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Re: using GPL api to be used in a properietary software

From: Stefaan A Eeckels
Subject: Re: using GPL api to be used in a properietary software
Date: Sun, 13 Mar 2005 18:11:35 +0100

On Sun, 13 Mar 2005 16:16:42 +0100
David Kastrup <> wrote:

> Stefaan A Eeckels <> writes:
> > On Sun, 13 Mar 2005 14:31:15 +0100
> > David Kastrup <> wrote:
> >
> >> Stefaan A Eeckels <> writes:
> >> 
> >> > A book that refers the user to a dictionary for
> >> > the definition of a number of words is not a derivative
> >> > work of that dictionary.
> >> 
> >> So why are there numerous court decisions that "deep linking" of
> >> web site material constitutes copyright infringement?
> >
> > Are you implying that refering to dictionary does indeed create a
> > derivative work?
> It depends on the particular use.  If I encode a message by
> exclusively referring to word/lines/pages of a particular dictionary,
> then I have a quite different case than when I just say "look up the
> term in a dictionary like Webster's".

Quite specific references to other works, including quotes, do not make
a literary work a derivative work of the referenced works. 

It sounds foolish to the extreme to hitch one's wagon to cases, aimed at
reducing the freedom of people to refer to public resources, and driven
by purely mercenary reasons, when one's (stated) goal is defending the
free sharing and re-use of software. 

It looks and smells and tastes like sour grapes. What seems especially
cynical is that in trying to preserve an outrageous and ideologically
motivated interpretation of a derivative work, its proponents play
right into the hands of those who strive to remove the public's right
to reasonable access to copyrighted material. Strange bedfellows indeed.

> >> > You have equally few arguments left to argue that programs aren't
> >> > derivative works of the Operating System they run on.
> >> 
> >> Why do you think is there a special exception/clarification
> >> regarding execution of executables in the Linux kernel licence?
> >
> > So are you of the opinion that every program, whatever the format
> > (source or otherwise) is a derivative work of the Operating System
> > (and as such could not be written without the prior consent of the
> > owner of the OS copyrights)?
> I am of the opinion that it is stupid to ignore existing court cases
> and declare only those theories and cases relevant that one prefers
> oneself.

It is equally stupid to concentrate on those cases that might support an
ideologically motivated interpretation with little foundation in the
analogies software copyrights are based on.

> The execution of the law does not depend on my opinion about its
> letter and spirit.
> People are generously dealing in advice here even where the case law
> indicates that in reality things are much less clearcut than they want
> to make believe.  And that is simply reckless when giving advice.

As I said earlier in this thread, it is _not_ a matter of law, but of
morality. It is abundantly clear that the FSF considers any form of
linking to a library as preparation of a derivative work, and as such,
we all should simply honour the wishes of the copyright holders not to
link non-Free software to GPLed libraries. It doesn't matter one jot
what the law might decide about the various interpretations of what
makes a program a derivative work of another; it's a matter of doing
right, and that is to honour the wishes of the author/copyright holder.

> > If so, you're casting your nets so wide that any new work becomes a
> > derivative work of everthing previously written.
> It is not I that is interpreting the law in the courts.

The problem is that by widening the scope, you provide ammunition to
those (like the RIAA, but really all large corporates) who would like
to be able to control and monetize every use, no matter how trivial,
people make of "their" IP. 

Tell me to respect the wishes of the author, and I'm all with you, even
if these wishes seem - at first sight - rather outlandish.  But this
lunatic fight to get the scope of copyright extended, by exactly those
people who originally wanted to abolish all forms of copyright, is one
of the saddest quixotic battles I know of.

As complexity rises, precise statements lose meaning,
and meaningful statements lose precision. -- Lotfi Zadeh 

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