[linux-elitists] questions about GPL again

Ben Finney bignose+hates-spam at benfinney.id.au
Fri Mar 9 14:54:31 PST 2012

Greg KH <greg at kroah.com> writes:

> And if you are referring to libraries, don't you mean LGPL? That's
> usually the license for them (with some well known exceptions, i.e.
> readline).

There's no necessary connection, though. Many libraries are released
under GPL.

The FSF is not the only copyright holder releasing works under the GPL,
as you know, so the FSF's policy on which licenses to use is not really
relevant here.

For that reason, I'm glad the FSF re-named the LGPL to reduce the
implication that discourages the GPL for libraries.

> The simple answer is, if you dynamically link in GPL code (note, not
> LGPL) with your propritary application, you just violated the license
> of the library. It's really that simple.

Yes. And that's a good reason to, in some cases, use the GPL for a
library. So perhaps we should be less surprised at the suggestion that
people do use the GPL for libraries.

> If someone is worried about what happens "when we get caught" that
> implies that they know they are doing something wrong, and shouldn't
> be doing it in the first place.

To sympathise with Eugen's querent for a moment: it seems more likely to
me that they are concerned because they *don't know* whether they are
doing something wrong, because they don't understand the license (yet?).

> The easy thing to always respond to questions like this is, "If you
> are trying to do this, you need to be talking to a lawyer. If you
> can't afford a lawyer, then you better just release your code under
> the GPL as you don't have anything to worry about then, and you really
> aren't serious."

Sadly, there are many who, presented with those options, will take the
unspoken option: to change nothing and continue to stick to a non-free
license and to avoid benefiting from the GPLed code.

I suspect Eugen wants to give an answer that is both true *and*
reassuring, to encourage the querent to make their software more free.
Perhaps I'm projecting too much of my own motives, though.

Talking to a lawyer about a question is difficult to suggest without
seeming to imply “don't bother me with that question”, which will tend
to discourage use of GPLed software. I would love for it to be

> That's the easiest way to cut through any FUD. Because, would you take
> medical advice from a programmer? No, then why would you take legal
> advice from one?

That may be a more diplomatic tack to try. Thank you.

 \     “You know what would make a good story? Something about a clown |
  `\    who makes people happy, but inside he's real sad. Also, he has |
_o__)                                   severe diarrhea.” —Jack Handey |
Ben Finney

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