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

J-P Stacey jp.stacey at torchbox.com
Mon Sep 10 09:04:39 UTC 2007


There's a lot of noise here that comes of us all not being legal experts, 
but as Dries has sanctioned discussion then I'll throw in my two pence of 
opinionated blaring. I hope nobody minds.

My own rather basic reading of the law is that, as long as GPL and non-GPLed 
software types are not bundled together, then you're "more or less OK". You 
can infer my legal credentials from the fact that I use such obscure 
terminology. But this would mean that you can link your non-GPL application 
dynamically to GPL libraries, but you can't compile them in statically; you 
can develop the TinyMCE bridge, but the consumer of the software has to 
fetch TinyMCE separately.

Angela Byron wrote:
> On a personal note, I fully support the viral nature of GPL, and see it 
> as a critical feature, not a bug. 

Does this count as an email disclaimer? ;) If so, for the record I agree 
wholeheartedly with the above statement: the viral nature of GPL protects 
the freedoms expressed within it, at the expense of other freedoms that GPL 
instigators have deemed less fundamental.

However, the virality stops at certain boundaries, doesn't it? If not, then:

  * How does Cygwin survive, translating the calls of potentially GPL 
programs to the language of the wholeheartedly un-GPL OS it sits in? By 
extension, how does any GPL program conscience working on Windows (by which 
I don't mean morally....)? How can something like Automatix work, sprinkling 
software of all sorts of licences like fairy dust through your Ubuntu box?

  * How can you build GPL webservice clients, and would their use in 
requesting data or processing from a non-GPLed webservice count as licence 
infringement? What would a GPLed webservice even look like? Richard 
Stallman, I think, is on record as saying that the proprietary nature of 
services such as Amazon's doesn't bother him, but it bothers other people.

  * How does networking software not transmit the GPL in its very packets, 
when it lets proprietary and GPL software communicate and potentially share 

Before you wonder, I'm not saying that the above cases justify us playing 
fast and loose with the GPL, if that's indeed what we're doing. But I think 
we need to make sure we make a right and consistent decision, and maybe we 
can learn from more than just kissing cousins like Joomla.

J-P Stacey
+44 (0)1608 811870

More information about the development mailing list