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Clarity on GPL and Octave licensing

From: John W. Eaton
Subject: Clarity on GPL and Octave licensing
Date: Tue, 30 Jan 2001 11:31:16 -0600

On 30-Jan-2001, Joshua Rigler <address@hidden> wrote:

| OK, maybe I'm just dense, but all the recent discussion/debate regarding
| licensing issues with Octave is only serving to confuse me.
| I am assuming that I can write both .m and .oct files which make calls
| to any of Octave's builtin and included functions (.m or .oct), and am
| not necessarily obligated to make that software GPL.  I know this is the
| case with GCC et al., but does this apply to Octave?

For M-files, you can distribute them under whatever terms you choose
(they are only interpreted by Octave, not linked together with it to
form a derivative work).

For .oct files, if you choose to distribute them, you must distribute
them under the terms of the GPL, since to be useful, they will be
linked with Octave, which is distributed under the terms of the GPL.
This also implies that if you choose to distribute your .oct files and
they require some other third party software, it also must be possible
to distribute that third party software under the terms of the GPL.

I believe that the FSF position on this can be summarized as follows:
if it were allowed to take Octave (GPL) and some third party software
(not GPL, perhaps even distributed separately) and write some glue
code with the intent of causing the two to be linked together,
you are in essence distributing a work that is part GPL and part
non-GPL, which is not allowed by the GPL.

| My problem is likely to stem from the fact that I do government
| sponsored research, and can't always provide my routines to the public,
| as much as I would like to!

Odd that if it is government sponsered (i.e., paid for by the public)
you can't always make the results available to the public.  (This is
just a comment on the sad state of government funding policies, not an
attack on you.)


Octave is freely available under the terms of the GNU GPL.

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