[Haskell-cafe] LGPL libraries

Kirsten Chevalier catamorphism at gmail.com
Mon Mar 5 22:20:53 EST 2007

On 3/5/07, Neil Mitchell <ndmitchell at gmail.com> wrote:
> As others have said though, I wouldn't worry overly about it. The
> whole concept of static linking being wrong, but dynamic linking being
> fine, when you can flip between the modes just by changing compiler,
> is just silly. You don't infringe (or uninfringe) copyright with a
> command line flag.

I am not a lawyer, but there are a couple of important points getting
missed in this thread:

(1) Few people have ever claimed that copyright law in the United
States made any rational sense. Even so, Americans are subject to it,
anybody who uses GPLed software may be subject to it, and given that
the general trend is toward international treaties that subject their
member nations to the copyright requirements of the nation with the
most restrictive intellectual property laws, it may be safe to say
that everyone is subject to it. "That's just silly" isn't a defense.

(2) To paraphrase Eben Moglen, the legal basis for copyrighting
software in the US is predicated on the notion that certain large
numbers can be copyrighted. Thus, if you can infringe copyright by
adding one to a large number, it suddenly doesn't seem so absurd that
you can infringe copyright by setting a command line flag.

(3) The GPL has never been tested in court, so debates about whether
or not static linking can result in a GPL violation are ultimately
academic, at least insofar as the real question is whether it's
prudent for a company to use GPLed libraries in proprietary software
(as the real question usually is). If someone is asking about GPL
issues in the first place, it's probably because their boss told them
"our lawyers say we're not allowed to use anything GPLed," and thus
"trust me, we're not going to sue you" isn't the answer they're
looking for, even if it's a completely accurate answer.

Since there are people reading this list who release their software
under various flavors of the GPL, and who thus presumably care that
the free software they sweat over will remain free in perpetuity,
hopefully this reply isn't entirely off-topic!


Kirsten Chevalier* chevalier at alum.wellesley.edu *Often in error, never in doubt
"I haven't got the slightest idea how to change people, but still I keep a long
list of prospective candidates just in case I should ever figure it out."
--David Sedaris

More information about the Haskell-Cafe mailing list