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GPL Gets Its Day in Court in Israel 232

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the never-fun-to-break-new-legal-ground dept.
MadFarmAnimalz writes "In what appears to be the first court test for the GPL in the Middle East, Alexander Maryanovsky, the author of the GPL licensed Jin Chess Client is taking IchessU to court for violations of the GPL license."
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GPL Gets Its Day in Court in Israel

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  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:24AM (#16043427) Homepage Journal
    There is an open source chess client called JIN licensed under the GPL.
    This is an executable and front end chess client.

    This has been extended by iChessU to support a closed source DLL which adds new functionality (notably video streaming between players).

    The source code to the Expanded client is available [ichessu.com] and providing you have the closed source binary DLL, you can run the newly compiled program.

    Isn't this like me releasing a GPL program which is linked to the nvidia or ATI blobs?

    Hell, isn't it similar if I write a GPL application which uses the Windows API?

    I personally feel as though this is an overreaction, the ichessu site does not hide the fact its based on JIN and offers sources, or am I wrong and this is infact a genuine GPL violation?
    • No it's not (Score:5, Informative)

      by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@kei[ ]ead.org ['rst' in gap]> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:29AM (#16043447) Homepage

      Isn't this like me releasing a GPL program which is linked to the nvidia or ATI blobs?It isn't, because ATI and NVidia do not link to the kernel. The portions of the NVidia and ATi driver that *do* link directly to the kernel (also known as the "kernel stub"), are indeed GPL. What happns, is the closed source X driver communicates to and from the stub indirectly, not via linking.

      It's actually just a different DRM/DRI implementation, which nearly all X drivers use nowadays.

      Note in this case DRM does not mean "Digital Rights management", it means "Direct Rendering Manager"

      • by kabloom (755503)
        Incorrect. No part of the Nvidia driver is licensed under the GPL (see /usr/share/doc/nvidia-*/copyright on a Debian distribution). The Linux kernel is licensed under the GPL, but Linus does not consider all binary-only kernel modules to be derived works (only some of them). See http://kerneltrap.org/node/1735 [kerneltrap.org].

        Thus, our graphics drivers don't appear to be GPL violations.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by oliverthered (187439)
      If they ship the dll with the application then it may be a GPL violation if it falls out of the mere aggregation clause. When you write a GPL application against the windows API you don't usually ship the application with the windows API, and there has been a case of someone shipping a distro with the binary ATI + NVidia drivers being pulled up by the FSF for violation of the GPL.

      Personally I don't see how the GPL can be violated here and yet we still have PC's shipping with GPL software on them.
    • by TERdON (862570) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:36AM (#16043468) Homepage
      GNU about the GPL [gnu.org]: "This General Public License does not permit incorporating your program into proprietary programs. If your program is a subroutine library, you may consider it more useful to permit linking proprietary applications with the library. If this is what you want to do, use the GNU Lesser General Public License instead of this License."

      And in the license itself: "For an executable work, complete source code means all the source code for all modules it contains, plus any associated interface definition files, plus the scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable. However, as a special exception, the source code distributed need not include anything that is normally distributed (in either source or binary form) with the major components (compiler, kernel, and so on) of the operating system on which the executable runs, unless that component itself accompanies the executable."

      IMHO, that means Windows API = ok, Java API = ok, .NET API = ok, own API or library = not okay.

      And that makes sense. Otherwise I could just build all of my app in my "MainApp API" and GPL my "StartMainApp()" function call... :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        The question is slightly different when it comes to plug-ins, however.

        What happens if you release a GPL'd program with a plug-in API? That's fine.

        Now you release a closed-source plug-in. That's not fine, since the plug-in is a derived work of the GPL'd plug-in system; it won't work without it.

        Now, what happens if you license the plug-in API as a separate module under the LGPL (for example). The closed-source plug-in only depends on the plug-in module, which is LGPL'd. It inherits the GPL when use

        • If someone released a GPL program in one download, and the documentation instructed that you also need to download a DLL separately for the program to run, would the DLL be subject to the GPL?
          • The DLL would be subject to the GPL if and only if the DLL is only useful with the GPL'd program. In other words, linking to "MyP2PLib.dll" that you really just wrote to work with your "FooP2P" application would not be okay, but linking to "msvc70.dll" (a standard Windows library) would be OK.

            In technical legal terms, the test is whether the library is a "derived work" of the GPL'd program. Microsoft's dll would not ben a derived work because it wasn't designed specifically to work with FooP2P, but MyP2PLi

            • That's not right...intentions have nothing to do with it.

              You can license your code any way you want. If you want to license part of it as gpl, write a dll that is meant to work with your program only, but license it in a proprietary form, than release that stuff together with only the source code for the part that talks to the dll, you're fine. RMS would probably show up on your door holding a bat, but his lawyer won't be with him.

              The license limitations don't limit what your gpl code can do, they lim

        • GPL FAQ [gnu.org] on plug-ins:

          If a program released under the GPL uses plug-ins, what are the requirements for the licenses of a plug-in?

          It depends on how the program invokes its plug-ins. If the program uses fork and exec to invoke plug-ins, then the plug-ins are separate programs, so the license for the main program makes no requirements for them.

          If the program dynamically links plug-ins, and they make function calls to each other and share data structures, we believe they form a single program, which must be

          • by Kjella (173770)
            If the program dynamically links plug-ins, and they make function calls to each other and share data structures, we believe they form a single program, which must be treated as an extension of both the main program and the plug-ins. This means the plug-ins must be released under the GPL or a GPL-compatible free software license, and that the terms of the GPL must be followed when those plug-ins are distributed.

            The problem is that FSF is trying to pull a SCO here. Let me try to draw it:

            GPL'd application
            |
            v
            [di
        • Now you release a closed-source plug-in. That's not fine, since the plug-in is a derived work of the GPL'd plug-in system; it won't work without it.

          What you seem to be saying is that Microsoft owns every ActiveX component ever written. ActiveX is a form of "plugin," and you are saying that plugins are derived works.

          I object! And do not agree: a plugin is not a derived work of the plugin system.

          Further, a point of order: the GPL does not define what it covers, really. Only the law does. The GPL covers whatev
      • by Tim C (15259)
        own API or library = not okay

        Except of course that if it is your API/library, you own the copyright and are perfectly free to release it under more than one licence. That is, you can release a GPLed version, and a non-GPLed version that you incorporate into similarly closed code.
    • by bloodredsun (826017) <martin@@@bloodredsun...com> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:36AM (#16043473) Journal

      Nope.

      Only part of the client source code is downloadable, not the whole; this is a violation of the GPL. Also, the iChessU has an EULA which violates the GPL by placing new restrictions on how the code may be used.

      The bad faith negotations accusation may be an overreaction but it's hard not to think this when iChessU initially wanted to license JIN but backed out when it appeared too expensive for them and then proceeded to use it anyway.

      This is not an overreaction but a devloper fighting to prevent a third party assuming legal control of that developers work.

      • Only part of the client source code is downloadable, not the whole; this is a violation of the GPL. Also, the iChessU has an EULA which violates the GPL by placing new restrictions on how the code may be used.

        Lets just remember that you are supposed to claim copyright violation in court, not GPL violation. When the defendant says they have permission to redistribute your code, you ask where they got permission and let them point to the GPL. Then you point out how they have not lived up to their end of the

    • by jrumney (197329)

      Isn't this like me releasing ... isn't it similar if I write ...

      No, because in those cases you are the original author, so you can license the code how you wish. The GPL includes a specific exception for OS libraries that covers the second of these already, BTW.

    • by bWareiWare.co.uk (660144) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:30AM (#16043643) Homepage
      The nVidia blobs and kernel stub are not GPL. The GPL Linux kernel contains no code for accessing the NVIDIA blobs.

      The process of installing the nVidia Kernel stub combines GPL and non-GPL code and compiles it on your machine. The resulting binary is NOT re-distributable under any licence. This is why Linux distributions do not come with the nVidia and ATI drivers built in, but you must install them separately.

      This workaround works because the GPL only comes into effect when you copy a program not when you use it, as long as you are not copying (i.e. redistributing) the results you are not bound by its terms.

      iChessU could use the same trick. Download the standard JIN source, download the iChessU patch and binary and compile them yourself - noone is copying the result, so the GPL is not violated. Though the resulting program contains GPL and non-GPL code and so can never be copied under any licence.
    • Further information (Score:5, Informative)

      by kripkenstein (913150) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:57AM (#16043784) Homepage
      I happen to know Hebrew. Some more information from the Hebrew documents is the matter of money; the Jin programmer is requesting 20,000 NIS (about $4500) as 'damages' (for the violations made so far). This is perhaps an initial offer for settlement. Note how the $4500 is just higher than the $4000 he initially wanted from them (which seemed more than fair to me, personally).

      In the lawsuit, it is mentioned that in Israeli law (which I cannot confirm or deny, I have no idea) the minimal fine possible for this type of offense is 10,000 NIS (about $2250).

      I can translate other parts of the Hebrew documents if anyone is interested.
      • by SashaM (520334) <msasha AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @09:24AM (#16043948) Homepage
        Umm, actually, that is false. We are asking for a total of 110,000NIS (about $25,000).
        • Well, you would know :) But where am I reading it wrong? In the attorney's letter, point #6 says 20,000 NIS; I can't find the 110,000 NIS figure you mention there. IANAL, so please explain - is the 20,000 (for 'statutory damages') just part of the damages you are seeking?
          • by SashaM (520334)
            That's the initial letter Jonathan sent to them, where he informed them of the violation and offered to quickly settle for a small amount of money. The lawsuit is a different document (No. 4 on the IChessU vs. Jin page).
            • Ok, thanks for the clarification. Please clarify something else, as well: it says in the lawsuit that you want 10,000 NIS per violation of copyright; you claim 11 violations, for a total of 110,000 NIS. The 11 counts include - if I read correctly - 8 bitmap images of Jin's interface. Am I right in understanding that you want 11,000 NIS (about $2250) for each screenshot of your software that appears on their site?
              • by SashaM (520334) <msasha AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @10:21AM (#16044339) Homepage

                Am I right in understanding that you want 11,000 NIS (about $2250) for each screenshot of your software that appears on their site?

                10,000 NIS per screenshot, not 11,000. I realize it sounds funny asking damages for screenshots, but the Israeli law only allows between 10k and 20k of damages per violation. We are also suing via a legal "fast track" (otherwise it'd take years to get a decision) where we must ask for minimum damages. So, without the screenshot damages, I could be looking at spending the same amount of money on the lawsuit as the potential damages. Plus, after a couple of weeks of futile attempts to explain to Mr. Rabinovich that he is wrong, and him basically telling me to fuck off, you could imagine I'm a bit pissed and want to nail him for everything he has.

                Alexander (aka Sasha) Maryanovsky.

                • (Oops, I meant to write 10,000, came out 11,000. Ah well.)

                  Ok, thanks for the clarifications. And yes, I can easily understand how you would be justifiably pissed off here. I wish you luck in getting them to stop their infringing use of your GPLed code.
                • by Wumpus (9548)
                  Sasha,

                  You might want to talk to your attorney before you post public comments about your case. This is always a good idea when you have ongoing litigation.

                  • by SashaM (520334)

                    As I replied to someone else, (in Israel) lawsuits are public information, and I'm not divulging anything here that isn't in the text of the lawsuit.

                    Alexander (aka Sasha) Maryanovsky.

    • I believe that the FSF have stated on various occasions that while they would *like* GPL virality to extend to all methods of linking, "unfortunately" they can't enforce that for dynamic linkages, notwithstanding what it says in the license.

      The reason for this "problem" or "benefit" (depending on your philosophy) is very simple. Dynamic linking is done against an interface, and interfaces cannot be copyrighted because they are the key mechanism for interoperability. There are decades of case law enshrinin
      • Remember that, in C, you generally include header files in order to use a library (reguardless of dynamic vs. static linking). The header file itself is copyright, so unless you pull some more complex trick you're generally succeptible to the GPL.
        • by grylnsmn (460178)
          By that argument, you should be paying SCO $699 per CPU to license Linux. Why? Many of their alleged copyright violations involve header files.

          Remember, the header file defines the interface, and the interface itself isn't protected by copyright.
      • by kabloom (755503)
        Notwithstanding what the FSF says about dynamic linking, I'm sure that as cases come up in court, courts will work out a fair solution for dynamic linking that may take in other factors such as how many different libraries implement the same interface (i.e. whether one could plausibly say that their code is not linked specifically against the GPL'ed code.)
    • by SashaM (520334) <msasha AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @09:18AM (#16043901) Homepage

      I personally feel as though this is an overreaction, the ichessu site does not hide the fact its based on JIN and offers sources, or am I wrong and this is infact a genuine GPL violation?

      Actually, there are several violations:

      1. IChessU's released source code does not compile, so it can't possibly be considered the "complete corresponding source code", regardless of the status of the audio/video library (which to the best of my understanding of the GPL is also covered by it).
      2. IChessU do not release their application under the GPL, but instead under a horrendous EULA [ichessu.com]. Read it, really.
      3. Although they do mention Jin, they don't mention my copyright. Instead it's "Copyright (C) [2006] [unknown]", as if they don't know whose copyright Jin is.
      Alexander (aka Sasha) Maryanovsky.
      • by sjwaste (780063)
        Actually, there are several violations:

        I'm not a lawyer (yet), but I take you're party to this suit. Do you really think you ought to be discussing your claim on a public forum prior to the hearing?
        • by SashaM (520334)

          (according to my lawyer) all the information in a lawsuit in Israel is public knowledge - the text of any filed lawsuit is available to the public. I'm not writing here anything that isn't in the lawsuit, so I think I'm safe.

          Alexander (aka Sasha) Maryanovsky.

          • by sjwaste (780063)
            Sounds good. I hope you don't think I was giving you a hard time, I wasn't!

            Seemed like you were just restating what was in your claim. Hope you win this one, seems like someone is just taking advantage of open source software for their own gain.
            • by SashaM (520334)

              There's nothing wrong in taking advantage of open source software for your own gain. I do it every day when I use Linux. But yes, I know what you meant :-)

              Alexander (aka Sasha) Maryanovsky.

    • by petrus4 (213815)
      If the program needs the non-GPL binary lib in order to work at all, and the binary lib does not have available source, then yes, that is a violation. Anything being GPLed means that source must be available with binaries for the entire application, including libraries.

      However, if the binary lib in question is optional, then no, it is no more a violation than people using binary video card drivers with the Linux kernel. Of course, the FSF attack bots who oppose that practice will probably want the defendant
  • by H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:43AM (#16043498) Homepage Journal

    It's great that we will get the benefit of this ruling during the year when GPLv3 [fsfeurope.org] is being written. This sort of thing provides great suggestions for what should be clearer or worded differently.

    • by Watson Ladd (955755) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:52AM (#16043520)
      Why are laws written in english anyway? English is ambiguous, and that's a bad thing. Why not some formal law language with clear semantics and syntax?
      • by russ1337 (938915) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:07AM (#16043567)
        We ocasionally need management to understand it.... (it should be written in colours and cartoon pictures of small animals..)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by RoboRay (735839)
        By law, at least in theory, laws are required to be understandable by the general public. Otherwise, ignorance of the law would be a valid defense. If the laws were written in some "law language" that only lawyers and judges understood, they could just tell you that the law said whatever they wanted it to say. How would you know they were lying to you and abusing the system?

        Of course, at least in the US, the law may as well be written in different language because even the law-makers don't generally unde
        • If the laws were written in some "law language" that only lawyers and judges understood, they could just tell you that the law said whatever they wanted it to say.

          I take it you've never read a statute, or any case history then? Laws are already written in legalese, and correctly interpreting them often does require legal training. Sadly, ignorance of them is still not an acceptable excuse.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by paskie (539112)
        Clear semantics and syntax reduces flexibility. This way it can be better applied to very diverse scale of real-world situations, based on the judge's judgement of the "spirit" of the law. Of course the cynical self must add "applied in a way sought by the party with a better lawyer", but I believe that in reality it's usually not really nearly that bad.
      • by dracocat (554744) *
        We could do something where the word "may" means the person is permitted to do something, and the word "shall" means that the person must do something.
      • by Konster (252488)
        Most laws are written in English, but with an unintelligible layer as posing as mitigant in between.

        This mitigant layer is known as Latin, and is only spoken by academics that have never had actual sex with another human being. It is also spoken by various other institutions that seek to lend credence to their arguments based solely upon the perceived acceptance of Latin as the tongue of choice by institutions of higher learning.

      • by kripkenstein (913150) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:43AM (#16043703) Homepage
        Why are laws written in english anyway? English is ambiguous, and that's a bad thing. Why not some formal law language with clear semantics and syntax?

        There are very good reasons why this is impossible. Actually, what you are proposing is a very natural notion, that sadly turns out to be wrong. I say 'natural', because during the first third or so of the 20th century, philosophy (of language, in particular), was seeking exactly what you are driving at - a 'pure' language, free from ambiguity. This would have had benefits for legal matters, as well as philosophical ones, and even metamathematical implications. But this was shown to be a futile attempt (Wittgenstein being the major figure showing this). I'll briefly summarize why this is so.

        First, when you refer to human-related things - as laws are, they mention e.g. 'assault', 'homicide', and so forth - there is no way to 'clean up' the language. It cannot be made unambiguous, because the underlying concepts are ambiguous. Try to define (as the famous example goes) 'game'. For any suggested definition, there are counterexamples (e.g. not all games are about winning or losing, not all games have scores, not all games are fun, etc. etc.). This is a simple consequence of the fact that life is complex - we use the word 'game' in many contexts, in many ways. Unlike in math, where we start with definitions, in the law we start with pre-existing human concepts and try to work with them. We therefore cannot arrive at unambiguous statements.

        Second, and this is a more subtle issue, language is meaningless without a context of use. By this I mean, that if you see some scribbles on a page, they are worthless without someone to read them. A sentence + a reader are what is necessary for 'meaning' to exist. Thus, even if we write what we believe to be unambiguous text, we can never remove the element of the reader: for us, the statement is unambiguous, but for another person, with a slightly different mindset, it may not be so. You may claim that your interpretation is 'correct', but that will not avail you when a matter is put before the public, i.e. open to interpretation by many people, as the law must be.

        Sorry to go on at length, but this is a fascinating topic for me.
        • by asuffield (111848)

          First, when you refer to human-related things - as laws are, they mention e.g. 'assault', 'homicide', and so forth - there is no way to 'clean up' the language. It cannot be made unambiguous, because the underlying concepts are ambiguous.

          While this is largely true, there are a number of ways in which the language could be significantly improved upon. Basically, all the nouns and verbs (and noun-/verb-derived adjectives/adverbs) that do not reference mathematically defined concepts are subjective in nature (

      • by g2devi (898503)
        > Why are laws written in english anyway? English is ambiguous,

        Seeing that few judges, laywers, or lay people understand Lojban ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lojban [wikipedia.org] ), there isn't much choice.

        The key thing is, any language that has poetry and metaphor, is ambigious by its very nature because these things tend to create multiple meanings for a single noun or verb or phases. Any language with slang like "so hot it's cool" or "so bad it's good" (i.e. most languages) is also ambigious.

        Since most popular lan
      • Because such a thing doesn't exist outside Neal Stephenson novels?
      • Of course, not all laws are written in English...Canadian laws are written in both French and English. I would go as far to say that most countries write their laws in their own official languages, keeping in mind that most countries have more than one official language...

        As far as law and ambiguity goes, you would think a simple statement like, "Thou shall not murder" is clear and precise. It is not. It leaves open to question for killing in self defense, killing for necessity, killing accidently, and k
      • >> Why not some formal law language with clear semantics and syntax?

        Several people have written objections to youe suggestion here, but computer-based solutions are easy to find if you use a reductionist approach and don't try to do *everything* mechanically.

        The simplest and most powerful approach by far is to apply formal semantics by case, not by generic mathemetics: For each area of legal engagement, a large number of highly specific case rules are defined and given a priority to define the order
      • Describing the real world in a formal language is a huge project (see Cyc, for example) and a workable law written in a formal language would be big and complex. Which means it will have bugs.

        With laws written in English, there's the chance for an educated and (we hope) neutral judge to make bug fixes without needing the authority to rewrite the bug-free parts of the law.

        Imprecision can also be good because the gaps it leaves give room for principles to work. Where libel law isn't explicit, then free speech
  • generous offer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by backwardMechanic (959818) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:53AM (#16043525) Homepage
    Is it just me, or does $4k sound very cheap for full rights to the source code?
    • by DrXym (126579)
      You'd have thought so, but apparently some people aren't even going to pay that much. $4000 would buy you a contractor for 8 days. If you're lucky you might have a semi-working GUI with big chunks of missing or bugged functionality at the end of that.
    • by Gorath99 (746654)
      As I understand it, the offer was not for full rights, but "merely" a license for distribution and further development.

      This difference may not sound important, but it is. If the full rights were sold, then the original developer could no longer license others, and could no longer enfore the GPL on the code. (Only the copyright holder can do so.)

      It's still cheap though.
  • by Kidbro (80868) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:22AM (#16043613)
    Here we go again... GPL doesn't need to be tested in court. GPL doesn't restrict you from doing anything. The only thing GPL does is to allow you to do some things with copyrighted work - such as, under certain circumstances, distribute said work even if you are not the copyright holder.
    What's being "tested", if anything, is copyright laws. And I believe that we all can agree on the fact that they are already, if nothing else, fairly tested in court.

    • I know what you're trying to say, but that's kind of wrong because it presumes all cases of "testing" are of the form "The GPL is invalid, therefore I can do what I want." This is not true. Not all cases are of that form.

      If someone interprets the GPL as meaning it's ok to release a proprietary extension to a GPL'd program using some type of unusual linkage mechanism, then yes, it may be necessary to test this in court depending on the beliefs of the person who wrote the code they're licensing. The person

    • by Decameron81 (628548) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:57AM (#16043783)
      "GPL doesn't restrict you from doing anything."


      Actually it does. Or can you merge GPL code and non-GPL code in a single codebase? This is a restriction of how you can use the code you obtained through the GPL license.
      • by FooBarWidget (556006) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @09:14AM (#16043881)
        Actually it does. Or can you merge GPL code and non-GPL code in a single codebase? This is a restriction of how you can use the code you obtained through the GPL license.

        That is not a restriction that GPL adds: you never were allowed to do that in the first place. Suppose the code is not under any license, then standard copyright law applies. And copyright law does not let you copy that code to your code AT ALL.
        • by nomadic (141991)
          That is not a restriction that GPL adds: you never were allowed to do that in the first place. Suppose the code is not under any license, then standard copyright law applies. And copyright law does not let you copy that code to your code AT ALL.

          Of course it does. If YOU hold the copyright to that code, you could merge the code if you wanted--EXCEPT for the GPL. Same thing if you got permission from the copyright holder to do it. Software licensing is very, very common.
          • by Kjella (173770)
            Of course it does. If YOU hold the copyright to that code, you could merge the code if you wanted--EXCEPT for the GPL. Same thing if you got permission from the copyright holder to do it. Software licensing is very, very common.

            I read what you wrote, and it doesn't make any sense. If it's all your code, then you're not bound by the GPL - you're the copyright holder and can do whatever you want. If you get permission from the copyright holder of the GPL'd code, you can do it - the copyright holder can give s
      • by Greyfox (87712)
        You can merge GPL code and non-GPL code all day long. You just can't distribute the results. I am not a lawyer but I've watched every episode of "Ally McBeal." Twice. I'm pretty sure that the courts would view distributing a set of patches or a binary DLL designed specifically for one application as a derivative works issue. I'd think that'd be pretty cut and dried. It's less obvious to me what would happen if you made a general API for embedding new components into an application and you or someone else pa
      • Of course you, as a user, can mix and match. You just can't distribute it if the licenses aren't compatible. Copyright is about distribution, not use.
      • Or can you merge GPL code and non-GPL code in a single codebase?

        Can you do that if you do not agree to the GPL?

        The GPL isn't what's restricting you from doing that. The GPL is making some acts legal that otherwise wouldn't have been. The fact it doesn't allow you, for example, to murder Eric Raymond doesn't mean the GPL is restricting you from doing something.

    • by SashaM (520334)

      Here we go again... GPL doesn't need to be tested in court.

      I think you are right in that it doesn't need testing in that sense. But a precedent does need to be set that if you violate the GPL, the court will punish you for it. Maybe if I win this lawsuit, the next IChessU will think twice before doing something like this.

      Alexander (aka Sasha) Maryanovsky

      • by Kidbro (80868)
        Agreed.
        However, any punishment will come from the fact that they've broken copyright laws, rather than the GPL.

        I want to make it very, very clear that my comment was not directed at you, Sasha. It was directed at the myth (lacking a better word) that the GPL needs to be tested. I'm annoyed with the slashdot blurb for "supporting" that myth, but I'm definitely not annoyed with you for taking things to court. Quite the opposite, I wish you the best of luck.

  • by SashaM (520334) <msasha AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @09:02AM (#16043807) Homepage
    Although the content is currently the same, the real URL of my Jin website is http://www.jinchess.com [jinchess.com] (could an editor please fix it - I think it can handle the residual slashdotting). I'll now get back to reading everyone's comments and reply where I can :-)
  • the author of the GPL licensed Jin Chess Client is taking IchessU to court for violations of the GPL license.

    It's not illegal to violate the terms of a contract you never agreed to. If you take someone to court for violating your software license, then (unless you're unlucky enough to live in a jurisdiction that takes EULAs seriously) you'd better have their signature, a record of their online agreement, or something to prove that they agreed to your license.

    If you don't have any of those things and you fe
    • by Wyzard (110714)

      The GPL is a copyright license, not a contract.

      Section 5 of the GPL says:

      You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copy

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @02:50PM (#16046588) Homepage Journal

    If I wanted to write a program that integrated with GPLed software but did not want release my code under GPL, here is what I would do.

    My strategy, instead of looking for loopholes in GPL's terms or figure out what is permitted, would be to completely avoid getting bound by the license. If I do not accept their license, then no lawyer is going to be able to make arguments about whether I complied or not. Don't fight on their terms. Don't let any of the text in their license be admissible or relevant.

    The key to doing this, is to forget that the code you want to integrate with, is GPLed. Forget you have any extra rights that you might exploit. Assume that the code you're depending on has the tightest, most restrictive and hostile license that exists. Handle integration with a GPLed chess program, the exact same way that you would handle integration with Microsoft Excel. Ask for no favors other than whatever is allowed by copyright law.

    To do that, the two major hurdles are:

    • My code should not be a derivative work.
    • My code's distribution package should not also contain the GPLed code. Don't distribute their code at all.

    If you can accomplish those two things, you avoid the license, and therefore it doesn't matter what kind of license it is, and it doesn't matter whether or not the terms of that license would permit whatever you're doing.

    I'm not 100% sure what the legal definition of derivative work is, but I do know that you find out by asking your own lawyer instead of FSF's lawyer. As soon as someone at FSF starts talking about what they permit, you know they're talking about their license instead of copyright law. And you need to concentrate on copyright law.

    One thing you can infer from the market overall, is that calling someone else's program does not make yours a derivative work. Even if you call the other work in a way that your program 100% totally depends on it and has zero worth without the other work, that doesn't make your program a derivative work. How do we know/infer this? From the proprietary software market. In spite of various projects like WINE, it's pretty safe to say that no Windows applications have any use outside of MS Windows. They simply don't run. If WordPerfect for Windows were a derivative work of MS Windows, don't you think Microsoft would have sued WordPerfect in order to squash the competition? Of course they would have. So don't worry about calling APIs.

    And it doesn't matter how public the API is. Especially in the DOS days, there were all sorts of programs that did very intimate things to MSDOS's internal structures (e.g. disk managers, many many TSRs, etc) and nowdays on MS Windows you see some of this with the AV products. But surely McAfee's AV program is not a derived work of MS Windows. So don't worry about calling or the intimacy of calling. To avoid being a derivative work, just make sure you don't use any of the other guy's code.

    Packaging. This is the tricky one. It's hard to sell a program that doesn't work on its own. The amusing thing here, is that with Linux, there are all sorts of packaging systems provided by the distributions, such as apt-get or emerge, that will solve this for you. If I wanted to write a proprietary program for Gentoo that depended on some GPLed stuff, it would be really easy to to just ship an ebuild that tells portage about the dependency, and it would get installed automatically when the user wanted to install my program. Then I wouldn't have to ship any of their stuff.

    MS Windows (and MacOS AFAIK) doesn't have any sort of automatic generic get-and-install-all-the-dependencies program. (That makes it actually harder to defeat the GPL on Windows than on Linux.) Of course, you can probably just ship your Windows app with an installer than downloads and installs the dependencies, but support and maintenance would be tricky. And it would be

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