[thelist] GNU / GPL

Kristian Rink kristian at zimmer428.net
Thu Oct 25 01:22:14 CDT 2007

Am Wed, 24 Oct 2007 18:09:54 -0500
schrieb Stephen Rider <evolt_org at striderweb.com>:

> I'm a Mac guy, and I play a lot with shareware and freeware.  IIRC,  
> I've seen this in various implementations of video-related software  
> for the Mac, which are generally themselves ports of *nix programs  
> with a GUI slapped on.

This, basically, is fine. Usually (IANAL) GPL applies to software
directly linking and/or modifying other GPL'ed applications you do have
around as "source code". If you built a "GUI frontend" to some
(console-style) Unix application, doing so without making the frontend
GPL is perfectly fine (although by then, if you distribute the backend
program with your application, you have to point out that the backend
application is GPL'ed and you have to keep the original COPYING notice
in place as well as the sources available to your users).

Actually, this is common practise also on hardware manufacturing
market: Both our copier/printer multifunction device (a Kyocera
machine) and our Ascotel PBX contain "firmware" software partially
built atop GPL'ed components, and both companies have appropriate notes
both in their manuals and on their websites, referring to the packages

> The requirement that you release the source code makes commercial  
> software effectively free, as anyone with a bit of know-how can take  
> your source and compile it as the full program.  Am I mistaken in  
> this?  

Yes, this is one of the purposes of the GPL, according to the "four
freedoms" defining "Free Software" per GPL/FSF:

"freedom 0": the freedom to run the program for any purpose

"freedom 1": the freedom to study how a program works and adapt it to
your needs

"freedom 2": the freedom to redistribute copies of the program in order
to help others

"freedom 3": the freedom to redistribute modified copies of your
program in order to share your improvements / modifications with others
possibly wanting the same features you initially missed.

GPL is made to ensure these freedoms, and to do so, if you built atop
GPLed software, you are required to release your software under GPL, as
otherwise you would restrict these freedoms for the GPL'ed parts you
built into your application. 

That said, using GPL code makes "proprietary" boxed software (sell a
binary .exe file along with a restrictive EULA limiting most of what
the user wishes to do with the software) impossible. You can earn money
off GPL'ed software indeed, but to do so, you need different business


Kristian Rink * http://zimmer428.net * http://flickr.com/photos/z428/
jab: kawazu at jabber.ccc.de * icq: 48874445 * fon: ++49 176 2447 2771
"One dreaming alone, it will be only a dream; many dreaming together
is the beginning of a new reality." (Hundertwasser)

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