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Viral license is an alternative name for
copyleft Copyleft is the practice of granting the right to freely distribute and modify intellectual property Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things ...

copyleft
license A license (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States. Cur ...

license
s, especially the
GPL The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or simply GPL) is a series of widely used free software license A free-software license is a notice that grants the recipient of a piece of software extensive rights to modify and redistribute that ...
, that allows
derivative works In copyright law Copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to make copies of a creative work, usually for a limited time. The creative work may be in a literary, artistic, educational, or musical ...
only when permissions are preserved in modified versions of the work. Copyleft licenses include several common
open-source Open source is source code that is made freely available for possible modification and redistribution. Products include permission to use the source code, design documents, or content of the product. The open-source model is a decentralized softwar ...
and
free content Free content, libre content, or free information is any kind of functional work, work of art A work of art, artwork, art piece, piece of art or art object is an artistic creation of aesthetics, aesthetic value. Except for " ...
licenses, such as the
GNU General Public License The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or simply GPL) is a series of widely used free software license A free-software license is a notice that grants the recipient of a piece of software extensive rights to modify and software distribu ...
(GPL) and the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license (CC-BY-SA).


Scope

The term is most often used to describe the GPL, which requires that any derivative work also be licensed under compatible licenses with the GPL. The viral component is described as such because the licenses spreads a continuing use of the licenses in its derivatives. The "virality" can force a license change of free software, e.g. when software is derived from two or more sources having incompatible viral licenses in which the derivative work could not be re-licensed at all. Although the concept is generally associated with licenses that promote
free content Free content, libre content, or free information is any kind of functional work, work of art A work of art, artwork, art piece, piece of art or art object is an artistic creation of aesthetics, aesthetic value. Except for " ...
, some have attempted to compare it to the proprietary
original equipment manufacturer An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is generally perceived as a company that produces parts and equipment that may be marketed by another manufacturer. However, the term is also used in several other ways, which causes ambiguity Amb ...
source code software distribution agreements which grant licensees the right to redistribute copies of the software, but restrict what terms can be in the
end user license agreement An end-user license agreement (EULA, ) is a legal contract entered into between a software developer A computer programmer, sometimes called a software developer, a programmer or more recently a coder (especially in more informal contexts), is ...
. Such licenses could be considered viral if they led derivative or connected software to gain the same license. As an example of viral licensing outside software, after it was revealed that French author
Michel Houellebecq Michel Houellebecq (); born Michel Thomas; 26 February 1956 or 1958) is a French author, known for his novels, poems and essays, as well as an occasional actor, filmmaker and singer. His first book was a biographical essay on the horror writer ...
plagiarized Plagiarism is the representation of another author An author is the creator or originator of any written work such as a book or play, and is also considered a writer or poet. More broadly defined, an author is "the person who originated or gav ...

plagiarized
sections of Wikipedia articles in his novel '' La Carte et Le Territoire'', some commentators said that this automatically made his entire book licensed under the
CC-BY-SA A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyright Copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to make copie ...

CC-BY-SA
Attribution and ShareAlike license.


History

The term 'General Public Virus' or 'GNU Public Virus' (GPV) as a pejorative name dates back to a year after the GPLv1 was released. In 2001
Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company, technology corporation which produces Software, computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services. Its best-know ...

Microsoft
vice-president
Craig Mundie Craig James Mundie (born July 1, 1949 in Cleveland, Ohio Cleveland ( ), officially the City of Cleveland, is a major city in the U.S. state of Ohio, and the county seat of Cuyahoga County. It is located along the southern shore of Lake E ...
remarked "This viral aspect of the GPL poses a threat to the
intellectual property Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner o ...
of any organization making use of it." In another context,
Steve Ballmer Steven Anthony Ballmer (; March 24, 1956) is an American businessman and investor who served as the chief executive officer A chief executive officer (CEO), chief administrator officer, or just chief executive (CE), is one of a number of corporat ...

Steve Ballmer
declared that code released under GPL is useless to the commercial sector (since it can only be used if the resulting surrounding code becomes GPL), describing it thus as "a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches". In response to Microsoft's attacks on the GPL, several prominent Free Software developers and advocates released a joint statement supporting the license.


Criticism of the term

According to
Free Software Foundation The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a 501(c)(3) A 501(c)(3) organization is a corporation, trust, unincorporated association, or other type of organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the United States ...
compliance engineer David Turner, the term ''viral license'' creates a misunderstanding and a fear of using copylefted free software. David McGowan has written that there is no reason to believe the GPL could force proprietary software to become free software, but could "try to enjoin the firm from distributing commercially a program that combined with the GPL'd code to form a derivative work, and to recover damages for infringement." If the firm "actually copied code from a GPL'd program, such a suit would be a perfectly ordinary assertion of copyright, which most private firms would defend if the shoe were on the other foot." Richard Stallman has described this view with an analogy, saying, "The GPL's domain does not spread by proximity or contact, only by deliberate inclusion of GPL-covered code in your program. It spreads like a , not like a virus."


Interoperability

Popular copyleft licenses, such as the GPL, have a clause allowing components to interact with non-copyleft components as long as the communication is abstract, such as executing a
command-line A command-line interface (CLI) processes command COMMAND.COM is the default command-line interpreter A command-line interface (CLI) processes commands to a computer program in the form of lines of text. The program which handles the i ...
tool with a set of switches or interacting with a
Web server A web server is computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operations known as Computer program, pr ...
. As a consequence, even if one module of an otherwise non-copyleft product is placed under the GPL, it may still be legal for other components to communicate with it normally. This allowed communication may or may not include reusing libraries or routines via
dynamic linking In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and development of both computer hardware , hardware and softwar ...
— some commentators say it does, the FSF asserts it does not and explicitly adds an exception allowing it in the license for the
GNU Classpath GNU Classpath is a free software Free software (or libre software) is computer software distributed under terms that allow users to run the software for any purpose as well as to study, change, and distribute it and any adapted versions. Free ...
re-implementation of the
Java Java ( id, Jawa, ; jv, ꦗꦮ; su, ) is one of the Greater Sunda Islands in Indonesia. It is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the south and the Java Sea to the north. With a population of 147.7 million people, Java is the world's List of ...
library. The interoperability clauses are often pragmatically inoperative due to the vigorous enforcement and strict interpretation of the GPL as it related to integration, aggregation, and linking. It is argued that most forms of incorporation, aggregation, or connectivity with GPL-licensed code is a derivative work that must be licensed under the GPL. In recent years, a number of communities using GPL-incompatible licenses have dropped efforts and support for interoperability with GPL-licensed products in response to this trend. Some developers and communities have switched to the GPL or a GPL-compatible license in response, which critics and supporters alike agree is intentional result.


See also

*
Viral phenomenon Viral phenomena are objects or patterns that are able to replicate themselves or convert other objects into copies of themselves when these objects are exposed to them. Analogous to the way in which virus A virus is a submicroscopic in ...
*
Permissive license A permissive software license, sometimes also called BSD-like or BSD-style license, is a free-software Free software (or libre software) is computer software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions and ...
* Patentleft


References


External links


MS lawyers join open source fray
CNET ''CNET'' (short for "Computer Network"), stylised C, net, is an American media website that publishes reviews, news, articles, blogs, podcasts, and videos on technology and consumer electronics Consumer electronics or home electronics ...
, Stephen Shankland, 25 June 2001 {{DEFAULTSORT:Viral License Public copyright licenses Copyleft