Re: GPL violations: make it harder

From: Mike A. Harris (
Date: Tue Sep 05 2000 - 21:23:34 EST

On Tue, 5 Sep 2000, Andreas Dilger wrote:

>Brian Hayward writes:
>> I also think it's a logical conclusion that a patch to a GPL'd program is
>> released under the GPL - even if you don't specifically say so.
>Actually, this totally makes sense, because a patch contains "context" lines
>and therefore includes GPL code in it - hence it MUST be under the GPL if it
>is redistributed.

That argument, without a doubt is the bottom line indeed. Nobody
ever said that GPL code must do anything useful, or even compile
for that matter... A patch file is useless without the code that
it patches after all. If the patch contains those context lines
as you say, then it is definitely a derivative work of the code
it is patched against. The only exception I can think of is a
patch that merely includes new files into the tree without
actually modifying ANY existing kernel source, including
menuconfig, and any other files. If even one file in the kernel
source gets modified, then the entire patch is GPL via the GPL
assimilation rules in COPYING - regardless of what the author of
the patch says.

For patches to be licensed otherwise would require that someone
write some nasty scripts to patch the kernel given explicit line
numbers, etc... and it is likely possible in theory, but doubtful
that anyone would ever do it due to the effort involved and the
brown stuff that would come back at them from an ethical point.

I'm glad you brought up this point indeed! Good thinking!

Mike A. Harris                                     Linux advocate     
Computer Consultant                                  GNU advocate  
Capslock Consulting                          Open Source advocate

#[Mike A. Harris bash tip #3 - how to disable core dumps] # Put the following at the bottom of your ~/.bash_profile ulimit -c 0

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