Clarification on license for embedded/API use?
Jonathan S. Shapiro
shap at eros-os.com
Wed Sep 5 03:12:05 CDT 2007
On Tue, 2007-09-04 at 09:10 -0700, John Labovitz wrote:
> On Sep 4, 2007, at 6:58 AM, Jonathan S. Shapiro wrote:
> > If I build a program that clearly cannot function without loading
> > your GPL'd program, most judges are likely to consider the result
> > a combined work. If I load your program as a plugin, but my
> > program
> > has other legitimate functions without the GPL'd subsystem, then
> > matters quickly become unclear.
> > The conservative course of action is for him to run
> > HG in a subprocess.
> Although there would be other features of this application, the major
> feature is version-control of the application's documents, and that
> version-control is handled by shelling out to Mercurial tools. If HG
> is not installed, the program won't function the way it's been
> advertised to function. I suppose I could make it function "equally"
> with another VC system, making it less dependent on one single GPL
> system, but I'm not sure that helps the situation.
If by "shelling out" you mean "spawning a new process to run hg and
talking to that process", you are *probably* okay.
> This brings up the point of distribution. It would be cleanest to be
> able to bundle the HG tools and dependencies within my app, so
> there's only one thing to download & install....
> On install or launch, my app would install the HG tools in a user-
> accessible location, and the user would be notified that this
> Mercurial installation can be used independently of my app; I'd also
> explain what Mercurial was, and point to the project page and the
> source (and, of course, the source for any changes I might have made
> in Mercurial).
> Does this sound reasonable, or problematic?
GPL specifically permits aggregation onto a single media. The question
that you inadvertently raise here is: is an installation bundle
considered "media" in the sense of the GPL license. I think there is an
open issue whether the entire installation bundle might not be
considered a combined work, but on the other hand nobody objects to ISO
images. This is something you probably need to ask the licensing people
at FSF for guidance on.
> I also understand the intent of the GPL, however, and I'm
> trying to find a middle ground -- if at all possible. Finally, I
> understand that this is a larger issue than Mercurial itself.
Then I would suggest a couple of actions:
1. Consider whether plugging in to more than one SCM system may
make sense for your product.
2. Consider whether GPL'ing your product may make sense **as a
business decision**. Customers don't buy software; they buy
solutions to problems. It may be that GPL is not really a
problem. That's a business question to ask; don't evaluate
it as an ideology question.
> PS: Am I missing email, or did you reply to a private email from
> Emanuele? I can't find his original anywhere, including the
> mercurial-devel archives.
As far as I know, I was responding to an email of his on the list. Check
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