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

David Metzler metzlerd at metzlerd.com
Sat Sep 1 02:44:44 UTC 2007

This seems like pretty safe ground to me.  Of course what constitutes  
a "derived work" is and will always be subject to legal  
interpretation, And I do think what you "distribute" and how you  
distribute it will make a big difference.  But something that  
communicates over an internet protocol with another service, can  
hardly be considered part of the product you've distributed.   
Particularly if the spec  for the web service is not proprietary. The  
service your consuming hasn't necessarily been distributed (and often  
isn't). This is probably the crux of the static vs, .dll difference  
in some peoples (lawyers or not) interpretation.  Just how stand- 
alone does a library need to be in order to be considered an  
independent work vs. a derived work? Would a reasonable person  
believe that some other individual could write a replacement  
"library"?  Would they be able to distribute it as a standalone product?

I'd be interested to see how an interpretive api that was written so  
that anyone can register a callback and therefor inerface with the  
module would measure up in this interpretation, but as Larry hints  
at... that's probably best left to a real lawyer.

I once attended a talk by a copyright lawyer on the subject, and in  
the states at least, most software licensing is considered contract  
law, and not copyright law, so the interface gets muddy in a hurry,  
particularly around commercial software.  From a legal perspective  
you don't own your copy of MS word in the states.  You've just  
purchased (read rented) the rights to use it.

The real question in all this isn't which interpretation is right or  
wrong, but rather what level of risk is drupal.org willing to  
accept.   That interpretation ought to be somewhat conservative  
IMHO.  But I think web services are safe, if the spec is open.

Enough of this, I'm going to write some more code :)


On Aug 31, 2007, at 5:31 PM, Larry Garfield wrote:

> On Friday 31 August 2007, Thomas Barregren wrote:
>> So, if you want to build a module that can be used to integrate a
>> software with a license incompatible with GPL, I *believe* that a
>> solution is to build a GPLed Service Provider Interface (SPI) which
>> makes no assumption about the internals of the service providers.
>> Regards,
>> Thomas
> So you are claiming, then, that a Drupal wrapper module for a non- 
> GPLed system
> that communicated only via REST calls (or similar) but still had no  
> actual
> function of its own without that non-GPLed system, is legal?
> Just for the record, how many of the people in this thread actually  
> *are*
> lawyers? :-)
> -- 
> Larry Garfield			AIM: LOLG42
> larry at garfieldtech.com		ICQ: 6817012
> "If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of
> exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called  
> an idea,
> which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to
> himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the  
> possession
> of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it."   
> -- Thomas
> Jefferson

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