[sword-devel] Closed source exploitation of open source works (a GPL loophole)

Paul Gear sword-devel@crosswire.org
Thu, 10 May 2001 19:31:10 +1000

Chris Little wrote:

> The spirit of the GPL is that free software will be used to make more free
> software.


> Further, since non-free
> software developers do not give back to free software, free software should
> avoid assisting non-free software development by providing it free work and
> finished tools.

I think this is where you overstate the spirit of the GPL.  I don't think the
point is to avoid helping proprietary software, but to benefit free software.
Any detriment to proprietary software is incidental to the GPL's purpose.

> Releasing an ActiveX control that exposes virtually all of Sword's core
> functionality gives any free or non-free software developer access to GPLed
> work.  Therein lies the violation of the spirit of the GPL, though not the
> letter.  It essentially amounts to converting a GPLed work into an LGPLed
> work.

If you take it to the Nth degree, then i guess you're right.  However, i've
never heard of anyone worrying about this sort of thing past the compile and
link stage.  Once a program is running, if it provides some mechanism that
enables other programs to access the underlying services, that's beyond the
scope of the GPL, because it is during the program's runtime, not build time.

> This is a problem if we consider the ideals of the GPL to be important.  If
> we'd be just as happy with Sword being under LGPL, everything is peachy.

I think most of us aren't too worried whether it is one or the other.

"He must become greater; i must become less." - John 3:30