Open Source License Question

Josiah Carlson jcarlson at
Sat Oct 30 08:34:16 CEST 2004

Robert Kern <rkern at> wrote:
> Josiah Carlson wrote:
> [snip]
> > 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.
> What kind of wrapper are you talking about? An executable program that 
> communicates with the rest of your software via pipes? If you are 
> linking in the GPL library and distributing the result, the whole code 
> must be licensed compatibly with the GPL no matter how much wrapper code 
> you put around it.

Let us say that my commercial (non-GPL) software A links my GPL wrapper
B.  Wrapper B links GPL'd library C.

B is the derivative of C, so must be GPL'd, and is.  Since B is owned by
me, I can do what I want with it.  So I do what I want, I link it from
my commercial software A.

Now, I can ship B and C as with a GPL license along with my non-GPL
software, stating quite clearly that since I am the owner of B, I am
going to link B as I find necessary.

From what I understand, as long as B is nontrivial, the above is
sufficient.  And as I said before, if the original posters are incorrect
about this, so am I.

With all that said, if one /could not/ use GPL'd libraries from
commercial software, then nVidia and ATI would have lawyers knocking on
their doors for not GPLing their video drivers, as technically, the
nVidia drivers are derivative works of the Linux kernel.  Not being
privy to the inner workings of nVidia nor ATI, I will not guess how they
have managed to release binary-only drivers for linux, and will just say
that it is being done.

 - Josiah

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