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    SubjectRe: GPL only modules
    On Dec 16, 2006, Linus Torvalds <> wrote:

    > The whole reason the LGPL exists is that people realized that if they
    > don't do something like that, the GPL would have been tried in court, and
    > the FSF's position that anything that touches GPL'd code would probably
    > have been shown to be bogus.

    Or that people would feel uncomfortable about the gray area and avoid
    using the GPLed code in cases in which this would be perfectly legal
    and advantageous to Free Software. Sure enough, when people create
    and distribute proprietary code by taking advantage of Free Software,
    that's something to be avoided, but since there are other Free
    Software licenses that are not compatible with the GNU GPL, it made
    sense to enable software licensed under them to be combined with these
    few libraries. Letting concerns about copyright infringement, be such
    acts permissible by law or not, scare Free Software developers away
    from Free Software was not good for Free Software.

    > Do you REALLY believe that a binary becomes a "derived work" of any random
    > library that it gets linked against? If that's not "fair use" of a library
    > that implements a standard library definition, I don't know what is.

    There are many factors involved and you're oversimplifying the issue.

    Some claim that, in the case of static linking, since there part of
    the library copied to the binary, it is definitely a case of derived

    Some then take this notion that linking creates derived works and
    further extend the claim that using dynamic linking is just a trick to
    avoid making the binary a derived work, and thus it shouldn't be taken
    into account, even if there still is *some* information from the
    dynamic library that affects the linked binary.

    Others then introduce exceptions such as the existence of another
    implementation of the library that is binary- and license-compatible,
    and that thus might make the license of the library actually used to
    create the binary irrelevant.

    Some disregard the fact that header files sometimes aren't just
    interface definitions, but they also contain functional code, in the
    form of preprocessor macros and inline functions, that, if used, do
    make it to the binary.

    All of these arguments have their strengths and weaknesses. As you
    and others point out, and it matches my personal knowledge, none of
    them has been tried in court, and the outcome of a court dispute will
    often depend on specifics anyway.

    So calling these arguments idiocy is as presumptuous as FSF's alleged
    behavior. While at that, I feel you allegation is groundless, and I
    hope this message makes it clear why, so I wish you'd take it back.

    The gray area between what is clearly permitted by a license and the
    murky lines that determine what constitutes a derived work, and what
    is fair use even if it's a derived work, is not for any of us to
    decide. The best we can do is to offer interpretations on intent of
    license authors and software authors, and of laws. Even though we're
    not lawyers or judges, such interpretations may be taken into account
    in court disputes.

    When the FSF says a license does not permit such and such behavior,
    you apparently interpret that as a statement that the FSF thinks this
    behavior wouldn't be permissible by fair use either. This is an
    incorrect interpretation. As we've seen above, there *is* a gray area
    beyond what is permitted by the license. But the FSF must not give
    anyone the impression that the *license* permits actions that would
    make it less effective in fulfilling its intent, this would just
    weaken the license.

    Similarly, when you make an unqualified statement that some action is
    permitted, because you mean it's permitted by fair use even if not by
    the license, this might be mis-interpreted as something explicitly
    permitted by the license. So this weakens the license, one of our
    most valuable tools to make the world a better place. Is this what
    you intend to do? I hope not.


    Alexandre Oliva
    FSF Latin America Board Member
    Red Hat Compiler Engineer aoliva@{,}
    Free Software Evangelist oliva@{,}
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