Calling GPL code from a Python application

Steven D'Aprano steve at
Wed Jan 4 02:25:42 EST 2006

On Wed, 04 Jan 2006 01:59:34 -0500, Mike Meyer wrote:

> I believe there is precedent that contradicts the FSF's
> position. There are two arguments against it:
> 1) Executing software involves several copy operations. Each of those
>    potentially violate the copyright, and hence the copyright holder
>    can restrict execution of a program.
> 2) Executing a program is analogous to a performance of the software.
>    Copyright includes limits on performances, so the copyright holder
>    can place limits on the execution of the software.
> Personally, I agree with the FSF - if own a copy of a program,
> executing it should be fair use. Without that, then there's no point
> in obtaining software - you have to get the copyright holders
> permission to execute the stuff anyway.

Unfortunately, what *we* think isn't worth a plastic nickel. The only
thing that counts is what the relevant copyright laws say.

As far as I know, US copyright law does not give an exemption for
temporary copies in working memory (although I could be wrong about that).
Here in Australia, our government (for once getting it right!)
*explicitly* gives such an exemption to our copyright law. If I recall
correctly, it is worded in such a way that it doesn't matter whether the
temporary copies are in RAM, in a cache, in virtual memory on disk, or
some yet unthought of technology.

This is significant because most proprietary licences that I've read (and
yes, I've actually sat down and struggled through a few of the damn
things) do NOT give you the right to make temporary copies in working
memory, which means that on a strictly legal basis, it is virtually
impossible to run the software without infringing the licence.

(We also have the explicit right to make backup copies of legal software,
although Australian copyright law is firm that this is for backup ONLY,
and not a "backup *nudge nudge wink wink*".

Unfortunately, we've also signed an extremely one-sided pro-USA so-called
"Free Trade Agreement" which forces onto us a whole slew of really bad
Intellectual Property Laws, as well as hamstringing our nation's ability
to govern ourselves. With copyright law being used more and more as an
excuse for enforcing *usage* limitations instead of *copying* limitations,
I can easily see the good parts of our Copyright Act being over-ridden in
de facto (if not de jure).

And for those who don't speak Latin, I mean that having the legal right to
make legal backup copies doesn't help you one bit if the Digital
Restrictions Management software prevents those backup copies from
working when you need them.


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