[Haskell-cafe] Using stringize and string concatenation in ghc preprocessing

Bryan Richter b at chreekat.net
Wed Jan 25 17:09:20 UTC 2017

On Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 11:36:35PM -0500, Stefan Monnier wrote:
> >>> I note that a company I worked for refused to have any GPL
> >>> software on their machines, even GCC, due to legal advice.  That
> >>> was a couple of revisions of the GPL ago, but some scars last.
> >> By "some scars last", do you mean "I'll stay away from that
> >> company"?
> > No, of course not.  The key point was that we were a small company
> > and would not have survived a law suit, win or lose.
> I don't follow: the "keep away from GPL" stance seems to only make
> sense in the context of a very large corporation where the potential
> benefit of that one little tool (GHC) is dwarfed by the general risk
> of using things whose license can't be controlled via money.

In general, it has nothing to do with controlling the software.

In the American legal system (which inherits from the British system),
the rules are defined based on previously-established rules
("precedent"). This contrasts it with, say, the discipline of physics,
which continuously tries to discover first principles. Law just keeps
accreting its principles.

One effect of this is that it is easy to tell if you are on safe ground.
Are you doing something that is exactly like something else that has
already been decided on? Then you can be pretty certain you will know
the legal results of your actions. You can know if it's "safe" or
"risky". Some issue that has not been explored in much detail is
decidedly risky. The act of creating new legal principles is long, very
costly, and entirely uncertain. The act alone will kill most small
organizations, whether or not the result is in their favor.

The GPL still has a very sparse legal history.

Lawyers are rationally conservative. They will warn their clients of the
sparse legal history of the GPL. Thus, if using GPL'd software is not
related to a company's mission, the smart executive will avoid it. Why
open yourself to unnecessary risk? Why not simply using one of the
dozens of other solutions that have less uncertainty? This is
*especially* true for smaller companies!

Please note I'm playing Devil's advocate here. I use the GPL myself, and
think highly of it. I simply understand that antagonizing people who
rationally avoid it will get us nowhere.

> Reality check: Has anyone ever heard of a company sued because they
> use a GPL'd tool?  Ever?  How 'bout in your wildest dream, maybe?

I can list a few, mostly involving Linux. But only a few. That's the

Here's a FAQ about one such case:

Note that the SFC very carefully chose the venue for this case: Germany,
which apparently does not have a precedent-based legal system. The SFC
are trying to build a base of legal history for the GPL in the safest,
most conservative manner possible.
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