Licensing Issues for LC developers [was: Re: Reading PDF - a cry for help]

Graham Samuel livfoss at mac.com
Mon Oct 3 07:03:58 EDT 2011


Bernard Devlin wrote (see his whole message at the end of this email):

> You're either extremely knowledgeable about the GPL, or I think you
> have misunderstood the GPL.

The first is certainly not true, so the second is more than likely. I got my (hopefully wrong!) information from the site of Artifex, who maintain and sell the commercial version of Ghostscript and its derivatives. They say:

> If your application (including its source code) is not licensed to the public under the GNU GPL, you are not authorized to ship GPL Ghostscript or GPL MuPDF with your application under the terms of the GNU GPL if any one of the following is true:
> 
> your application contains a copy of some or all of GPL Ghostscript or MuPDF;
> your application is derived from, is based on, or constitutes a revision of some or all of GPL Ghostscript or MuPDF;
> your application includes one or more functions that use some or all of GPL Ghostscript or MuPDF.
> These criteria apply to your application as a whole. Even if only one section of your application satisfies one of these criteria, you are not authorized to ship GPL Ghostscript or GPL MuPDF with your application unless your application, including all of its source code, is licensed to the public under the GNU GPL.
> 
> If your application (including its source code) is NOT licensed to the public under the GNU GPL and you intend to distribute Ghostscript or MuPDF to a third party for use with and usable by your application, you MUST first obtain a commercial license from Artifex.
> 
I perhaps naively believed all this without further research. I have now read the GPL - it is quite tough to follow, but I tried to test it on what I actually want to do, which is to distribute Ghostscript or an existing derivative of it unaltered along with my own application (written in LiveCode, a proprietary software system) and for sale as a product under 'normal' commercial terms.

In the Preamble, the GPL states:

>   For example, if you distribute copies of such a program, whether
> gratis or for a fee, you must pass on to the recipients the same
> freedoms that you received.  You must make sure that they, too, receive
> or can get the source code.  And you must show them these terms so they
> know their rights.
The applicable part of the GPL referring to compiled and complete versions of programs (such as GhostScript in binary form, which is what I intend to use) is Section 6. It does allow use of the compiled code, provided that the user is offered access to the source code (this is 6b). So Bernard, I think you are right and that Artifex is wrong - which means the use of 'free' software (using the term as GNU uses it) is OK.

Thanks Bernard for that very interesting insight.

Graham

PS I will return to the technical argument (which seems to be getting rather tetchy) about the use of IM, GhostScript etc. soon. I thought it better to keep the licensing discussion separate.

On Sat, 1 Oct 2011 15:40:57 +0100, Bernard Devlin <bdrunrev at gmail.com> wrote:

> You're either extremely knowledgeable about the GPL, or I think you
> have misunderstood the GPL.
> 
> The GPL v2 does not mean you cannot charge for re-distribution of GPL
> code (there are companies who charge for the re-distribution of linux
> on dvds). If your code is bound to GPL libraries and you distribute
> that combined artifact then you might have issues.  If your code calls
> out to compiled programs (using shell() then there is no issue).  A
> very strict interpretation is that if your code is bound to libraries,
> then you are bound to provide your souce should someone demand it, or
> cease using the libraries in that case. There are those who dispute
> that even binding to libraries does not fall within the GPL v2.
> 
> GPL v3 was brought in to stop so many companies "exploiting" GPL on
> the server-side (i.e. where there is no re-distribution of code).
> Unless the code you want to use to provide such a web service is
> licensed under GPL v3, I cannot see what the issue would be.  I know
> of very few projects using GPL v3.
> 
> And not all open source licenses have the same copyleft implications
> as the GPL.  If you are distributing RunRev's ssl library with your
> apps, you are re-distributing open source code (only this time it is
> the Apache license + SSL license).  It is always possible that
> companies negotiate a separate non-GPL license for GPL code they wish
> to incorporate and re-distribute.
> 
> Anyway, I hope the first suggestion works for you so that you do not
> even need to consider these issues.
> 
> Bernard
> 
> On Sat, Oct 1, 2011 at 1:22 PM, Graham Samuel <livfoss at mac.com> wrote:
> since mine is a commercial product, there would presumably be
> licensing issues for a non-GNU developer.




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