Bundling and the GPL
Posted Jun 20, 2006 14:21 UTC (Tue) by sepreece
In reply to: Bundling and the GPL
Parent article: Harald Welte on the flood of GPL violations
There's also a fair chance that the distinction would be held to be irrelevant, under de minimis considerations. However, that could be taken either way - either bundling might be held allowable because it was not meaningfully different from post-installation download or post-installation download might be held not allowable because it was not meaningfully different from distribution-as-one.
When GPLv2 was released, the distinction did make it somewhat harder to create a product with an integrated free/proprietary binary running on it. In today's world it's much less hard - many devices and software packages are normally expected to update themselves when installed and the installation technology makes it relatively simple for manufacturers to meet the separation requirement, at least for devices designed to connect to networks. As a result, including the restriction in the license is largely pointless, today.
The more interesting question, today, is "what is a derivative work." If using interfaces made something a derivative work, then its distribution could be controlled whether separated or integrated. However, published, defined interfaces seem [to me, and IANAL] to be functional rather than expressive, which would suggest they would be available to anyone to use, whether marked as GPL or not, without making the user a derivative work. Remember that the license controls distribution, not use.
Of course, manufacturers (at least, big, well-established manufacturers) tend to have legal staff who are very conservative; the development rule in using OSS components tends to be "don't be a test case - stay well away from the areas of legal uncertainty."
to post comments)