[Pipet Devel] Licensing issues

J.W. Bizzaro jeff at bioinformatics.org
Thu Sep 7 12:12:32 EDT 2000

Jean-Marc Valin wrote:
> If I understood what Richard Stallman had to say on the subject, linking to GPL
> code through CORBA (from closed-source) is legal, because it's a hole in the
> GPL. CORBA didn't existed (or wasn't widely used) when GPL version 2 was
> written. Since future versions of the GPL (remember we can link with any version
> newer that 2 with the current license) may patch the CORBA hole, I say: "if you
> want to be allowed to link with CORBA, release LGPL".

Good point.

> Calling a program from inside a node is not linking. Only static/dynamic linking
> of code is. But the question still raises much more complex issues. For
> instance, can an LGPL library link to (not "be linked to") a GPL library. Let's
> say you have library Gtk+ was GPL instead of LGPL. Could libgnumoui (that
> links/uses Gtk+) be LGPL. One thing is sure is that it would be illegal to write
> a closed-source program that links with libgnomeui, since it would violate the
> GPL on Gtk+, which you need to link. Remember that this is fiction, since Gtk+
> is released under the LGPL.

I recognized that problem when first reading the GPL and LGPL.  Let me phrase
it another way to see if we're talking about the same thing: The LGPL
specifically allows something (linking) that is not allowed by the GPL.  Would
merging LGPL + GPL code bases then violate the GPL, or at least be very

I think the intention of the LGPL is to be a "lesser" license, and to thus be
superseded by the GPL when the two are combined.  A clause in the new version
of the LGPL actually permits an "upgrading" to the GPL (I think by anyone). 
So, maybe when the two are combined, the LGPL automatically defers to the GPL?

> So the real issue is: if the PL is LGPL, can it link to GPL-only libraries? Just
> for those who aren't familiar with it... PL nodes are classes that are part of
> libraries (I call them toolboxes) that are dynamically linked at startup. Even
> more complex is the fact that it could happen that GPL software AND
> closed-source software be linked from the PL is you run uses both proprietary
> nodes and GPL nodes. I think it would be illegal (the guy who wrote the GPL code
> didn't want closed-source software to be linked to it).

Oh, I see what you're talking about: Overflow nodes.  Would you say that they
are statically/dynamically linked at compile time?

> I think we should try to wrap all our questions/doubts/fears in an e-mail and
> send that to either Richard Stallman or Bruce Perens (or both). What do you
> think?

Heh.  Stallman is actually really nice about replying to e-mails.  He replied
to more than a couple of mine.  I don't know about Perens.  Eric Raymond never
replied to my e-mails, even when Stallman CC'd them to him.

J.W. Bizzaro                                           jeff at bioinformatics.org
Director, Bioinformatics.org: The Open Lab     http://bioinformatics.org/~jeff
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
               -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

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