GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

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GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Tom Tobin-2
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 <[hidden email]> 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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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Achim Schneider
Tom Tobin <[hidden email]> wrote:

> 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.
>
Or are dual-licensed under GPL. That is, the license field in .cabals
should take a list or even bool ops, and cabal sdist should utterly
fail (as well as hackage) if code that depends on GPL isn't marked as
GPL.

Note that this is a safety measure for the submitter: If the code is,
indeed, released to the public, it is (dual licesed) GPL, anyway, even
if that might not have been the intent.

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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Vo Minh Thu
In reply to this post by Tom Tobin-2
2010/3/4 Tom Tobin <[hidden email]>:

> 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 <[hidden email]> 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.

Hi,

Great to have the answer but it's confusing to me...

The next question that comes to mind is thus:
What if a new library X' released under BSD or MIT license implements
the X API (making possible to compile Y against it)? Can such a new
library X' be licensed under something else than the GPL (we guess Yes
because we don't think it is possible to license the API itself)? Why
should the existence of X' make any difference for the author of Y?

Cheers,
Thu
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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

MightyByte
In reply to this post by Tom Tobin-2
Interesting.  It seems to me that the only solution for the
BSD-oriented haskell community is to practically boycott GPL'd
libraries.  From what I understand, this is exactly what the LGPL is
for.  I've known the basic idea behind the GPL/LGPL distinction for
quite awhile, but I didn't realize that mistaking the two had such
far-ranging consequences.  Since GPL seems to be the big elephant in
the room, it seems very easy to make this mistake.  At the very least
we should try to educate the community about this.


On Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 12:34 PM, Tom Tobin <[hidden email]> 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 <[hidden email]> 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.
>>
> _______________________________________________
> Haskell-Cafe mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://www.haskell.org/mailman/listinfo/haskell-cafe
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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Stephen Tetley-2
In reply to this post by Tom Tobin-2
Hi Tom

Hmm, its seems I'm due to eat my hat...

To me though, the judgement makes that insistence that using an API is
making a derivative work. I can't see how that squares up.

Before I eat a hat, I'll wait for the explicit response if you don't mind.

Best wishes

Stephen
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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Robert Greayer-2
In reply to this post by Tom Tobin-2
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 <[hidden email]> 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 <[hidden email]> 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.
>>
> _______________________________________________
> Haskell-Cafe mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://www.haskell.org/mailman/listinfo/haskell-cafe
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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC

Stefan Monnier
In reply to this post by Achim Schneider
> Note that this is a safety measure for the submitter: If the code is,
> indeed, released to the public, it is (dual licesed) GPL, anyway, even
> if that might not have been the intent.

No.  If the submitter did not explicitly release his code under the GPL,
then it is not licensed under the GPL, even if is a derivative of
GPL code.  Instead, it is a breach of the GPL license and the submitter
is exposing himself to a civil suit.


        Stefan

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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC

Stefan Monnier
In reply to this post by Vo Minh Thu
> The next question that comes to mind is thus:
> What if a new library X' released under BSD or MIT license implements
> the X API (making possible to compile Y against it)? Can such a new
> library X' be licensed under something else than the GPL (we guess Yes
> because we don't think it is possible to license the API itself)?

Yes.

> Why should the existence of X' make any difference for the author
> of Y?

Because the existence of X' makes it possible to use Y without using X.
The order in which X and X' come to exist doesn't matter.

This exact scenario took place for the GMP library, whose API was
reimplemented as fgmp, specifically so that a user of the GMP
library could release their code under a different library than the GPL.


        Stefan

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Re: Re: GPL answers from the SFLC

Vo Minh Thu
2010/3/4 Stefan Monnier <[hidden email]>:

>> The next question that comes to mind is thus:
>> What if a new library X' released under BSD or MIT license implements
>> the X API (making possible to compile Y against it)? Can such a new
>> library X' be licensed under something else than the GPL (we guess Yes
>> because we don't think it is possible to license the API itself)?
>
> Yes.
>
>> Why should the existence of X' make any difference for the author
>> of Y?
>
> Because the existence of X' makes it possible to use Y without using X.
> The order in which X and X' come to exist doesn't matter.
>
> This exact scenario took place for the GMP library, whose API was
> reimplemented as fgmp, specifically so that a user of the GMP
> library could release their code under a different library than the GPL.

The thing is that the new X' library can provide the same API while
not being very useful (bug, performance, whatever). And in this case,
it is trivial to make that new X'. So I don't understand why the
answer was no in the first place.

They also said no for the second question, which was asking about some
possibility to make it legal to not license Y under GPL, and we are
saying that providing a new implementation is such a possibility.

So it is still either unclear, or either very constraining.

Cheers,
Thu
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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Maciej Piechotka
In reply to this post by Tom Tobin-2
On Thu, 2010-03-04 at 11:34 -0600, Tom Tobin 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
AFAIR AGPL can be linked with GPL (but not vice-versa) so Y can be on
AGPL (well - is AGPL a GPL in answer).

Regards


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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Matthias Kilian
In reply to this post by Tom Tobin-2
On Thu, Mar 04, 2010 at 11:34:24AM -0600, Tom Tobin wrote:
> [...] 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.

Was this a general statement or specific to the fact that (at least
GHC) is doing heavy inlining?

Anyway, I think the SFLC is the wrong institution to ask, since
they're biased.

Ciao,
        Kili
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Re[2]: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Bulat Ziganshin-2
Hello Matthias,

Friday, March 5, 2010, 12:56:48 AM, you wrote:

>> [...] 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.

> Was this a general statement

yes. it's soul of GPL idea, and it's why BG called GPL a virus :)


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Re: Re: GPL answers from the SFLC

Stefan Monnier
In reply to this post by Vo Minh Thu
> The thing is that the new X' library can provide the same API while
> not being very useful (bug, performance, whatever).  And in this case,
> it is trivial to make that new X'.  So I don't understand why the
> answer was no in the first place.

The law is not a set of mathematical rules.  It all needs to be
interpreted, compared to the underlying intentions etc...
So while you can say that it's pointless if you push the idea to its
limit, that doesn't mean that it's meaningless in the context of
the law.
All it might mean is that in some cases, the interpretation is
not clear.  It's those cqases where a court needs to decide which
interpretation should be favored.


        Stefan
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Re: Re: GPL answers from the SFLC

Darrin Chandler
On Thu, Mar 04, 2010 at 07:07:31PM -0500, Stefan Monnier wrote:

> > The thing is that the new X' library can provide the same API while
> > not being very useful (bug, performance, whatever).  And in this case,
> > it is trivial to make that new X'.  So I don't understand why the
> > answer was no in the first place.
>
> The law is not a set of mathematical rules.  It all needs to be
> interpreted, compared to the underlying intentions etc...
> So while you can say that it's pointless if you push the idea to its
> limit, that doesn't mean that it's meaningless in the context of
> the law.
> All it might mean is that in some cases, the interpretation is
> not clear.  It's those cqases where a court needs to decide which
> interpretation should be favored.

I'd like to point out that sometimes requesting that the author switch
from GPL to LGPL is all it takes. Some may even be willing to switch to
a BSD-style. It doesn't hurt to ask.

Of course libraries with many authors increases the headache.

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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Magnus Therning
In reply to this post by Stephen Tetley-2
On Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 18:05, Stephen Tetley <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Hi Tom
>
> Hmm, its seems I'm due to eat my hat...
>
> To me though, the judgement makes that insistence that using an API is
> making a derivative work. I can't see how that squares up.

That has, AFAIU, been the intention of the GPL all along.  See e.g.
http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/why-not-lgpl.html

It also explains why there has been a discussion in the Linux kernel
community about closed source drivers (e.g. nvidia).

The LGPL was, AFAIU, written to explicitly allow a shift of license at
the API level.  Without the insistence you point out, GPL and LGPL
would be pretty much the same license.

/M

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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Vo Minh Thu
2010/3/5 Magnus Therning <[hidden email]>:

> On Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 18:05, Stephen Tetley <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> Hi Tom
>>
>> Hmm, its seems I'm due to eat my hat...
>>
>> To me though, the judgement makes that insistence that using an API is
>> making a derivative work. I can't see how that squares up.
>
> That has, AFAIU, been the intention of the GPL all along.  See e.g.
> http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/why-not-lgpl.html
>
> It also explains why there has been a discussion in the Linux kernel
> community about closed source drivers (e.g. nvidia).
>
> The LGPL was, AFAIU, written to explicitly allow a shift of license at
> the API level.  Without the insistence you point out, GPL and LGPL
> would be pretty much the same license.

I don't see how what you say is related by the link you provide.

They say there is an advantage to make a library GPL when there is no
alternative so program using the library is required to be GPL too. As
an example,  they licensed the C library LGPL because they were
already other available C library, so making their one GPL licensed
could not really drive more programs to be GPL.

Indeed the boundary of a library is its API but that hardly translates
to say that the GPL covers the API.

Cheers,
Thu
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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Magnus Therning
On Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 08:55, minh thu <[hidden email]> wrote:

> 2010/3/5 Magnus Therning <[hidden email]>:
>> On Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 18:05, Stephen Tetley <[hidden email]> wrote:
>>> Hi Tom
>>>
>>> Hmm, its seems I'm due to eat my hat...
>>>
>>> To me though, the judgement makes that insistence that using an API is
>>> making a derivative work. I can't see how that squares up.
>>
>> That has, AFAIU, been the intention of the GPL all along.  See e.g.
>> http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/why-not-lgpl.html
>>
>> It also explains why there has been a discussion in the Linux kernel
>> community about closed source drivers (e.g. nvidia).
>>
>> The LGPL was, AFAIU, written to explicitly allow a shift of license at
>> the API level.  Without the insistence you point out, GPL and LGPL
>> would be pretty much the same license.
>
> I don't see how what you say is related by the link you provide.
>
> They say there is an advantage to make a library GPL when there is no
> alternative so program using the library is required to be GPL too. As
> an example,  they licensed the C library LGPL because they were
> already other available C library, so making their one GPL licensed
> could not really drive more programs to be GPL.
>
> Indeed the boundary of a library is its API but that hardly translates
> to say that the GPL covers the API.

Ah, I might have misunderstood the whole thread then.  I thought the
discussion was about using the API of a GPLd library.  While your
comment suggests it's actually about re-implementing a GPLd library,
making it API compatible, and releasing the re-implementation under
another license.

In that case wouldn't a project like Harmony
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmony_toolkit) be problematic?
So would editline's mode for compatibility with readline, right?

(GNU TLS would probably not get in trouble for providing an OpenSSL
compatibility layer though.)

/M

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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Stephen Tetley-2
Hi Magnus

The 'Why not LGPL' doesn't cover the particular argument here:

> using the ordinary GPL for a library makes it available only for free programs.

The particular concern we have here is quite specific, considering
(-->) to be a dependency, can Hackage libraries under BSD3 that depend
on libraries under GPL?

[1] App --> libBSD3 --> libGPL


Any App built has to incorporate the GPL library - so the App has to
be GPL. -- No dispute --.

Similar BSD3 is a GPL compatible library, so this dependency chain
would be legal:

[2] App --> libGPL --> libBSD

The argument is whether it is legal to distribute (read host on
Hackage) BSD3 libs that depend on GPL libs - formulation [1].


--

I'd have thought Harmony would be problematic for different reasons -
i.e. coping the API of a copyright work.

Best wishes

Stephen
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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Stephen Tetley-2
On 5 March 2010 09:38, Stephen Tetley <[hidden email]> wrote:

>
> Similar BSD3 is a GPL compatible library, so this dependency chain
> would be legal:
>
> [2] App --> libGPL --> libBSD
>


Typo above - should be

Similar BSD3 is a GPL compatible __license__, so this dependency chain
would be legal:

[2] App --> libGPL --> libBSD


Apologies all
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Re: GPL answers from the SFLC (WAS: Re: ANN: hakyll-0.1)

Magnus Therning
In reply to this post by Stephen Tetley-2
On Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 09:38, Stephen Tetley <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Hi Magnus
>
> The 'Why not LGPL' doesn't cover the particular argument here:
>
>> using the ordinary GPL for a library makes it available only for free programs.
>
> The particular concern we have here is quite specific, considering
> (-->) to be a dependency, can Hackage libraries under BSD3 that depend
> on libraries under GPL?
>
> [1] App --> libBSD3 --> libGPL
>
>
> Any App built has to incorporate the GPL library - so the App has to
> be GPL. -- No dispute --.
>
> Similar BSD3 is a GPL compatible library, so this dependency chain
> would be legal:
>
> [2] App --> libGPL --> libBSD
>
> The argument is whether it is legal to distribute (read host on
> Hackage) BSD3 libs that depend on GPL libs - formulation [1].

Now I'm even more confused.  How is hosting on Hackage an issue in [1]?

Both involved licenses are very liberal when it comes to distribution.
 The only issue I do see is that the author of libBSD3 is actually
deluding her/him-self, since the use of libGPL means both libraries
are in fact under GPL.  I don't see this being anything that anyone
involved with Hackage can be held responsible for, the responsibility
must fall on the author of libBSD3.  In this scenario I don't see
Hackage as anything more than a conduit.

/M

--
Magnus Therning                        (OpenPGP: 0xAB4DFBA4)
magnus@therning.org          Jabber: magnus@therning.org
http://therning.org/magnus         identi.ca|twitter: magthe
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