Re: GPLed AbiWord with QNX/Photon

Subject: Re: GPLed AbiWord with QNX/Photon
Date: Tue Dec 21 1999 - 15:22:09 CST

Thomas Fletcher wrote:
> Sure ... but remember that the windowing system in this case
> is not an integral part of the system. It isn't a library,
> it is just an application just like an XServer is a specialized
> application that runs to provide you with a graphics interface
> (to which you can then code using a standard api).

But X is a set of libraries. Clients link with xlib, so that
they can call functions to speak the X protocol to a server
connection. That you are actually running a server somewhere
probably does not affect the licensing of the X client application.
Xlib is (1) bundled with Unix operating systems proper or (2) freely
available from other vendors (XFree86) for Unix or Unix-like
operating systems.

> Yes but you wouldn't think that a user who decides not to
> buy HP's windowing system from them (in favour of a free
> alternative, or nothing at all) wouldn't be able to run
> your product.

I'm not quite sure what you mean. If a user does not buy HP
SuperWindowSystem (which can handle X protocol sessions), but
instead runs XFree86, and links his programs against XFree86,
I see no reason he could not release his programs under the GPL.
If he instead licenses HP Next Generation Windowing System
(Proprietary Edition), which is very proprietary and not part of
any standard operating system release, and does NOT provide any sort
of compatability with existing protocols, I believe the intent of
the GPL is to prevent that user from linking FooProcessor with
a proprietary libNextGenerationWindowingLibrary.a, thereby requiring
its users to license proprietary software.

I am not defending the wording or intent of the GPL, I am just
making sure that we're in compliance with it.

> I have a hard time understanding where this reasoning
> comes from, I guess that I'm more a proponent of software
> freedom being the ability to empower users with software
> that they can easily get their hands on. The fact that
> it is a window manager that you buy (I buy BeOS/Window etc)
> and is integrated into the OS is totally secondary.

These days, anyway, BeOS and Windows come (as an "operating system")
with all the run-time libraries to support graphical
applications. I'm sure Richard will correct me if I'm
wrong, but since Microsoft makes freely available (for any
installation of their operating systems) the MFC (Microsoft Foundation
Classes) run-times, the Win32 common control run-time libraries,
and many, many other libraries, linking with these components is
legal for GPL'ed software. If users must license "John Doe's
Number Crunching library", or even "Microsoft's Extra Component Object
Pak" (sold separately from the operating system) in order to run
"Jane's Free Spreadsheet", Jane's program can no longer be licensed
to its users by the terms of the GPL.

I am really not sure where the lines have been drawn on this issue
in the past. That is why I'm asking the experts. :)

> If I could run Windows without it's graphical interface
> then I would ... oh wait that would be Dos & Windows 3.1 =-)

And also 95/98, and perhaps NT if you invest in a completely
different shell, though I'm not sure this exists. I am honestly
not sure about the Windows 3.1 and DOS case.

> So if I were to get AbiWord up and running under 3.1
> would I be having the same discussion. No one forces
> you to buy Windows 3.1 to run with DOS ... it is an
> extra that I pay more for. Now switch QNX/Neutrino
> for DOS and Photon for Windows 3.1 and you have the
> exact same situation.

Please don't take this thread as an argument against QNX in any way.
It's an incredibly cool piece of software, and its modularity
is amazing. I'm just trying to be very careful where international
copyright law might very well affect me or the company I represent.
I would _love_ to have a QNX/Photon port of AbiWord; it's just about
the neatest front end we would have!

If it turns out there are absolutely no license problems with Photon,
I will be very, very happy, and we'll all go on writing more code. :)

Shaw Terwilliger

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