Re: [ox-en] Does the GPL imply exchange?
- From: shane <sjhs freeshell.org>
- Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2002 21:00:41 +0000
On Sat, Feb 09, 2002 at 08:05:44PM -0800, Kermit Snelson wrote:
Thanks for your great reply to my post.
You're only forced to release your patches if you release
the whole derivative work.
Exactly. The GPL implies a forced exchange in the case of derivative works,
which was my point.
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.
But in your first sentence, you agreed that it's a forced exchange in the
case of derivative works. The C++ compiler in Stallman's example was a
derivative work. And as you (and Stallman) go on to say, the FSF threatens
creators of derivative works with a lawsuit if they don't comply with the
GPL. That's an appeal to the legal system, and it's therefore an appeal to
state-sponsored force, and therefore it's a forced exchange.
There are two different exchanges of free software: repayment for
running and modifying the program (freedoms 0 and 1) and repayment for
redistribution (freedoms 2 and 3). With the GPL, the first type of
exchange is not forced; you can completely disregard the GPL as long
as you don't redistribute. In other words, copyleft, which can be
described as the free software version of repayment, doesn't apply.
It's only when the exchange involves the right to redistribute that
the GPL becomes law and forces the redistributor to 'repay' the
software community via copyleft. So whether the GPL is a
forced-exchange license depends on what you are referring to by
I think your first point supports my argument. The enforceability of the
GPL depends on being able to tell whether the code in question calls GPLed
code. Back in the days when there were only procedural languages and static
linking, and configuration management was simply a matter putting files in
directories, that was fairly easy. Now it's not. In addition, the
deployment of modern software systems is often dynamic, not static. The
practical enforceability of the GPL is consequently much more difficult now
than when it was first written.
But keep in mind that even as it becomes more difficult to prosecute
GPL-violators, it also becomes more difficult and impractical to find
instances of breech of copyright for proprietary software. Thus the
nature of the artform is inherently and is becoming more prominantly
opposed to any property right enforcement at all; and if this trend
continues, there may no longer be any need for the GPL anyway.