Subject: Re: Sleepycat Software DB 2.x library licensing vs. NetBSD
To: NetBSD-current Discussion List <>
From: Greg A. Woods <>
List: current-users
Date: 09/17/1998 21:19:52
[ On Thu, September 17, 1998 at 16:25:33 (-0600), Justin T. Gibbs wrote: ]
> Subject: Re: Sleepycat Software DB 2.x library licensing vs. NetBSD 
> My understanding is that the license is the way it is so that Keith
> can recoup the development cost of DB2.  Perhaps a better approach
> would be to see what that figure is and see if the free user community
> could drum up the cash to have the license changed.

If that's the case then it's a very strange copyright license indeed.

As I said in another forum recently on a similar topic:  "You can't give
something away for free and then try and charge money for it and expect
to get paid by anyone with half a wit in their heads."

Of course in this case it is a real copyright license, and if you assume
that a judge will agree that the object code is effectively the same as
a copy of the source code, then it does stand a lot better chance of
being enforcable than a shrink-wrap usage contract ever would.

An unscrupulous user will likley be able to obscure their use of the
library enough to avoid detection.  Only those who wish to maintain file
format compatibility will be easily detectable.

In general I find copyright licenses that attempt to impose themselves
on greater collections of works, such as this Sleepycat Software DB 2.x
license, or indeed the GNU LGPL, rather distasteful.

However I still do not think either of these licenses is impossible
within the goals of The NetBSD Foundation.  Neither restrict
redistribution unless one tries to do such distribution in a non-open
fashion.  I.e. yes they do stifle proprietary software distribution, but
except for the fact that The NetBSD Foundation would prefer to avoid
limiting their users from creating proprietary software, there is no
other direct conflict.  Indeed as I tried to say earlier when I started
this thread, anyone wishing to create proprietary software from some
derrivation of NetBSD is perfectly free to do so by simply pulling any
LGPL, or Sleepycat, or similar software back out of NetBSD and replace
it again with its inferior (or some equivalent "licensed") version.

Indeed in this light the Sleepycat copyright license is *far* more
attractive in the light of the The NetBSD Foundations goals for NetBSD
than the GNU LGPL is.  After all it is simply a matter of adding a tiny
bit of cost to a proprietary software package in order to pay Sleepycat
for the right to distribute encumbered object code in lieu of the
freeware version's copyright restrictions.  I.e. it would not be
necessary for a willing vendor to extract DB 2.x from NetBSD -- so long
as they are willing to pay the required fee.  Since Keith and Margo are
indeed reasonable people I'm sure the fee is negotiable and reasonable
as well.  Meanwhile those of us who might want to distribute "open"
source derrivations of NetBSD would not be affected by the freeware
version of Sleepycat's copyright license in any way.

							Greg A. Woods

+1 416 218-0098      VE3TCP      <>      <robohack!woods>
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