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GPL and Open Source Musings
Some of my time at my current employer is spent working on Open Source software and issues related to open source software. As a result I have had to think about how companies can use open source software and what they need to do to respect the licences that software is released under.

The following are some thoughts on some aspects of dealing with the GNU Public Licence (GPL). It sets out what I saw my role as at my employer when it came to the GPL.

  1. Educate my employer on the GPL. This meant trying to move people away from emotional responses to the GPL (ie, viral, communist, etc) and towards thinking rationally about what benefits we could obtain from the GPL and what our responsibilities are.
  2. Talk to lawyers and understand what they were saying about the GPL.
  3. Understand what we needed to do with respect to the GPL source we were using and how to release it.
  4. Prepare the GPL'd source code we were using for release. This involved:
    • Making sure that all libraries we did not want to release were removed and the functions actually needed were added to the source bundle being released.
    • Making sure all datastructures that were needed were provided.
    • Making sure that what I prepared could be built by our customers. We are not obliged to make it buildable on any platform you can name, simply a platform that will allow it to be built and then installed on our hardware. It will build on the same build platform we use, which is readily available.
    • Providing the source bundle to our web guys for them to put where our customers can get it, and talking to the documentation folks to make sure they include the necessary messages in the documentation.
    • Thinking about how to automate this process.

    None of these are particularly hard. I think it is a matter of being committed to respecting the GPL, and following through to ensure that all parts of the organization get all the steps right. I have yet to see if we can manage that ourselves, but we are trying.

For corrections/additions/suggestions for this page, please send email to: rsharpe[AT]richardsharpe[dot]com
Last modified: Wed, March 10 2004.