Unsure of the GPL

Discussion in 'Mac Programming' started by whooleytoo, Jan 8, 2009.

  1. whooleytoo macrumors 604


    Aug 2, 2002
    Cork, Ireland.
    Anyone here have GPL experience? I'm no lawyer and haven't worked with open source before, so amn't quite sure of how it works.

    We've been looking around for a 3rd party component, and have found one that's ideal, which is open source & GPL'ed. We weren't looking for an open source/cheap option, it just happens to be exactly what we're looking for.

    It's a background app which would run on our server as part of a much larger 'package'; we wouldn't be selling or distributing it as such, but would be relying on it to deliver part of the functionality of a commercial service.

    Does anyone know if this would be permissible under the GPL? If we needed to make bug fixes/add some minor new features, and were happy to submit those back (not sure of the mechanism for doing that); is that kosher? Any other gotchas we need to be aware of?

    We just want to make sure we don't step on anyone's toes, nor start relying on a 3rd party component and have it yanked out from under us.
  2. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    I'm not a lawyer, but as long as it's a stand-alone executable then you'd be fine. If it's a library that gets compiled into your executable then as long as you don't ever distribute your code you should be OK, but if you distribute your code then, in this circumstance, the "viral" aspect of the GPL would mean you had to distribute the source too. Of course if it's LGPL instead of GPL then that's different again...
  3. whooleytoo thread starter macrumors 604


    Aug 2, 2002
    Cork, Ireland.
    Thanks! Sounds promising.

    It is just an executable which runs on our server processing files, so wouldn't be linked in to our executables in any way. And we've no plans to distribute any code; except in the case that the authors of this open source app require us to submit any tweaks we might make.
  4. Berlepsch macrumors 6502


    Oct 22, 2007
    Did you ever read the GPL? You don't need to be lawyer to understand the implications for your project. You are free to modify existing programs, but the result is automatically GPL'd and that includes access to the full source code.

    You should also consider whether the features you plan to add are of general interest. In that case you can contact the maintainers of the original app and offer your mods for inclusion.
  5. AlmostThere macrumors 6502a

    Not an answer but maybe relevant, I have a vague recollection of this sort of issue coming up in the press, er, some website I read ... once :D

    You can benefit from GPL software (other people's work, often for the 'greater good') on the server side, build on it and not contribute your contributions to everyone else and still remain within the agreement. The issue to hand was that this use was within the rules of the GPL but maybe not quite in the spirit. I think Google's use of Linux was an example (although I believe they have contributed a lot to MySQL). This seems to be your situation.

    Sorry, couldn't find links, maybe old age is setting in ;)

    It is important to consider exactly what your code does, though. For example the GWT extension library found here http://www.gwtsite.com/ext-gwt-gwt-ext-what-now/

    GWT compiles from straight Java to server Java components and client side Javascript to produce [marketing speak] a rich, browser based, 2-point-oh, user experience[/marketing speak]. The Javascript potion is actually distributed to browsers, so the distribution clauses of the GPL apply to users of these libraries.

    Anyway, just some comments on an interesting issue.
  6. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    There are two simple principles with code licensed under the GPL:

    1. As long as you don't _distribute_ the results, you can use and modify the code as much as you like, without any obligations to anyone. So if you don't want to distribute the code, now or in the future, then you are absolutely fine.

    2. You can modify the code _and_ distribute the results if you license the results under the GPL. If you do that, you have to make sure that the software is accompanied by a copy of the GPL when you distribute it (so that the receiver knows their right), and you have the choice of either distributing the software together with source code, or to keep the source code available and give it to anyone who asks for it for three years; you can ask for money to cover the cost of copying. If you accompany the software with source code, you have no further obligations at all.

    This path is fine as long as you don't mind others reading your source code and being able to make use of it.

    I read that as "we've no plans to distribute the executable code". In that case you have no obligation to do anything at all.

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