Subject: Re: an interesting reversal
From: "Karsten M. Self" <>
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 10:23:32 -0700
Tue, 25 Sep 2001 10:23:32 -0700
on Tue, Sep 25, 2001 at 10:17:44AM -0400, Russell Nelson ( wrote:
> I believe that the people to whom this is directed are familiar with
> the idea of escaping the GPL by handing over a mix of object files,
> some proprietary and some GPL, and requiring the user to do the link.
> In case you aren't, here it is: Since the GPL is a license to copy,
> not a contract for use (so says the FSF), it only applies to copying.
> To redistribution.  So if the user creates the proprietary executable,
> they're not redistributing and so the derived work, although
> proprietary, does not violate the GPL.  That's just background, that's
> just theory, I'm not recommending anyone do this.

Is this a separate issue from what follows?

Note that a similar logic was being applied to Qt's original licensing:
runtime linking.  This was objected to by the FSF.

> Now, over on, we're talking about the 127K (thereabouts)
> of licenses which the Familiar distribution installs in
> /usr/share/doc.  On a machine with only 16M of permanent storage,
> every K is important.  So we're talking about having the package
> manager NOT install the copyright.  The package will have the
> copyright, but the package manager won't write it to flash.  Users are
> allowed to do this since they (by definition) are using the software
> not redistributing it.

Two similar issues for context.

Tom's Root/Boot has even more stringent space considerations (1.77 MB),
and has now bundled licenses separately in a licenses file that
accompanies the TRB floppy image itself.  Copying and/or modifying the
work(s) in any way will trigger GPL distribution obligations.

A handheld or embedded MFR could distribute licenses in a separate
bundle, so long as the two bundles were always distributed together.
E.g.:  a floppy or CD-ROM containing the license information would be
sufficient.  Given the cruft currently distributed with new hardware and
software purchases, this is probably sufficient.

Under Debian, it's been suggested that having a set of commonly used
"license" packages (e.g.:  GPL, LGPL, BSD, MIT, X), which are then
depended on by other packages.   This gets around the problem of having
the 18KB of the GPL represented several thousand times for each of the
90% of the files it applies to.

> However, this doesn't work for a manufacturer who (theoretically
> anyway) pre-installs Familiar on a PDA.  They are redistributing the
> software, so they must include the copyright.

See ablve.

> In an odd symmetry to 'user does the link to violate the GPL', we have
> 'user does the delete to comply with the GPL'.

This should meet GPL requirements so long as the original distribution
includes the GPL.  In the case of the first aquisition of
hardware+software, my understanding is that licenses must accompany in
some medium, though not necessarially on the computing device itself.

This also means that the common practice of "beaming" apps governed by
a separately-packaged license may be a license violation.

Again, popularity hath its advantages:  the 18KB of the GPL applies to
~90% of free software projects.  LGPL, BSD, MIT, and X licenses fill out
the bulk of the remainder.  The rest of licenses are essentially line
noise, and, for small, rescue, and embedded systems, expensive in terms
of space. Yet another reason to consider a mainstream lincense for your


Karsten M. Self <>
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