[erlang-questions] Is there an accepted way of including GPL code in a project?

Richard Carlsson <>
Sun Apr 15 21:47:40 CEST 2012


On 2012-04-13 11:57, Alan Evans wrote:
> Hello list,
>
> I'm thinking about using some GPL code in a project I'm working on.
> Namely the SIGTRAN stack from the osmocom project
> (http://cgit.osmocom.org/cgit/erlang)
> Is there a recognized way to incorporate GPL code in an erlang project
> without making the whole project subject to the GPL license?
>
> I haven't yet decided whether or not to make my project open source.
>
> My thinking is that if I isolate all the GPL code to a particular
> Erlang node then only the modules running on that node need to be GPL
> or GPL compatible, I am free to license the modules running on the
> other nodes any way I wish.
>
> Any thoughts? Other than the obvious "ask a lawyer" response :-)

Erlang modules are dynamically linked to each other at run-time. The FSF 
considers this to be no different from static linkage, and Erlang is 
just like Java in this respect:

   http://www.gnu.org/licenses/lgpl-java.html

My interpretation (not a lawyer etc. etc.) is that the LGPL is 
straightforward to use with Erlang, but plain GPL requires that all 
other libraries that your application calls, directly or indirectly, 
must be GPL compatible. (V3 of the GPL makes an exception for "system 
libraries", so the Erlang/OTP standard libraries don't pose a problem.)

Isolating the GPL code to a separate node is similar to other 
workarounds I've seen that run GPL code in a separate OS process from 
the main application. It lies within that gray area where it will 
probably hold in court but will make you feel dirty. A nicer way would 
of course be if you could get hold of the original authors of that 
library and ask them for a different license, possibly for a fee.

    /Richard



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