Whenever anything shares address space with a GPL'd component, whether it was linked statically or dynamically, the whole binary falls under the GPL unless there's a specific exception for it (such as the system library exception, or the Linux kernel's syscall clarification), and you have to provide GPL'd source for everything whenever you distribute those binaries. This is clearly stated in section 1 of the GPL:
The “Corresponding Source” for a work in object code form means all the source code needed to generate, install, and (for an executable work) run the object code and to modify the work, including scripts to control those activities. However, it does not include the work's System Libraries, or general-purpose tools or generally available free programs which are used unmodified in performing those activities but which are not part of the work. For example, Corresponding Source includes interface definition files associated with source files for the work, and the source code for shared libraries and dynamically linked subprograms that the work is specifically designed to require, such as by intimate data communication or control flow between those subprograms and other parts of the work.
So if someone makes a binary which dynamically (or statically) links to the Nvidia backend, that backend is subject to GPL requirements, including source code and GPL licensing. Since the Nvidia backend is proprietary, it will not be possible to comply with those requirements, and consequently the binary cannot be distributed at all.
The easiest way around this is to use a different license. There are at least two good options:
- The Lesser General Public License, which is largely identical to the GPL, but may permit this sort of linking depending on how your program is structured. For example, the LGPL might not permit linking to libraries which you call into. However, if the external library calls into your code, even just from a slim wrapper
main() function, then this would probably be acceptable (as it would "make use of an interface provided by the Library, but [not be] otherwise based on the Library"). Any other code which the external library links to could then be considered an extension of "the Application."
- The Mozilla Public License, which is similar to the LGPL, but explicitly operates at the level of files rather than programs. Some users may find this clearer to reason about, and it does not suffer from the complexities of the LGPL.
A third, less preferable option, is to use the exception mechanism in section 7 of the GPL to permit linking with proprietary backends and only proprietary backends. These exceptions are difficult to write well and can create legal uncertainty, so I would only recommend that as a last resort. The main advantage of this approach is that you get to specify the exact set of linking you want to allow, whereas LGPL and MPL permit essentially unlimited linking (albeit the former may require minor program restructuring).