|| Created on Jul 2, 2009 8:05 PM by Kerr Rainey|Topic Responses: 1
That was a very interesting article Declan.
There are definitely issues with how particular types of software are
considered to be "combined works" in the context of GPL. Most of the
examples talking about this on the GNU project website talk in terms of
static vs dynamic linking, sharing data stuctures, calling fork and
exec. The article talks about the scenario where the base code is GPL
and people are writing plugins on top of it. For OpenNTF we would be
interested in the reverse situation. I think we think of Domino DBs as
kind of plugin, though I think one of the GNU GPL FAQs about
interpreters might be relevant. So how does that work with a domino db?
Reading the GPL FAQs suggests that to link a GPL plugin with a non-free
program you need to write an exception that allowed it into the GPL.
In our case the plugin is a domino db and can only run on domino so it
may be that this is implied. This would only be applicable if you wrote
all the code, or you reused code with the same exception. You couldn't
just take any old GPL code and add the exception yourself.
But is this only the case if you sought to distribute the db with domino?
In general I'm not compelled to distribute combined works. I can take
GPL code, mix it with my own code and still keep it private. I only
have to think about it when I go to distribute the combined work.
Given that, I'm not sure at which point a violation would occur if I
download a domino db without an exception (e.g. containing
non-exception code) and run it. Is the mere act of linking to third
party, non-free code a volition of the GPL, even if I don't distribute
anything? I don't think so. Section 12 of the GPLv3 discusses
situations where you can't distribute the combined works, yet it makes
no mention of a violation. Since I can't distribute Domino I can't
distribute it with the DB. We should be home clear. So why does the
GPL FAQ talk about the need for a plugin to have an exception?
If Domino was being distributed with a GPLed DB then; if the DB had no
exception then Domino would also have to be licensed under the GPL; if
there was such an exception then Domino could be distributed under a
Another possible way of thinking about it would be to say that Domino
is a platform rather than just a program. In this situation Domino
could count as a Major Component. Linking to System Libraries of a
Major Component is an exception in the GPL. So here we would think of
DBs as applications rather than plugins. A bit of a long shot?
It would certainly be useful to the community if a lawyer familiar with GPL and Domino could give an opinion.