GPL and Python modules.

Robert Kern rkern at
Tue Oct 26 05:13:46 CEST 2004

Tim Churches wrote:
> From: at 
>>[ at]
>> On Behalf Of Robert Kern
>>Sent: Tuesday, 26 October 2004 11:34 AM
>>To: python-list at
>>Subject: Re: GPL and Python modules.
>>Tim Churches wrote:
>>>On Tue, 2004-10-26 at 11:12, Robert Kern wrote:
>>>>Whether just using system calls is simply "normal use" for a GPLd OS
>>>>kernel or this is simply a special exception to the GPL for 
>>Linux only 
>>>>is something that a court will have to decide. But such a 
>>suit would 
>>>>have to be about some other GPL kernel, not Linux.
>>>Looks like it is a special exception for the Linux kernel 
>>(or whatever 
>>>other Linux code is distributed with this COPYING file. 
>>Doesn't apply 
>>>to other GPLed code.
>>Well, not necessarily. It certainly isn't phrased as one. It 
>>is at least 
>>a statement of someone's (Linus's?) belief that standard applications 
>>that only use system calls and running on Linux are not 
>>derivative works 
>>with respect to Linux.
> Yes, so it is a specific exemption to the GPL granted by the copyright
> holder(s) of the Linux kernel code. The GPL allows the copyright holder to
> grant exemptions to the GPL privisions as they see fit - but no-one else.

It's still phrased as Linus's interpretation of what constitutes a 
derivative work and what constitutes normal use of the GPLed kernel. 
He's specifically saying that userland applications are not derivative 
works not "even though they are derivative works, they are excepted from 
the requirements of this license."

>>Are Windows programs actual derivative 
>>works of 
>>the Windows kernel? Does the Windows EULA make a statement about the 
>>derivative status of applications?
> No, and no. An important point of difference between the world views held
> by, say, Steve Ballmer and, say, Richard Stallman.

The world views of Ballmer and Stallman are irrelevant to whether 
something is a derivative or not. They may be relevant to whether one 
may get sued or not, but that's a different issue.

In any case, Stallman does not appear to believe that userland 
applications are automatically derivative works of the kernel:

"""If the two programs remain well separated, like the compiler and the 
kernel, or like an editor and a shell, then you can treat them as two 
separate programs--but you have to do it properly."""

Robert Kern
rkern at

"In the fields of hell where the grass grows high
  Are the graves of dreams allowed to die."
   -- Richard Harter

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