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Author Topic: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?  (Read 13360 times)

wreckedcarzz

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Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« on: October 01, 2007, 06:45:52 PM »
Hi all!

Here with a question, its kinda strange, but I can't understand half of what I am reading about it, so here goes.

I am trying to use a GPL program (ClamAV - ClamWin specifically) and install it with another program (without using the "official" installer, BUT also without modifying any of the program's files).

I have skimmed the GNU General Public License before, and seen a few of the update/amends to it, but half of it just makes my eyes spin.

So basically all I need to know is, Yes/No can I include the full (unedited) version of ClamWin within another program, without breaking the license?

I would assume so, as it is open source, but I want to make sure first.

Thanks in advance!
-Brandon

mouser

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2007, 10:52:39 PM »
don't take just my answer but i believe you can as long as you include the license file that accompanies the program when you do.

lanux128

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2007, 10:57:47 PM »
another way is to drop a mail to the devs of ClamAV, letting them know that you intend to re-distribute their program bundled with others.. a confirmation from them would definitely be easier to understand than the legalese..

Jibz

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2007, 03:22:15 AM »
Let me give you a quote from an answer I got from the FSF licensing department after asking a similar question:

Quote from: GPL Compliance Engineer
> I was unable to find any information about this subject on your page,
> so I am hoping you can help clear up what the rules are.
>
> The question is: Is it legal to distribute files covered by the GPL in
> a self-extracting archive or installer, if the stub is not GPL'ed?

No.

Short and to the point.

wreckedcarzz

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2007, 06:02:54 PM »
OK, I am still unsure so I just sent an email to them to see what their take is on it. I'm not getting my hopes up, though :-\

Gothi[c]

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2007, 06:58:15 PM »
Distribute yes,
But if you make a derived work, that work must also be under the GPL license, and you must either include the source code or include a notice that the source code is available on request.

Quote
> The question is: Is it legal to distribute files covered by the GPL in
> a self-extracting archive or installer, if the stub is not GPL'ed?

It would be allowed if the installer is GPL'ed.

mwb1100

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2007, 06:58:39 PM »
Quote from: GPL Compliance Engineer
> I was unable to find any information about this subject on your page,
> so I am hoping you can help clear up what the rules are.
>
> The question is: Is it legal to distribute files covered by the GPL in
> a self-extracting archive or installer, if the stub is not GPL'ed?

No.

I can't believe you got that answer - here's what their FAQ (presumably vetted by their most knowledgeable staff) says:

I would like to bundle GPLed software with some sort of installation software. Does that installer need to have a GPL-compatible license?

    No. The installer and the files it installs are separate works. As a result, the terms of the GPL do not apply to the installation software.

So your installer would not need to be GPL'ed.  However, since you would be distributing GPL-licensed software you would be required to make the source for the GPL'ed software available in some form - there are several acceptable ways to do that (it does not need to be in the installation package).  See the FAQ for details.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2007, 07:04:06 PM by mwb1100 »

Jibz

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2007, 02:10:21 AM »
That's interesting.

I wonder if it is a change in GPL v3 that makes a difference, or if this is an example of how complicated the GPL is.

I have contacted the FSF licensing people again pointing out this apparent inconsistency, and I hope they can clear it up :Thmbsup:.

f0dder

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2007, 03:57:48 AM »
Just shows how much of a bothersome hodgepodge can of worms GPL is if you're not doing 100% GPL. Viral, it is. Evil, it is.
- carpe noctem

Renegade

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2007, 07:01:25 AM »
Just shows how much of a bothersome hodgepodge can of worms GPL is if you're not doing 100% GPL. Viral, it is. Evil, it is.

Agreed and agreed.

It's simple to work with GPL software if everything in the project is GPL.

However, once you start working in other things, it breaks. e.g. You cannot use a lot of non-GPL software with GPL due to the viral nature of the GPL, but if you ask in some places, it's ok. Pure confusion. e.g. I have software A that is GPL and software B that is proprietary. I have rights to distribute both. Now, I create some software, C, that uses A and B. I GPL license C and release the source. So... What about B? It's a part of the software.... GPL is viral...

The answer so far as I've been able to determine there is that the FSF wants to have its cake and eat it too - they'll let B slide because it's not YOUR software and it's used under license. Double check on that though - I'm still fuzzy there.

An installer isn't really a part of the program - it's just a delivery mechanism and so isn't infected by the GPL.

From my perspective, it's just easiest to steer clear of any GPL software period when you're developing software. It's just not worth the headaches. Most often there are other non-GPL software solutions to fix any problem that any GPL software solves anyways. And yes... I tend to side for commercial solutions because then I have some recourse for support - you can call that laziness. :)

But in all fairness to the GPL, there's nothing to stop you from selling GPL'd software. The point of the GPL is to keep the software free forever. There is some merit in it. The FSF however does seem extreme in many ways.

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f0dder

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2007, 08:18:33 AM »
Imho GPL software isn't free, by any means. It's enforced open (I certainly don't dislike openness!), and is usually gratis as well, but free?
- carpe noctem

Renegade

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2007, 08:39:23 AM »
Imho GPL software isn't free, by any means. It's enforced open (I certainly don't dislike openness!), and is usually gratis as well, but free?

OH! I am SOOOO with you there!  :Thmbsup:

The GPL is NOT "free".

What drives me absolutely bonkers nuts blood-thirsty crazy is the incredible arrogance with which a couple of *free software* organizations purport to be authorities and define what it is to be "free" or "open". Their definitions are self-serving and extremely narrow.

I purchase commercial software that comes with source code once I buy the license. That's "open source". There's NO debate there. Zero. Nadda. Zilch. I get the source code once I purchase. It is then opened to me. Some will disagree. They are just wrong. Period. (Yes - I'm being a bit beligerent. I hate extremists and extremely narrow positions for broad definitions.)

The core problem for me is that the terms "free", "open source", "free software" and similar others are being hijacked. Those are normal English words with normal meanings that anyone should be able to understand without reading a trillion pages of nonsense. Trying to narrow down the definition for a broad term is simply wrong. Period.

Here's an example. Let's redefine "program"...

A program is a set of instructions that runs on a computer.

Wow. Cool! We're done!

Well... What about the program for an event at the local community center. A 12 step program for alcoholics... A...

It's just ridiculous for any organization to try and take control of a word or short phrase.

Ok - rant over.  :-[

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mwb1100

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2007, 09:49:30 AM »
Calling the GPL evil is a bit too... religious.  The GPL is a tool that has a particular desired outcome. Just like any other license - even commercial licenses.

Now, I'm not a free software or GPL zealot, but I also don't consider it evil, or even bad.  One thing to keep in mind is that the GPL is *not* intended to make life easy for developers.  It's intended to make life easy for *users* of the software.  In fact, users of the software do not need to agree to *anything* to use GPL software.  The requirements of the GPL only apply when you are going to distribute software licensed under the GPL or software derived from GPL license software.

Let's compare it with some other licenses that you might come across - the GPL requires none of these things that you might come across in some (most) commercial licenses:

  • you may only install the software on a single machine
  • only a single person is allowed to use the software
  • you must allow the software to phone home in order to use it
  • you are not allowed to study how the program works

The GPL has none of those restrictions.  But remember - the idea is that this benefits the users, not necessarily developers.

Now, if you're a developer who sees some GPL software you'd like to use in your software, then  you have some hard choices.  But one option that's always open to you is to not use it - which is no worse than most commercial software, which never even gives you the option to derive your own software from it.

Are there better licenses from a developer's point of view?  Sure, and as Renegade mentions, some of those licenses might be commercial.

But that doesn't make the GPL evil - just unsuitable for what you might want.


« Last Edit: October 03, 2007, 09:54:55 AM by mwb1100 »

Jibz

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2007, 10:02:42 AM »
Here is the reply from the FSF licensing people for your reference:

Quote from: Licensing Compliance Engineer
The position stated in the GPL FAQ is correct.  After careful review with
our attorneys, we concluded that the installer was a separate work from the
GPLed program it installs.  As a result, it is not a derivative work
subject to the GPL's terms.  You have our sincerest apologies for the
earlier confusion.

f0dder

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2007, 10:05:58 AM »
Quote from: mwb1100
Now, if you're a developer who sees some GPL software you'd like to use in your software, then  you have some hard choices.  But one option that's always open to you is to not use it - which is no worse than most commercial software, which never even gives you the option to derive your own software from it.
The problem is, of course, with platforms where you can't really do anything but the really basic POSIX & libc stuff without having to use a GPL library, or reinvent the wheel. This gives non-GPL developers a great disadvantage. And that's one of the places where Windows has quite an advantage - the API is extremely rich, and doesn't really come with any limitations or silly clauses, only windows lock-in.

GPL itself isn't necessarily evil btw, I think it makes okay sense for the OS kernel... but for usermode applications? Naw. It's too arrogant... it's fine that any modifications to the piece of opensource code you use/modify should remain opensource, but imho it's wrong placing restrictions on the *rest* of the application.

Oh, and thanks for the clarification, Jibbo - although it wouldn't have surprised me if they wanted their first answer to your question to be the correct one ;)
- carpe noctem

Lashiec

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #15 on: October 03, 2007, 08:42:58 PM »
That's funny, isn't it? It turns out that a proprietary OS gives you more freedom than a open source one. You can read, but be careful when you copy that... it's the software flavor of DRM. Makes you wonder why the FSF act like freedom palladins while you need a lawyer at your side if you intend to code something using that "free code"... no freedoms for anyone, as the users don't really care if a program is GPLed or no, they only understand "free" or "not free". Licenses are not something they usually read (nor anyone :P). To conclude, BSD FTW!
« Last Edit: October 04, 2007, 07:32:01 AM by Lashiec »

f0dder

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2007, 04:04:27 AM »
Lashiec: you're from spain? (writing "SO" instead of "OS" :)).
- carpe noctem

Lashiec

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2007, 07:32:28 AM »
Oh, damn! I always make the same mistake :-[. Now it's corrected :)
« Last Edit: October 04, 2007, 01:17:22 PM by Lashiec »

mwb1100

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #18 on: October 04, 2007, 10:17:18 AM »
I still really don't understand the animosity toward the GPL - not that I'm saying it's the best license, just that it's better than most software licenses I come across.  All it says fundamentally is that if you pass on the GPL code (whether in a modified form or not), that you have to provide the same rights as you were given 'downstream' for the GPL'ed code and any derivatives.  Basically, that you can't take the GPL rights that were applied to the code away.

The main reason that the GPL can be so complicated is that if it were not there would be loopholes that would allow people to easily subvert the intent.  I can't tell you how many times I've read about people trying to incorporate GPL code into their programs without releasing source to their work by saying they'd add a plug-in interface to the GPL code and release that little bit  as GPL.  Then their real code would simply use the plug-in interface and remain proprietary.  Closing that end-run attempt is the reason for much of the complexity in the GPL.

When someone releases the source code to *their* work under GPL, why should anyone be critical of it?  Would it be better if the source were never released? The only privilege that's not given is the ability to take that code, make something else that incorporates it but not do the same for the derived code.  I can certainly see why someone would not want to release their own code under the GPL (whether to make the license more restrictive, or to make it less restrictive like BSD).  The BSD license is more favorable to developers, but it says I can't claim the work as my own.  Should I complain about that condition?  I've seen people complain about Mouser's license for his programs because it requires you to get a no-cost license key to remove nag dialogs.  I think that's a ridiculous complaint.  But, why is the burden that the GPL places on a very few people who deal with GPL software (remember that the GPL places *no* burden or requirements on *users* - only those who distribute) so awful?

I also fail to see how this is anything remotely close to DRM, which is intended to place all control not only to distribute a work, but to use a work in the hands of the copyright owner.  In addition to preventing distribution of a work, DRM is a tool that enables copyright owners to limit how long, on what device, and under what conditions you can use a work.  The GPL does none of these things - it simply says if you distribute, you have to provide the same rights as were provided to you.

tinjaw

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #19 on: October 04, 2007, 11:32:55 AM »
I still really don't understand the animosity toward the GPL

It is with software licensing as it is with all things in life. As long as their are choices/alternative, there will be opinions. Give me a choice and I will give you a religious war.

Renegade

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #20 on: October 05, 2007, 02:10:46 AM »
Calling the GPL evil is a bit too... religious. 

I've certainly got a lot of animosity - no denying that - but not towards the GPL.

My animosity is purely directed towards the GPL zealots, the FSF, and those that try to hijack the meaning of the words "open" or "free" for their own political agendas. Animosity? That's putting how I feel mildly... It's got a 1984 stench to it.

I've got nothing against the GPL itself. But there's a definite stench that surrounds it.

Here's an example of the GPL religious stench that sickens me...

Developer ABC comes up with a cool piece of software called 123 and releases it as GPL. Developer XYZ come around and says, "hey - that's pretty cool. I can't use GPL software, so can I buy a commercial use license?" ABC scoffs and spouts some religious sermon about <insert insanity here>.

Huh? What's that about? And it happens. It's perfectly within ABC's rights to be a jackass about his software, but that's what I don't get. Why do that? XYZ is ready to put money in your hands? Why not take it? ABC can rewrite a new license for XYZ. Just seems crazy.

For the large projects it's almost impossible to do that because... who gets the money? A lot of people worked on it... So... ??? It's a bad situation there. That's where the GPL kind of screws itself, or rather, screws the developers behind the software because they can never benefit from their work directly.

There are certainly good and bad developers (from a 'personal' perspective I mean) out there. I had one guy approach me to use his software and I told him flat out - no - it's GPL and I can't go within a thousand miles of it. He turned around and released it as LGPL as well, which made it possible to use. A fantastic example of someone not blined by the religiosity that often surrounds the GPL. He was practical about it and wanted people to use his software. That kind of developer I like.

The LGPL is a great license for everyone. It keeps things free for users, and allows commercial developers to get involved as well.

It's very often important not to exclude commercial developers because they can give a project momentum that it otherwise might not get.

Got to run now. :)
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Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

f0dder

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #21 on: October 05, 2007, 04:55:02 AM »
mwb1100: I'm all for keeping open source code open - the problem with the GPL is that it's viral and extends beyond just the piece of code that's released under GPL. You use something GPL? Then your entire project become GPL.

Renegade: just keep in mind that, unless exceptions are added, LGPL still requires you to distribute the .obj files so users can re-link with a newer version of the LGPL code you use... (okay, you could put all the LGPL code you use in dll files to avoid this).
- carpe noctem

Renegade

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Re: Question: Does the GPL allow program redistribution?
« Reply #22 on: October 05, 2007, 08:46:04 PM »

Renegade: just keep in mind that, unless exceptions are added, LGPL still requires you to distribute the .obj files so users can re-link with a newer version of the LGPL code you use... (okay, you could put all the LGPL code you use in dll files to avoid this).


And that's the beauty of the LGPL - it gives people options.

Hey - doesn't giving options make something "more open'"? ;)

Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker