Nexenta’s GNU/Opensolaris and Debian

Ok, the flamewar at debian-devel seems to be mostly finished by now. Some people posted stuff about this controversy in their blogs, thus I read about it in some posts at planet debian.

So what it is all about then?

Well the technical/legal question is: Am I allowed to link a GPL’ed application against OpenSolaris libc (which is CDDL’ed)? Actually that question is not easy to answer. But let’s get to some examples:

Sun’s Solaris 10 (non-free) ships with several pieces of Free Software, for details see here. It seems quite a bit of GPL’ed software is distributed by Sun. They also say that some of it is even integrated in their OS. More details can be found at this website. Aha, Sun directly integrates GPL’ed software into its OS.

Now comes the punchline: Sun has linked all these programs linked against their non-free libc. Sun doesn’t mention glibc anywhere on the pages mentioned above, therefore that must be the case. And I bet that they distribute binaries of these pieces of Free Software, as well.

Doesn’t that violate the GPL?

No, it doesn’t! They make all source code of the pieces of Free Software they use available for free download. That seems to be fair enough.

Aha, but Nexenta does the same, only they do even offer the source code of libc, under a Free Software license, to boot.

But somehow, that is violating the GPL.

Ok, ok. You will now say that all the libraries that are used by the included Free Software applications are licensed under the LGPL or other GPL-compatible licenses, LGPL’ed libraries might indeed be linked against non-free libraries. As long as the actual GPL’ed software doesn’t link against real non-compatibly licensed libraries, you’re probably safe.

Well, I am sure that some of the GPL’ed apps in Sun’s list do not only link against other GPL-compatibly licensed libraries, but also against Sun’s non-free libc, won’t they?

See, that’t the thing I cannot understand, please comment generously and enlighten me.