March 6th, 2002, 06:31 PM
Abusing the GPL
I read this post from cliff. I would like to be able to give him some insite. Please help. If you know anything about GPL LAW or if you have anything to add. thanks
Abusing the GPL?
Posted by Cliff on Wednesday March 06, @08:28AM
from the manipulations-and-loopholes dept.
Anonymous with good reason, a reader would like to bring this important question to your collective attention: "Our (technically savvy) lawyer has advised my company that 'incidental resources' do not a work derive. For example: If I have a student's version of a development environment whose license does not allow me to distribute code compiled with it for commercial use, I am legally allowed to use the environment to create my ANSI C++ code, which, when I compile it with GCC, I am free to use to whatever commercial end I like. This seems fairly intuitive. (After all, you could have written the same thing in a text editor, and the debugging, etc, that you need the IDE for doesn't actually 'show up' in the final code). Here's the kicker: My company wants to translate this to an abuse of the GPL and has been advised 'full speed ahead!'"
"How, you may ask?
Integrate the highly useful GPL code we're eyeing into our only slightly more complex (but much more lucrative) project, thereby saving us at least 30% of the coding involved. The company then go all the way to production with it, but instead of finally compiling the actual project for distribution, they instead compile a bunch of incomprehensible gobbledygook that just happens to compile to the same bytecode. You know the game: globally replace every function name, variable name, and so on from our code with nonsensical names (or random characters), remove all of the comments, and any other form of obfuscation they can introduce. They will then GPL the obfuscated gobbledygook, which isn't much more useful to anyone than reverse-engineered bytecode would be (it is a complex project). 'Voila!' All the benefits of a huge GPL project and countless thousands of volunteer hours and unreadable, incomprehensible source tree.
For the record: I do not think this is right yet, I have not been able to find any precedent for why the GPL should protect against this kind of abuse.
I'm not trying to snitch on my company -- or lose my job, which is why I am posting anonymously -- but hopefully some lawyers out there could point out some iron-clad legal reason preventing this sort of thing. I've read the GPL through at least a dozen times since yesterday, and so far it looks like our lawyer is right. I have not found any relevant linkage either, as I have mentioned. Links to extended legal analyses of the GPL from a technical standpoint (if any exist) would be the most helpful. All help is appreciated."
Computers make sense people
March 6th, 2002, 06:50 PM
As far as I know, this is totally legal. It is very unethical, but totally legal. I think there may be something about the original code that they use though. They can't gobbledygook the GPL code that they use. I am not 100% sure about that though. You might want to check the EFF ( www.effnet.net ) I believe. They would be the ones who should be able to give you an exact answer.
\"Ignorance is bliss....
but only for your enemy\"
March 6th, 2002, 08:15 PM
Computers make sense people
March 7th, 2002, 12:49 AM
If your "gobbldegook" happens "by coincidence"
to compile into the same binary as someone
else's binary, it's piracy, and anyone can see through
I came in to the world with nothing. I still have most of it.