Possibly OT: Splitting Hairs Over GPL?

Charles Curley charlescurley at charlescurley.com
Wed Apr 7 11:03:14 MDT 2010

On Wed, 7 Apr 2010 10:32:54 -0600
Kimball Larsen <kimball at kimballlarsen.com> wrote:

> I've got a question about the legal use of some software licensed
> under the GPL in conjunction with commercial software I'm writing.
> In particular, I'd like to allow my commercial software installer to
> install a full copy of GhostScript, then have my commercial software
> make a command-line call to the installation of GhostScript to
> convert a PDF to a JPG.
> If you are to believe the Artifex website (owners of GhostScript)
> this is not allowed. 
> If you are to believe the GPL website, this is allowed. 
> Anyone have some experience or knowledge on this topic? 

"Versions entitled GPL Ghostscript are distributed with the GNU General
Public License, which allows free use, and free copying and
redistribution under certain conditions (including, in some cases,
commercial distribution). Releases made prior to 2004 were part of the
GNU project and were titled GNU Ghostscript. The current development
code is available under a more restrictive license as AFPL Ghostscript.
A commercial version is also available from Artifex Software."


The web site at http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~ghost/ lists GPL Ghostscript
8.64  released 2009-02-03 as the most recent, but Ubuntu Lucid and
Sourceforge both have 8.71. http://sourceforge.net/projects/ghostscript/

If I remember correctly, there is a dual license scheme. Artifex
Software issues their code under their more restrictive license, then
later re-issues it under the GPL.

Rather than simply install Ghostscript, I'd first check to see it it is
already installed. If it is, I think you can presume it is there
legally, and that you are relieved of any legal burden. Only if it
isn't installed should you install it.

My non-lawyerly guess is that if you stick to the GPLled code, you
should be able to do what you want as long as you comply with the GPL.
I.e. tell the user you are including Ghostscript, that it is GPLled,
that you are required under the terms of the GPL to tell them where to
get the source for Ghostscript, and point them at a source.

Many years ago RMS indicated that simply providing a URL did not satisfy
him because not everyone is on the net. So you had to be able to ship it
on request. I don't know if that is authoritative, still RMS' opinion,
or what.


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