Subject: Re: GNU and classified software
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2001 19:03:57 +0900

>>>>> "Crispin" == Crispin Cowan <> writes:

    Crispin> The most obvious was the people doing the
    Crispin> Merced/Itanium/IA64 port of GCC, who had to be under NDA
    Crispin> to get early access to the IA64 spec & simulators.
    Crispin> Reportedly, this was judged to be sufficiently in the
    Crispin> interest of the long-term interest of the GCC community
    Crispin> that some vigorous nudging & winking over the pro forma
    Crispin> GPL violation went on.

I don't see any GPL violation at all.  No software is being
"distributed" in the mere process of development.  Even when handing
the product to Intel, I don't see that the developers can appeal to
the GPL---Intel did not write and distribute the software to them!
Intel can not distribute if it chooses.  (Of course, if Intel proceeds
to distribute, it must be under GPL.)  The developers have no right to
distribute the software themselves---GPL clause 7 makes that clear.

The GPL is _not_ a magic wand.  The GPL is a fascinating piece of
legal and economic judo.  It uses the strong desire of software
developers to _distribute_ their product (for fun, profit, potlatch,
or "alpha hacker status") to encourage them to distribute broadly by
preventing them from distributing at all otherwise.

But it (as of v2, anyway) can't do anything about "dark room
developers" who don't care if their product never sees the light of
day (or have signed away that right).

    Crispin> I'm sure the definite & near-term
    Crispin> end-date to the NDA helped asuage people's concerns, too.

DJ has discussed this in the past.  Evidently Cygnus (now Red Hat)
made some mistakes in signing NDAs in the past, which led to
Cygnus-developed enhancements remaining unavailable to the public due
to internal fxxk-ups by the hardware manufacturer.  They vowed "never
again", and now (IIRC DJ's explanation) insist on fairly short term
limits on NDAs that they sign.

But again, the GPL gives absolutely no leverage on software that is
not being distributed.  The NDA "mistake" was simply a matter of
abusing the Cygnus developers' trust by permitting the hardware
manufacturer to retain proprietary rights that prevented Cygnus from
distributing the software, as they very naturally wished to do.

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