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Custom Compiler and Libc Licensing

Posted on 2003-02-26
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Last Modified: 2012-05-04
I am currently working on a compiler/linker for Linux and I have a question related to the licensing of Linux's libc. If I release a compiler that uses libc, and someone compiles a product with it, is their product also subject to the libc licensing (since part of the compiled code may include compiled code from libc as well)?

Basically, I want people to be able to use my compiler to produce their products without worrying about the restrictions of the GNU Library General Public License. Is this possible?
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Question by:masterful
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by:bryanh
ID: 8031254
You need to be more specific about how the compiler "uses" libc.  Does the compiler invoke libc routines in the process of generating object code?  Does it take code from libc and put it in its output (which means it is a linker as well as a compiler)?  Does it include libc .h files in the source stream it compiles?
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by:masterful
ID: 8033241
Yes, the object files that the linker generates invoke malloc() and friends. I know a dynamicically linked malloc() in their final product would be fine, but if they chose to statically link their application, then would they be forced into the terms of the license?
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bryanh earned 200 total points
ID: 8034723
They'd be safe.  That's the purpose of the LGPL vs the GPL.

If you combine LGPL code with other code (such as by static linking), and the other code interfaces to the LGPL code only through interfaces intentionally exposed by the LGPL code, you can distribute the combination without having to distribute source code for the other code.

By contrast, if that LGPL code were GPL instead, you would in that case have to distribute the whole combination under the GPL, which includes distributing source for the other code.  At least that's what the inventors of GPL believe.

And note that if the other code linked dynamically to the library, then neither GPL nor LGPL on the library would trigger any restrictions on distributing the other code.  Except that some people believe if the other code implements the interface by #including header files from a GPL library, then the other code must be distributed under GPL.
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Author Comment

by:masterful
ID: 8034801
Thank you! I just needed that clarified before I advanced my project any farther. Software licensing can be a major pain to deal with sometimes.
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