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

Jakob Persson jakob at jakob-persson.com
Mon Sep 10 16:19:16 UTC 2007

ttw+drupal at cobbled.net wrote:
> ...the term "derivative work" is
> not clearly defined within law and is thus open to interpretation.
> your interpretation is clearly one that suits your political ends and,
> in my opinion, is not only morally wrong but one that is legally
> untenable under US and European law.

As for European law I don't know but Wikipedia claims there's such a 
definition what US law is concerned:

..."derivative work" is defined in 17 U.S.C. 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Title_17_of_the_United_States_Code> § 101 

    A "derivative work" is a work based upon one or more preexisting
    works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization,
    fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art
    reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a
    work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of
    editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other
    modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of
    authorship, is a "derivative work".

There are futher legal references in the same article. Also considering 
the number of references to "derivative work" in software licenses and 
contracts, I very much doubt the term is undefined in common legal practice.

The Wikipedia article agrees with you on one point and that is regarding 

"The definition of derivative works of software is not entirely clear[5] 

However this article is just one of many sources and I'd rather rely on 
a legal dictionary than Wikipedia to bring some real clarity.

Further, the "rule of thumb" definition re softwate in the Wikipedia 
article [1] seems to support Thomas point of view since it only allows 
exception of the "derivative work" rule for applications that serve as 
plugins and use functions in a library. Since Drupal is not a library 
and a module is not a plugin the logical outcome is given; a module must 
be considered "derivative work" and is therefore subject to GPL. You'd 
have to challenge those two premises to criticize the conclusion Thomas 
has drawn.

Further discussion can be found here:

I think the mud-slinging is regrettable and sad. Please stick to the 
point and quote sources instead of being inflammatory. We don't need a 
flamewar. I've never seen a flamewar leading to anything good.

Since the whole discussion apparently boils down to this definition and 
the challenging of it, and there's no sign of agreement in sight, we'll 
need an arbitrator and Lawrence Rosen seems to be a candidate.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_work#Derivative_work_of_software
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.drupal.org/pipermail/development/attachments/20070910/3fdebb24/attachment-0001.htm 

More information about the development mailing list