PostgreSQL, OpenSSL, and the GPL
Posted Feb 18, 2011 6:24 UTC (Fri) by butlerm
In reply to: PostgreSQL, OpenSSL, and the GPL
Parent article: PostgreSQL, OpenSSL, and the GPL
The (USA) problem here is that a decision one way or the other here can only result from a final decision in a (multi-million) lawsuit over this obscure point, and that is rather unlikely to happen (FSF vs OpenSSL?).
A stronger (USA) precedent than any project here would ever need was set by Baystate v. Bentley Systems (1996). The key holding is that technical interfaces are not copyrightable. Not just binary interfaces, but structure and element names. See here (pdf).
Even if this ruling didn't exist, in no way is it reasonable to conclude that the resulting binary of a compilation process that includes an ordinary header file to be "based upon" that header file. The reason why is that the compiler doesn't include any part of an ordinary header file in the resulting binary - it simply refers to information contained within it. Big difference.
As a consequence the resulting binary is not "substantially similar" to the header file in any way, and thus cannot seriously be considered to be "based upon" it. If merely referring to information from another source made something a derived work, all academic research would stop tomorrow. That's absurd, the courts know it, and so they exercise a modicum of sanity (where they can) when issuing rulings like this.
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