[development] Modules that integrate non-GPL PHP apps violate the GPL.

Bryan Ruby bryan at cmsreport.com
Mon Sep 3 16:26:04 UTC 2007

Jeff Eaton wrote:
> On Sep 3, 2007, at 10:04 AM, Darren Oh wrote:
>> Based on the evidence presented in this discussion, it would not be 
>> against either the spirit or the letter of the GPL for a developer to 
>> distribute a module that integrates an existing third-party app that 
>> does not use Drupal and to which the developer does not own the rights.
> This is exactly the opposite of what the FSF said when I asked them 
> that question directly.
> --Jeff
Hey folks, I'm not much of a developer but I'm a pretty good observer.  
A few months ago Joomla! when through this very same issue, check out: 
http://www.joomla.org/content/view/3510/1/ .  I think a lot of time can 
be wasted in a discussion in reinterpreting FSF's own interpretation of 
what the GPL license says and doesn't say.  I think for the sake of 
discussion, it's best to assume Jeff's original post ( 
http://lists.drupal.org/pipermail/development/2007-August/026130.html ) 
is correct, because I think most GPL projects are starting to 
acknowledge they have a problem with bridges that connect GPL and 
non-GPL work.

Joomla's response was to provide no exceptions or compromise to their 
extensions (equivalent to Drupal's contributed modules).  However, is 
there not room for compromise with a combination of Jeff's first two 
potential solutions?

    1) Add a notice to Drupal's license that clarifies that writing such  
    modules IS explicitly allowed. This is problematic, however, because  
    that would make Drupal non-GPL'd itself, a GPL variant, and we would  
    require explicit relicensing permission by the authors of any GPL  
    code we wish to include.

    2) Remove modules that integrate with third-party non-GPL code from  
    the CVS repository, even if they do not *include* the aforementioned  
    non-GPL code.

Could we not provide a notice to Drupal's license (yes a variant of the 
GPL) that does allow an exception for contributed modules that bridge 
GPL with non-GPL software?  At the same time require modules included in 
the Drupal core and supported at Drupal.org to remain fully GPL 
compliant?  Of course those contributed modules that are not complaint 
to the GPL would need to be and could be hosted off-site elsewhere.

In some way it's sad that a strict GPL license that helps us keep "free 
code" free prevents us from freely sharing the code we use to connect 
with non-GPL software. The reality is such a variant in the GPL license 
would reflect the "real world" realities that Laura Scott discussed in 
an earlier post ( 
http://lists.drupal.org/pipermail/development/2007-August/026167.html ) 
and really how Drupal's own open source culture has evolved.

I of course only presented a suggestion, as in the past months I have 
yet to come up with real answers on my own ( 
http://cmsreport.com/node/1091 ).

Bryan Ruby

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