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Yeah I'm confused too. I run an open source Android app used by a bunch of Universities, I'm not sure what this means? Surely you can still open source apps that use Firebase to send messages, you kind of don't have a choice.



I guess the question resides mainly on the GPL. Other licenses like BSD/MIT do not care what you do with the code or what you use to run it, AFAIK.


I don't get it. The Telegram GitHub says: "Since one can't use Google's push messaging in a FOSS app", but I can't work out why? Lots of FOSS apps on GitHub, mine included, use Firebase. It had never occurred to me it might be an issue.


If you use a gpl library, what you make with it must be distributed under the gpl.

You cannot distribute firebase blobs under the gpl. Ergo, you have used a gpl library to make something not gpl.

Which is illegal.


A GPL app can absolutely link to proprietary software and still be covered under the GPL.

From the GPLv3 itself.

> The “System Libraries” of an executable work include anything, other than the work as a whole, that (a) is included in the normal form of packaging a Major Component, but which is not part of that Major Component, and (b) serves only to enable use of the work with that Major Component, or to implement a Standard Interface for which an implementation is available to the public in source code form. A “Major Component”, in this context, means a major essential component (kernel, window system, and so on) of the specific operating system (if any) on which the executable work runs, or a compiler used to produce the work, or an object code interpreter used to run it.

Now you can't just go and include random proprietary jars in your app for whatever reason but but linking to the jar for the purposes of using the system notifications and background services seems to me like it would definitely count.


But Firebase is not a "kernel", "window system", it is just third-party proprietary library (not essential part of Android as I understand).


I personally would consider notifications and the ability to run in the background to be essential but there's a better test which is the reason that this exception exists in the first place.

From copyleft.org:

> The system library exception is designed to allow copylefted software to link with these libraries when prohibition of that linking would hurt software freedom more than it would hurt proprietary software.

This is really the core of it -- who is hurt more by disallowing this linking: Google or FOSS apps?


As a daily reminder, this piece of junk will be countermanded by Samsung, Lenovo and Huawei and whoever deploys AOSP as they use their own push platforms.


That sort of wishy-washy legal foundation is why people are afraid of the GPL.


All law has a certain degree of human judgment involved.


Note the GPLv2 doesn't allow the exception to apply if the library is distributed with the app. GPLv3 doesn't draw a distinction between distributing with the app or linking to something already on the system. But IANAL.


How does Signal work around this, since it uses FCM and it is GPL licensed?


Thanks. That is what I wanted to know.




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