Cygwin license

DJ Delorie
Tue Mar 16 17:04:00 GMT 1999

> Specifically it should be possible for people to legally provide a
> service of compiling to binaries software that people already have a
> legal right to use. It is silly that Andy Piper, Earnie, Sergey et al
> are in technical violation of cygwin licensing terms when they are
> merely saving the rest of us time and effort.

The GPL was designed - by *lawyers* - to prevent people from
distributing a binary without sources.  A "legal right to use" is
irrelevent in this case, as the GPL's scope simply doesn't cover
*using* software (section 0, para 2).  The GPL requires that the
distribution of a binary imply availability of *those* sources
guaranteed by the distributer of the binary, regardless of whether or
not the recipient has a right to use.  The GPL also clearly states
that if for any reason you are unable to meet all the requirements of
the GPL, then the only way to satisfy the GPL is to not distribute the
software (binary or source) at all (section 7 para 1).

As far as Andy et al providing a "service" to others, yes I agree that
it's a good service.  However, they must *legally* put the sources
they used out there with the binaries.  The GPL requires it.  Patches
are not acceptable.  Relying on a third party's ftp site is not
acceptable.  If Andy puts out a binary for emacs, and the FSF stops
distributing emacs sources, Andy has broken the law.  Considering how
trivial it is to zip up the sources too, is it really a problem?

Note that this is different from the case where person A gives sources
to person B for person B to compile on behalf of person A.  In this
case, as long as B doesn't change the sources, the GPL is already met
because when B gives A the binary, B knows that A has the sources for
that binary.  B pedants could just give the sources back to A anyway,
but it wouldn't make a difference for A if they already have a copy.

PS: I'm not saying Andy *is* breaking the law.  I don't know.  Maybe
he does the right thing, maybe not.  It's just an example.  OK?

> We agree on everything except the interpretation of the GPL under
> the laws of the US.

Perhaps, but the GPL has been reviewed by many lawyers, and I feel
that it's a pretty solid legal document.  My "interpretation" of the
GPL is based on many lengthy conversations with RMS over the last 11
years, since none of these issues is new.

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