The Industry choice

Jeff Shannon jeff at
Fri Jan 7 15:32:44 EST 2005

Alex Martelli wrote:

> Jeff Shannon <jeff at> wrote:
>>Note that the so-called 'viral' nature of GPL code only applies to 
>>*modifications you make* to the GPL software.  The *only* way in which
>>your code can be 'infected' by the GPL is if you copy GPL source.
>    ...
>>(Problems may come if someone licenses a library under the GPL; that's
>>what the LGPL was invented for.  But the issue here is not that the 
>>GPL is bad, it's that the author used the wrong form of it.)
> Stallman now says that you should use GPL, not Lesser GPL.
> Specifically, he wants library authors to use GPL to impose the viral
> nature of GPL on other programs just USING the library -- the very
> opposite of what you say about "only applies ... if you copy"!

Ah, I haven't kept up on Stallman's current opinions, and was speaking 
from the understanding I had of GPL/LGPL as of a number of years ago 
(before that article was written).

By "copy", above, I meant "use GPL source in your product".  The GPL 
defines what it means to use source in a rather inclusive way.  That 
inclusiveness means that the standard usage of libraries falls under 
their definition of "using source".  This distinction in the normal 
terms of "usage" is what impelled the FSF to create the LGPL in the 
first place...

So, I think what I said still (mostly) stands, as long as you look at 
it in terms of whether object code is copied into your executable. ;) 
  It's still true that one can use (in a consumer sense) GPL software 
for whatever purpose one wishes, and the restrictions only kick in 
when one includes GPL code in another product.  Indeed, I should have 
used the word "include" rather than "copy"...

(It's hardly surprising that Stallman wants to use whatever leverage 
he can get to encourage FSF-style free software...)

Jeff Shannon
Credit International

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