PROPOSAL: licensing guidelines

Shaya Potter spotter at
Wed May 17 13:36:38 PDT 2000

On 17 May 2000, Daniel Quinlan wrote:

> Maurizio De Cecco <maurizio at> writes:
> > My point is: suppose i implement a system where *all* the libraries
> > are GPL, and not LGPL, would that implementation be non standard
> > compliant *because* of the licence ?
> Well, let's say there is a LSB definition for "libfoo".  Someone writes
> a non-free non-GPL commercial proprietary application and dynamically
> links it against the LGPL implementation of libfoo.  If someone else
> then implements a GPL version of libfoo, it would not imply that the
> application is now violating the GPL because it was originally linked
> against the LGPL version.
> My question is: if you (as a system administrator or user) installed the
> application on a system that used the GPL version of libfoo instead of
> the LGPL version, would you be violating the GPL?

It's questionable.  The whole issue of how the law would apply to shared
libraries is muddld as there has been no case (to my limited knowledge)
that talks about it.  i.e. how can a shared lib used in an application be
considered a derived work?  and even if it was, the person making it the
derived work is the user and the dynamic linker.  Since the GPL only
applies when you distribute your derived work, and this "derived work" is
not getting redistributed, one can argue that the GPL 100% allows a person
to do it because the only  time the GPL restrictions come into play is
when you are redistributing the derived work.

Where can this come into play?  Take libreadline.  Someone makes a dummy
lib that implements stubs for all the functions so that it's binary
compatable with GNU's libreadline.  They bsd license their library.  At
most the program won't implement any of libreadline's functionality if
used with the "fake" one, and at worst it might not even run.  However,
pop in the GPL'd libreadline and you get full functionality.  I may be
misunderstanding some of the technical issues involved in binary
compatible shared libs (please inform me if I am) and there's also a
possible legal issue of copying the interfaces from the GPL'd lib.  

Essentially, this issue is no where near cut and dry, as even RMS admits,
however the FSF "line" is that for GPL'd libs you can't use in non GPL'd
apps if linked dynamically (obvious that you can't if statically linked)
and LGPL'd libs can be "linked" with anything, as long as the source
code for them remains distinct and any changes to the source code (or
anything the source code is directly included in) keep it under the LGPL.

Remember, I'm not a lawyer, just a student that got interested in this
issue (who has to go back to studying for finals now)


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