Symbian, GPL tension and 'bright lines'

One of the big questions about Symbian going open source has been that of what is going to happen to the third-party, proprietary code that exists within Symbian today. I've covered this previously here, in a blog post where Symbian research chief David Wood responded accordingly.

One of the big questions about Symbian going open source has been that of what is going to happen to the third-party, proprietary code that exists within Symbian today. I've covered this previously here, in a blog post where Symbian research chief David Wood responded accordingly.

Now, though, we've done a full interview with Wood, in which the issue gets addressed in much more detail. It's an interesting read, but my editor noticed a disparity between two statements of Wood's, viz:

"...a straight reading of the GPL says if you link to other software then that other software falls under the same licence..." (in reference to why Symbian is using the Eclipse licence instead)

And:

"... It might be code that's currently under the GPL, so we might pass that through..." (... into the Symbian Foundation code)

I gave Wood a call. He conceded that there was "tension between these remarks", but pointed me to an article by Bruce Perens (the originator of the phrase "open source") which discusses something called 'bright lines' - effectively ways of separating open source code from proprietary code in a way that avoids GPL violations.

It's a fascinating article (and flattering, of course, since it responds to an exclusive of ours), and well worth reading. Whether or not it solves the issue of what can be allowed under the GPL, I don't know. But 'bright lines' is the idea that's informing Symbian's metamorphosis into open source. So there you go.