Open Source License Question

Josiah Carlson jcarlson at
Fri Oct 29 23:50:00 CEST 2004

"Dan Perl" <danperl at> wrote:
> "Joachim Bowman" <usenet.0.lho at> wrote in message 
> news:2ue65gF28i9f7U1 at
> > Hi,
> >
> > Dan Perl wrote:
> >> "Michael Foord" <fuzzyman at> wrote in message 
> >> news:6f402501.0410271123.5a7e68d9 at
> >>>A lot of people use python as part of their job and are active
> >>>participants in teh python community. A lot of what I write are
> >>>library modules to do a particular job. Using the GPL means someone is
> >>>unable to use your work in a business setting. i don't expect other
> >>>people to sell products containing my work - but neither do I want to
> >>>prevent them from being able to use it.
> >>
> >> Fair enough.  LGPL, X, or BSD should allow you to do that.
> >
> > So does the GNU GPL.  Freedom/Open Source and commercial use are two 
> > orthogonal concepts.  The two don't interfere in any way.
> I beg to differ.  Let's take a possible scenario.  Let's say that my company 
> has a complex software product that sells for $1M a piece.  And let's also 
> say that I need some encryption for the product.  I find an encryption 
> library that is free and is GPL licensed.  What happens if I use it? 
> Correct me if I'm wrong in any part (and I genuinely admit that I may be 
> wrong).  I have to release my entire product under a GPL license and I have 
> to publish the entire code (I assume that the use of the encryption library 
> is not isolated to only one part of the product).  Would my company want to 
> do something like that?  I don't think so.  Sure, we are still entitled to 
> try to sell the product but who would pay $1M when with a little effort they 
> can put the entire product together from the code and any support that we 
> could sell is never going to be worth the money we are asking for?

If other posters on this topic are correct; you don't need to lose your
application in order to use that GPL library, you merely need to write a
wrapper for that library, which is then released under the GPL.  Since
you are the original author, you can do whatever you want with the
wrapper; including using it in a commercial setting where you don't
release your application.

The wrapper is the derivative work, which is licensed under the GPL. 
But being the original author, you can do whatever you want with the
wrapper, including using it from a non-GPL'd piece of software, without
needing to tell anyone about it.

If anyone asks about the fact that your main software is not GPL'd,
point them to the wrapper software, and as long as your wrapper is
nontrivial, I don't believe it is a big deal.

This is just a restatement of perhaps a half-dozen other people that
have posted in the last week or so on this same topic.  If they are
wrong on this topic, then so am I.

> Red Hat can make money from selling their Linux distribution, but apart from 
> companies that have deeper pockets and for whom getting the support and 
> warranties that Red Hat offers are worth a relatively small fee, how many 
> small consumers buy the commercial distribution when they can just download 
> the same thing for free?  No wonder that Red Hat also sells things like mugs 
> and T-shirts.

Red Hat doesn't make money on selling their Linux distribution, they
make money on the /support contracts/ for large companies who need
guaranteed support.

 - Josiah

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