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SubjectRE: GPL and NON GPL version modules

On Mon, 15 May 2006, Nutan C. wrote:

> Hi Jan,
> So, if the proprietary code exposes an interface and if the code within
> the GPL makes a call to that interface, will the proprietary code become
> part of GPL. Please suggest

In a perfect world, all code is GPL ;)

I wont even bother with the IANAL sticker, since the lawyers I talked to
don't even know, nor would they put their career on the line for it.
Basically, you are entering a big grey area that won't be known until it
actually goes to court. And even then, it may be different for every

If you compile the code as one blob, you definately violate the GPL. But
the problem comes when you have dynamic modules (and libraries). Although
the GPL says it can't be linked, it really matters about what is
considered a derived work. That's what copyrights cover.

So just because a module or library interacts with the GPL code, is it
really a derived work? Some people say yes, others no.

Note: I don't agree with what I'm about to say, but I can see it argued in
court this way.


Let's take Linux. I have a proprietary module that works with other OS's.
So I want to make it work with Linux too. So I write a GPL module that
will interact and work with my proprietary module (basically what nvidia
does). Now is my proprietary module a derived work of Linux? I would
find it hard to argue that it is. For the proprietary module works with
other OS's and really only the GPL interface can be considered derived.
The module is not dependent on Linux. But Linux may be dependent on the
module to work with some device.
(Note: I, personally, don't have a proprietary module. This is only an

Now, the question comes if your module _only_ works with Linux. This may
be harder to defend, since there could be an agrument that it _is_ a
derived work.

So it basically comes down to how much you think you can defend your
decision in the countries that you distribute to. The safest bet is to
open all your code as GPL. But if you cant, then you must weigh your
risks, and no one else can do that for you.

-- Steve
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