Subject: Re: More licensing flames...
To: NetBSD-current Discussion List <>
From: Greg A. Woods <>
List: current-users
Date: 09/22/1998 11:39:30
[ On , September 21, 1998 at 23:00:40 (-0700), Chris G. Demetriou wrote: ]
> Subject: Re: More licensing flames...
> (Greg A. Woods) writes:
> > The Sleepycat copyright license on their DB-2.x goes one step further
> > and contains terms that some might describe as "viral" -- i.e. they
> > attempt to force people who distribute software linked against DB-2.x to
> > also be freely re-distributable in source form.  I.e. the DB-2.x
> > copyright license is very much more like the GNU LGPL than the GPL.
> Uh, do you have those reversed?


> The LGPL says, in a nutshell: you link bits against these LGPL'd
> sources, you have to distribute the LGPL'd sources and at least
> objects for the rest of the bits (not necessarily sources).
> The GPL says, in a nutshell: you link bits against these GPL'd bits,
> you have to give away sources for everything.

I take it you're referring to section 2 paragraph (b) of either version
(or perhaps section 10 of the GPLv2 or section 8 of the GPLv1), and I
think you're taking it out of context of the copyright license as a

Most specifically the GPL makes it quite explicit that it does not
intend to restrict the rights of any other programmer.  Note the
explanatory paragraphs include in section 2, and in particular this
sentence (from GPLv2):

	If identifiable sections of that work are not derived from the
	Program, and can be reasonably considered independent and
	separate works in themselves, then this License, and its terms,
	do not apply to those sections when you distribute them as
	separate works.

Besides, it refers to using "parts" of the Program, and implies
derrivation.  Most times a library, esp. a specific library such as DB,
is used in an application the entire content of the "Program" is
included with the distribution of the application that uses it.  The GPL
section 2 attempts to "control the distribution of derivative or
collective works based on the Program".  Including the "Program" as a
library which a larger proprietary application uses does not form a work
"based on the Program", but rather one based on the application owned
entirely by proprietary software vendor.  I.e. the emphasis is extremely

One thing that's very important to keep in mind is how the copyright law
treats "collections" of works.  I've not studied the US specific law in
any detail, but I have studied the Canadian Copyright Act and much of
the interpretation that's been applied to it in this country.  It is my
un-official expectation that any two separately copright licensed works
which are combined into one "binary program" will be treated as a
"collection" and that a separate (and possibly very restrictive)
copyright license (eg. "All rights reserved") may be used to protect the
collection as a whole, but that the copyrights of the individual works
contained in this work will still apply to them as a portion of the
collection.  It is *impossible* for any copyright license to affect
other individual works that are included in the collection and a
copyright license may only affect the copyright of the collection as a
whole to the extent that this affect would only apply to the individual
work in the collection to which it applies.

For example consider what might happen if a poem that's got a copyright
similar to the GNU GPL is incorporated into a book or magazine that is
covered by an "All rights reserved" copyright.  This book or magazine
would not be "based" on the poem.  The author of the book or magazine is
free to sell this collective work for a profit.  However I or anyone
else can freely distribute copies of the pages on which that poem
appears, but we cannot distribute copies of the entire book or magazine,
and we cannot necessarily distribute copies of any other poems or
articles in the book regardless of whether those other parts were
written by the author of the collection or by third party authors.  The
authors of any other works that are included in this book or magazine
may still be free to distribute copies of the pages on which their works
appear (though this will depend on the exact terms of the one-time
license they granted to the author of the collection).  In fact if I'm
remembering right we can even copy any "small" preamble that the author
of the collection may have included at the beginning of the poem because
that would be considered "fair use" (so long as I play by the "fair use"
rules, of course, and acknowledge the source of the preamble).

> (Yes, I know that those aren't completely true to the respective
> licenses, but those are the flavors.)
> Berkeley-style is less odious than LGPL which is in turn less odious
> than GPL.  ("Next time, i'll tell you what I _really_ feel!")

I was deeply involved in the debate over, around, and during the
creation of the GPL and the LGPL, right from the beginning through to
the creation of version 2.  I've always been under the impression that
producers of proprietary software feel that the LGPL is the more
restrictive of the two, and that's certainly the case for all
proprietary software vendors I've worked directly for.

Most people whom I know who have actually worked with the GPL do not
feel that section 10 of the GPL would restrict a library so long as the
original library code (and any modifications made by the vendor) are
made freely available.

Unfortunately there has not, to my knowledge, ever been any "free"
library distributed with only the GPL covering its copyright, at least
not by the Free Software Foundation, so this fact has not, to the best
of my knowledge, been tested.  (I can't find an early copy of glibc.  It
may have been distributed under GPL.)

Remember the intent of the entire GPL is to protect the "Program" and to
ensure that it remains free and that every identifiable derrivative of
it also remains free.  As I mentioned above the GPL makes quite explicit
that it does not intend to restrict the copyright rights of any other
programmer who might also be a "user" of free software.

However since the normal GPL won't permit the user of a proprietary
application to modify the free library and then re-link it with the
proprietary code, the FSF decided to come up with the LGPL which would
force proprietary software vendors to distribute their software in a
form that would permit re-linking with any free libraries they use.

>From a service and support perspective the LGPL is enormously more
restrictive because it raises the number of potential problems that the
end user can encounter by many many orders of magnitude.  I.e. the
degree of "freedom" which the LGPL gives to end users is potentially
totally stifling to a proprietary software vendor.

The FSF puts the GNU LGPL on libraries because they feel that the user
should be able to modify the library even when doing so may totally
compromise the integrity of the application as a whole.  (Eg. the author
of the application makes explicit compensation for a bug in the library;
compenstation that would cause the application to fail should the bug
actually be fixed.)

(BTW, it is also important to remember that some of the most heated
debate at the time of the creation of the LGPL was actually from FSF
supporters who were arguing against the GPL becaused they wanted to
protect the right of users to modify the code that's linked into a
proprietary application, particularly so that they could distribute
fixes and other improvements to their code that the users of proprietary
applications could make use of.)

(FYI, I personally don't like the LGPL, but I do like the GPL.  I don't
see any valid reason to give users of software the degree of freedom
that the LGPL affords them.  Most "users" are incapable of making proper
and safe use of this freedom.  Maybe that's my Canadian way of thinking
showing through....)

							Greg A. Woods

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