[sane-devel] Please give me some help to solve the license issues in using sane

Johannes Meixner jsmeix at suse.de
Tue Jun 10 14:00:38 UTC 2008


On Jun 6 16:40 Alessandro Zummo wrote (shortened):
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#FSWithNFLibs

As far as I see, it seems to be allowed from the legal point
of view to have free software that uses non-free libraries
because they only say that the program won't be fully usable
or not usable at all in a free environment but they don't
say it violates the GPL.

But what does "If it depends on a non-free library to run at all,
it cannot be part of a free operating system such as GNU" mean?

Is "cannot be part of GNU" meant as a license violation or
just that it cannot be included in a "free operating system"
simply because it is useless?

But why can't there be a program in a "free operating system"
which requires a proprietary library which checks if the
library file is there before it dlopens it and if the library
file is not installed, it shows a message where to get it
(e.g. where to download it - or perhaps it even runs a
download user GUI with appropriate license information).

For example a GPL media player which supports only a
proprietary media format. Such a program would be even useful
without the proprietary library installed because it would show
the user a message where to get the missing part.
Of course the proprietary library might be not available
for all hardware architectures but this does not mean
that such a GPL media player is useless in any case.
Of course all proprietary media formats and all proprietary
device communication protocols are against the intention
of a "Free World" but this does not mean that programs
for such formats/protocols are useless.

They even say:
If the program is already written using the non-free library,
perhaps it is too late to change the decision. You may as well
release the program as it stands, rather than not release it. 
This seems to indicate that free software that uses non-free
libraries is in compliance with the GPL from the legal point
of view.

Of course this is only what I perceive right now from what
I read there and of course I am not a lawyer!

Kind Regards
Johannes Meixner
SUSE LINUX Products GmbH, Maxfeldstrasse 5, 90409 Nuernberg, Germany
AG Nuernberg, HRB 16746, GF: Markus Rex

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