Re: GNOME-media on the road to 2.4.0

On Wed, 2003-08-13 at 14:36, Havoc Pennington wrote:
> On Wed, Aug 13, 2003 at 01:26:00PM +0100, Brian Cameron wrote:
> > 
> > Bastian asked me to talk to you about this issue to get a better
> > understanding about why it is not necessary to change the licenses
> > of the various GNOME audio players.
> > 
> > Can you help me to understand this?
> > 
> If a proprietary or patent-licensed mp3 plugin is clearly
> independently written (does not contain gstreamer code) and gstreamer
> only accesses it via generic, well-defined interfaces it would use to
> access any other plugin, then the plugin may not be a derived work of
> gstreamer and thus the GPL does not apply.
We are walking a fine line here, and we (gstreamer) has discussed issues
similar to this with RMS at a couple of ocations. The question then has
tended to be wether you can legally use GPL plugins in a non-GPL
compatible application. Which afaik should entail the same legal
questions that we know are discussing, namely wether you can access a
non-GPL compatible plugin from a GPL application.

The question is not a purely legal question in my view, but also a moral
one. As we (gstreamer) has discovered when talking to library
maintainers asking them to relicense to LGPL we have sometimes
experienced that the library authors used the GPL with the clear intent
that they didn't want their code to be used by non-GPL compatible stuff.
This means that even if we could contruct a legal argument, like the one
you outline above (that reading of the GPL isn't uncontested afaik),
there is the moral question if we really want GStreamer or any other
GNOME component to be tools for abuse of the original authors license be
it GPL or something proprietary. So while we MIGHT be legally in the
clear, there is the question wether we would be doing what we think are
morally right here.

> If you were to use gstreamer code in the plugin, or create interfaces
> between the plugin and gstreamer that were specific to your plugin or
> specific to mp3, or something along those lines, your plugin might
> become arguably a derived work.
Well GStreamer plugins are written to link to the libraries, which means
the plugins afaik are to be considered GPL if the library is GPL. The
basic question as hinted of above is then wether the plugin license and
the application license is related at all or if GStreamer allows you to
freely use GPL plugins in properitary apps, and the other way around
allows you to use propertary plugins with GPL apps.

> The plugin itself definitely can't be GPL; it has to be something 
> that doesn't conflict with a patent license.

Yes, however many of the libraries in question are GPL, so I tried mailing 
Eben Moglen asking him for some template text for an exception, similarly to 
what people tended to need with Qt,  to add to the GPL for these
libraries to solve the issue as many of them are not willing to
relicense, often cause they don't acknowledge the rightfullness of the
patents. (which of course could make them unwilling to even add an

> You should probably ask your lawyers though...

Since Eben never replied so was Brian kind enough to send a email to
some Sun laywers asking if they could help us write a good exception
text that both library authors and application authors can add to their
GPL license if they do not wish to relicense to the LGPL.


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