generic query regarding GPL and licensing terms associated with gdb

Martin Schröder
Fri Aug 13 15:35:00 GMT 2010

Robert Dewar wrote:
> Martin Schröder wrote:
>> paawan oza wrote:
>>> -> if idea is not patented but implemented under GPL (which uses and
>>> modifies original gdb source code), then it can be discussed.
>> Yup. If you can freely get the source code, you can freely talk
>> about its details. After all, whatever the source makes the machine
>> do, can also be emulated inside the human brain. ;)
> This is wrong, see my previous discussion

I think we misunderstand each other here. I'm not talking about trade 
secrets, patenting or usability for the GDB project. I'm talking about if 
it's legal to talk about what a given part of GPLed code *does*.

As soon as the GPLed code itself is disclosed (see below for the only time 
when that is NOT the case), it can't technically contain any trade secrets. 
A statement like:

if (isValid) { count +=1; } else { count -= 1; }

simply cannot carry any trade secrets that pertain to what this line of code 
does. If I tell you that this line checks if a variable is set to "true", 
and if it is, increments a variable, and if not, decrements a variable; I 
don't spoil any trade secret. I simply rephrase what the open source code 
already says.

What's in the GPLed code itself is always up for the grabs in that respect. 
The only thing that may contain any form of trade secrets are the reasonings 
behind the code, but it's hard (although not impossible) to completely hide 
the reasoning when you have to explicitly tell the machine what to do.

>>> -> that means organization has no way to claim the idea legally in
>>> any terms
>> That's the point of patenting (claiming that you invented it), and
>> the reason why patents should only be awarded for actual
>> manufacturing processes instead of ideas or concepts. And some argue
>> that software is nothing but concepts and ideas. ;)
> This is wrong, you can protect things by trade secret, and the fact
> that the original base code was obtained under a GPL license does not
> change that (in fact it is the GPL license that allows this to be
> done).

Of course you can protect things by declaring them trade secrets, but you 
can't patent those trade secrets without opening them. And if you copy a 
GPLed source, you better publish the alterations to the source code if you 
wish to redistribute the changes (I ignore Tivo-ization and binary blobs for 
the moment).

Only "in-house" changes that are not redistributed elsewhere don't need to 
be opened up, as stated in paragraph 2 (Basic Permissions) of the GPLv2. For 
everything else, the Paragraph 5 is what is important here. It states:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
You may convey a work based on the Program, or the modifications to produce 
it from the Program, in the form of source code under the terms of section 
4, provided that you also meet all of these conditions:
5.c) You must license the entire work, as a whole, under this License to 
anyone who comes into possession of a copy. This License will therefore 
apply, along with any applicable section 7 additional terms, to the whole of 
the work, and all its parts, regardless of how they are packaged. This 
License gives no permission to license the work in any other way, but it 
does not invalidate such permission if you have separately received it.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

That means, if Paawan comes into legal possession (i.e. he asked or paid for 
it) of a copy of the code, he may then freely publish it. He may have been 
charged money for it, but nothing in the license may forbid him to publish 
the code.

Of course, you can patent parts (or the whole) of it, in which case Pawaan 
may not redistribute it to others without paying licensing fees (thus making 
it useless to GDB), but *talking* about what the code *does* is allowed 
either way.

Either you publish the source code under the GPL, *or* you say the lines of 
code are a trade secret, but you simply can't have both.

If I'm amiss there (which is possible, given that the GPL is worded to 
endure in the judiciary system), please cite the relevant passage of the 
GPL. It'd be nice to know, you know. ;)

So long,

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