[Haskell-cafe] GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Robert Greayer robgreayer at gmail.com
Thu Mar 4 13:06:28 EST 2010

Before taking any action with respect to cabal or hackage, etc., I'd
think people would want to see their explicit response.

On Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 12:34 PM, Tom Tobin <korpios at korpios.com> wrote:
> After politely pestering them again, I finally heard back from the
> Software Freedom Law Center regarding our GPL questions (quoted
> below).
> I exchanged several emails to clarify the particular issues; in short,
> the answers are "No", "No", "N/A", and "N/A".  The SFLC holds that a
> library that depends on a GPL'd library must in turn be GPL'd, even if
> the library is only distributed as source and not in binary form.
> They offered to draft some sort of explicit response if we'd find it
> useful.
> Maybe it would be useful if Cabal had some sort of licensing check
> command that could be run on a .cabal file, and warn an author if any
> libraries it depends on (directly or indirectly) are GPL'd but the
> .cabal itself does not have the license set to GPL.
> On Fri, Dec 11, 2009 at 10:21 PM, Tom Tobin <korpios at korpios.com> wrote:
>> I'd like to get these questions out to the SFLC so we can satisfy our
>> curiosity; at the moment, here's what I'd be asking:
>> Background: X is a library distributed under the terms of the GPL. Y
>> is another library which calls external functions in the API of X, and
>> requires X to compile.  X and Y have different authors.
>> 1) Can the author of Y legally distribute the *source* of Y under a
>> non-GPL license, such as the 3-clause BSD license or the MIT license?
>> 2) If the answer to 1 is "no", is there *any* circumstance under which
>> the author of Y can distribute the source of Y under a non-GPL
>> license?
>> 3) If the answer to 1 is "yes", what specifically would trigger the
>> redistribution of a work in this scenario under the GPL?  Is it the
>> distribution of X+Y *together* (whether in source or binary form)?
>> 4) If the answer to 1 is "yes", does this mean that a "BSD-licensed"
>> library does not necessarily mean that closed-source software can be
>> distributed which is based upon such a library (if it so happens that
>> the library in turn depends on a copylefted library)?
>> By the way, apologies to the author of Hakyll — I'm sure this isn't
>> what you had in mind when you announced your library!  I'm just hoping
>> that we can figure out what our obligations are based upon the GPL,
>> since I'm not so sure myself anymore.
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