
technical and possibly even platform- or deployment-dependent; it requires
knowing things like whether the GPLed code is linked, forked, subclassed,
etc.; whether code intended for an interpreter is OK depends on whether or
not the interpreter contains bindings to external facilities.  And so on.
Only a programmer, in other words, can figure out whether the GPL is being
violated.  Multiply that by the insanely huge, multi-licensed heirarchy of
RPMs used by a typical Linux product such as PostgresSQL and you've got the
legal equivalent of an NP-incomplete problem.

You wanted to say a NP-complete problem IIRC ;-) .

You're right of course, but there are two points. First, the GPL has
been created at a time where things were much simpler. Even dynamic
libraries did not exist in most Unix systems of that time. Second,
that cases are complicated does not make them undecidable in the field
of law. After all there is a difference between computers and humans
;-) .

Even if there are a few
lawyers who actually understand such things, they would never be able to
make sense of it to a judge or a jury.  That's why a lot of law firms
involved in corporate mergers are now requiring possible acquisition targets
to certify that they don't have a single line of GPLed code anywhere in
their company.  They simply don't know how to handle the legal risk.

Firms not releasing software in any way are not subject to any risk.
They may use Free Software just as I am.

Also compensation would mean the original creators did something
unpleasant and they have to be compensated for it.

What does pleasure (or lack of it) have to do with the concept of
compensation?  I love my job, but I still expect to be paid for doing it.
Perhaps we're getting stuck on the German-English thing again.  Where I
live, "compensation" means "Gehalt, Fringe Benefits und Aktienoptionen."

I think the only thing pleasure has to do with compensation is the fact that
starving to death is unpleasant, and that's exactly what will happen to most
of us unless we're compensated in some way for a fairly significant portion
of our time.

But why needs this to be linked? Why not asking for the right to live
a decent life completely independent of what you're doing?

						Mit Freien Grüßen



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