The Industry choice

Alex Martelli aleaxit at
Fri Jan 7 10:25:08 CET 2005

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"!

Quoting RMS from that URL (about Readline, a GPL library):
Releasing it under the GPL and limiting its use to free programs gives
our community a real boost. At least one application program is free
software today specifically because that was necessary for using

Until some judge passes some judgment, the intent and effect of GPL must
remain a matter of opinion.  But RMS's opinion is probably more
meaningful than mine or yours -- certainly regarding intent, given his
role in designing that license.  If he's badly erred, and one day a
judge endorses your opinion and says that a program which copies no GPL
source cannot be infected by GPL, ah well -- then I guess GPL is badly
designed as to putting its intents into practice.  But until there is
some strong basis to think otherwise, I believe it's prudent to assume
RMS is probably right, and your statement therefore badly wrong.


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