python and gpl

Paul Rubin http
Mon Jan 31 00:59:25 EST 2005

John Hunter <jdhunter at> writes:
> The question is: does shipping a backend which imports a module that
> links with GPL code make some or all of the library GPL.

Literally speaking, no, not automatically, any more than driving a car
makes you into a licensed driver if you weren't one already.  But if
you weren't licensed, then you've broken the law by driving the car.
So your question should be: 1) is shipping that backend one of the
things you need the GPL to license you to legally do, and 2) if so,
does the GPL in fact give you that license?

If you're asking in terms of legal enforcement, the answer is 1) maybe
and 2) almost certainly not.  I think it's better to ask in terms of
the GPL's spirit.  I would say that it's not in the GPL's spirit and
that GPL die-hards would consider that use objectionable, though they
might make exceptions for specific cases (so it doesn't hurt to ask).
Some authors who use the GPL are less strict about how they interpret
it, so again, the friendly thing to do is ask the author.

  * If a backend module somebackend does

     import somelib

    where somelib is a python wrapper of GPL code, is somebackend GPLd?

It's GPL'd if you GPL it.  If you don't GPL it, then distributing it
it may be a GPL violation that could get you taken to court.  I
believe the FSF's view is that it is fact a violation; however, the
courts have not yet established this.  The law doesn't have a
black-and-white boundary.  It's more like a fractal.  The only way to
find out what a court will decide is to actually try a case there.

Rather than try to probe how closely you can dance around the
boundaries of the GPL, you might just ask the author of the GPL'd
library whether what you want to do is ok with him or her.  If s/he
says no and you do it anyway, you're both inviting trouble over the
possible infringement, and also inviting people to try to use your
code in ways you don't like.  Since the free software movement depends
on a spirit of cooperation, I think it's best to avoid trying to press
too hard against the boundaries of anyone's licenses.

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