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Open Source Licensing: Risk and Opportunity, Part One

Jul 22, 2011, 06:01 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by DR. Ignacio Guerrero)

"Let's look in more detail at the obligations associated with the copyleft licenses as exemplified by LGPL and GPL. There is a significant amount of controversy surrounding the interpretation of GPL and LGPL licenses. See, for example, the section "linking and derived works" in the Wikipedia GPL article. The key concept that determines obligations is the concept of "derivative work." This term has a legal definition that has a long history in copyright law as it applies to various creative works. However, in the case of software, there is legal ambiguity that has not been settled by the courts. If we take a conservative view that any combination through source code or linking constitutes a derivative work, the GPL license clearly establishes that all derived works are to be released under GPL. LGPL, on the other hand, makes a distinction between different kinds of derived works. The LGPL license says that "You may convey a Combined Work under terms of your choice…" as longs as the user can "recombine or relink the Application with a modified version of the Linked Version to produce a modified Combined Work." The implication is that if an application uses a statically linked library, the application distribution must deliver the source or object files to allow re-assembling the application. In case of a dynamically linked library, there is no such obligation because the application can be re-assembled without the source or object files."

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