FW: Ethics of Circumventing OS (ALSO LONG)

Frank Heckenbach frank at g-n-u.de
Wed Apr 18 01:40:03 UTC 2001

Ricardo Gladwell wrote:

>   > Huh? Well, actually, the profits anyone makes by trying to circumvent
>   > copyleft on any of *my* programmse definately belong to me. Offenders
>   > *will* be sued. :-P
> IANAL, but on reading the GPL I can see no mention of exactly who the profits
> belong to.

It says: "The act of running the Program is not restricted, and the
output from the Program is covered only if its contents constitute a
work based on the Program (independent of having been made by
running the Program)." (§0). So I'd conclude if someone manages to
make a profit by running (or offering to run) a GPL'd program, they
get to keep the profit -- as long as they don't violate the GPL
otherwise, of course (cf. §4).

> That's odd, it's clearly entitled "Can CORBA Sidestep Open-Source
> Licensing?". Anyway, even if what you say is true you are still saying is 
> that code placed under the GPL (and not the LGPL) you can use it as LGPL'd 
> code - against the original intentions of the author(s)!

Well, not exactly LGPL. IMHO, it's just a certain way of using the
code (client/server). As has been mentioned, that's nothing new, and
incidentally, the two examples of GPL'd code given at the start of
the article, Linux and MySQL, explicitly allow it.


:    NOTE! This copyright does *not* cover user programs that use kernel
:  services by normal system calls - this is merely considered normal use
:  of the kernel, and does *not* fall under the heading of "derived work".

And while the MySQL server is GPL'd, its client libraries are
LGPL'd, and the manual says:

:    - You do not need a license to include the client code in commercial
[should read "proprietary", of course]
:      programs.  The client part of *MySQL* licensed with the LGPL
:      `GNU Library General Public License'.

Of course, in Trachtman's example, CORBA is more than overkill -- a
command-line tax calculator and the equivalent of `tax $amount` in
the proprietary code would suffice, but such simple solutions are
probably beyond imagination of most Windoze programmers. ;-)

But actually, his whole side-stepping effort might be unnecessary
because his hypothetical "e-commerce site" is already client/server
(HTTP probably). As far as I understand the GPL, you can make
proprietary changes to GPL'd code and let it run on your web server.
You can't distribute the code (source or binary) then, but if you
keep it to yourself and on your web server, I think it's legal.

GPL v2 does not restrict such use; if it should be restricted, this
would have to be stated in GPL v3. Note that I'm not advocating this
-- the loss of interoperability between free and non-free software
in general would be too harmful, and it's probably too difficult to
draw a line between "good" and "evil" communication between free and
non-free programs.

> Besides, the technical/licensing issues of the article do not concern me
> that much: as I originally stated, the tone of the article is of greater
> concern. Even you admit it is openly hostile to the open-source community.

I think it's quite appealing to the open-source community, but
rather hostile to the free software community. ;-)

I've seen much worse articles. The most blatantly wrong statement in
this one IMHO was the following: "However, as open-source software
is licensed and isn't in public domain, you often can't make use of
it in real-world commercial situations." ROTFL.

And surely I wouldn't want to pay for a magazine publishing such
articles, either ...


Frank Heckenbach, frank at g-n-u.de
PGP and GPG keys: http://fjf.gnu.de/plan

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