Embedding Bazaar into C/C++ applications

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at xemacs.org
Fri Dec 11 01:20:28 GMT 2009

Brian de Alwis writes:

 > First off, IANAL,

In practice, being a lawyer doesn't help.  Two authorities I respect
have radically different opinions on this.  Larry Rosen says that if
you don't distribute the GPL'ed code, there is no derivative under
copyright law.  Eben Moglen says that if you intend to combine your
work with a GPLed work, that's a derivative of the GPLed work.

So even if Larry is right, a lawsuit by a copyright owner won't get
thrown out of court, and that is the real issue: will the owner of the
code I'm linking to sue?  The FSF will.  You will pay court costs, and
pay a lot of money even if you win the court case.  A countersuit to
recover court costs will fail.  But for other entities, maybe not.
Canonical will probably threaten to sue and offer you a license that
costs less than the lawsuit.

 > A derivative work must then be licensed under a GPL-compatible
 > license.

A better word here is "GPL-equivalent" (although that's awkward).  In
FSF parlance, "GPL compatible license" means "copies or derivatives of
code under this license can be freely distributed under the GPL"
(although "freely distributed under the GPL is of course an oxymoron" :).

 > But the FSF's intent pretty clear, and I'm not prepared to test them!

The FSF has no standing to assert copyright in Bazaar, though, since
all Bazaar code is assigned to Canonical, and it doesn't even have the
right to define the meaning of the GPL for others' software (though
its opinion, and especially the published FAQ, would be extremely
influential in court with regard to any contested language -- but that
point is moot, if you're in court you've already lost).

Still, if I were you, I would write a letter to Canonical consulting
about licensing terms.  They're probably prohibitive, but why not
spend 10 minutes and a stamp?  You might be surprised, especially at
this stage of the game where Canonical is trying to ramp up support
for, and public profile of, Bazaar.

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