[techtalk] GPL Questions

Laurel Fan lf25+ at andrew.cmu.edu
Fri Nov 12 02:12:48 EST 1999


Excerpts from linuxchix: 11-Nov-99 Re: [techtalk] GPL Questions by
Stephan Zaniolo at mindspri 
>         I read through the GPL and at the end it says that GPLed
programs are 
> not
> allowed to be incorporated into proprietary systems.  I was planning on
> publishing an API for this system that others could use in proprietary
> software.  (Note: no code from the system would/should be used in the
> proprietary system, just method/function calls)  Is this in violation of
> the GPL?

If you want people do be able to use your code in a proprietary system
(linking is a derived work, so anything that links to GPL'd code must be
GPL'd), use the LGPL.  The LGPL was designed to allow proprietary code
to use LGPL'd libraries.

If what you mean is something like a client-server protocol, then GPL
programs can communicate with proprietary programs.

In short, proprietary code can communicate with, but cannot link with,
GPL programs.  An API generally means linking.

> My next (and hopefully last) question, did I read it correctly? Do I
> actually not NEED to involve lawyer(s) in this process (but I could just to
> cover my arse)?  Is everything I have to do at the end of the GPL
> (including copywriting the code)?  (yes, this is the first time I've
> considered copywriting/licensing any software I've ever worked on.  I'm
> still in college.)

The GPL has never been challenged in court, so nobody really knows
exactly what you have to do.  Consesnsus seems to be that if you do what
the GPL says to and otherwise make it clear that it's GPL'd, you will be
fine.  Be advised that if someone violates the GPL, it is up to the
copyright holder (in this case, you) to take legal action (this is why
the FSF likes people to assign copyright to them for code used in FSF
programs).  Almost nobody involves lawyers when licensing stuff under
the GPL. 

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