[sword-devel] Closed source exploitation of open source works (a GPL loophole)

Chris Little sword-devel@crosswire.org
Thu, 10 May 2001 13:23:41 -0700

> > Further, since non-free
> > software developers do not give back to free software, free
> software should
> > avoid assisting non-free software development by providing it
> free work and
> > finished tools.
> I think this is where you overstate the spirit of the GPL.  I
> don't think the
> point is to avoid helping proprietary software, but to benefit
> free software.
> Any detriment to proprietary software is incidental to the GPL's purpose.

I don't state that detriment to non-free software is a goal of the GPL,
simply that avoidance of assisting in the development of non-free software
is.  Furthermore, you are incorrect in your assessment that my statement was

I quote below an excerpt from "Why you shouldn't use the Library GPL for
your next library" by Stallman, from
http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-not-lgpl.html, which I had in mind while
making my statements.

Proprietary software developers have the advantage of money; free software
developers need to make advantages for each other. Using the ordinary GPL
for a library gives free software developers an advantage over proprietary
developers: a library that they can use, while proprietary developers cannot
use it.


[W]hen a library provides a significant unique capability, like GNU
Readline, that's a horse of a different color. The Readline library
implements input editing and history for interactive programs, and that's a
facility not generally available elsewhere. 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 Readline.

The point of the GPL is that those willing to play by the same rules of
free, open source software are allowed to benefit from the work of others.
Those who are unwilling are not.  If you want to argue this further, take it
to Stallman.  I'm simply reporting his views, which are very clear.

Using the ActiveX control I was able to make a front end able to access any
data from Sword's text library in about 2 hours, which benefits from Troy
and others' years of work, without any legal responsibility to adhere to
free software principles or license under the GPL.

Further, back to the question of whether this constitutes a loophole, I
can't see how any of you can deny that it is.  The developer of the above
mentioned free application that uses Readline could have just as easily made
a Readline COM object and called that rather than making his work free and
open.  Clearly, from his statements, this was against Stallman's desires in
his composition of the GPL.

Do we want to go with LGPL?  Maybe so, but we need sign-offs from all code
contributing developers on that.  Then we need to audit the code and replace
anything that we may have incorporated from outside sources that is under