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

David Leimbach leimy2k at gmail.com
Fri Mar 5 06:23:58 EST 2010

As always I'm still not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice... but here's
how I think it works.  If you need to talk to a lawyer to get this cleared
up, do it.

On Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 2:30 AM, Malcolm Wallace <
malcolm.wallace at cs.york.ac.uk> wrote:

> On 5 March 2010 09:53, Magnus Therning <magnus at therning.org> wrote:
>>  Now I'm even more confused.  How is hosting on Hackage an issue in [1]?
> The GPL specifically (and only) applies when code is "distributed" to
> others outside the originating authors' organisation.

I'm pretty sure it says nothing about organizations.  If I threw a flash
stick with a binary of a program I wrote over my cubicle wall to say, my
coworker, Steve, and I tried to tell him he couldn't have the source to my
binary that I created based on a GPL'd program on that stick, he could say
I've infringed on his rights under the GPL.

> Hackage is a means of distributing such code.  Because Hackage has received
> the code from the author, it therefore has the same obligations (under the
> GPL, or BSD, or whatever) as any other recipient.

Hackage has no obligations unless it's an intelligent entity.

Hackage does not have to enforce the GPL, the author responsible for the
perceived violation of the GPL must resolve it with the person claiming the
violation, either by settling it inside or outside of court, by either
making their code the GPL, or dealing with someone potentially bringing them
in front of a judge.

In fact the people running Hackage have now become the same as the person I
threw my flash drive over the cube wall to, and have the same rights as

> To be clear, like any recipient, one treats the donor in good faith.  That
> is, one believes the license granted by the author (or upstream distributor)
> is valid until notified otherwise.  It is the author's responsibility to
> check, not Hackage's.


Now for a bit of personal reflection that you can ignore if you wish...

Wouldn't it be excellent if Google could tell us just how many times
innocent mailing lists like haskell-cafe have to put up with confusion over
the GPL?  Every single open source project I've ever been on has had a
mailing list that has had this problem in the last 15 years I've been active
in open source communities, and it just keeps rearing it's ugly head.

It's really irritating and distracts people who'd rather be sharing their
work with one another from doing so, completely thwarting the point of the
FSF to begin with.

As such I've long since abandoned any love for any form of the GPL, and much
prefer licenses like the BSD license.

> Regards,
>    Malcolm
> _______________________________________________
> Haskell-Cafe mailing list
> Haskell-Cafe at haskell.org
> http://www.haskell.org/mailman/listinfo/haskell-cafe
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