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Re: [htdig-dev] Licensing issues...

On Mon, Jul 26, 2004 at 03:11:52PM -0600, Neal Richter wrote:
> > 2) Can I reasonably argue that htdig is gpl (or lgpl) if its linked
> > against a 3 or a 4 cloause BSD license? - htdig .3.1.6 builds static
> > libraries (.a) it links against.
>   Sure you can!
>   Note that although the Free Software Foundation may say that a 4-clause
> BSD license is incompatible with the GPL (and they do)..... that opinion only
> applies to code that the FSF holds the copyright for.

Not quite.  I believe that opinion derives directly from the text of the
license.  The GPL prohibits adding further restrictions (GPL#6), and the
4-clause BSD license does so.  Unless a copyright holder specifically says
that he considers the 4-clause BSD license consistent with the GPL, it's
not safe for Debian to assume otherwise.

That is, the "default" interpretation, lacking a statement from (all of)
the copyright holders of a work, should be the one that follows from the
license text, and that's the FSF's interpretation, at least in this case.

>   As a matter of copyright law, any copyright holder that licenses their
> code under the GPL is free to interpret the GPL themselves.  And if that
> person/group decides that a 4-clause BSD license is OK to include in THEIR
> code... then the FSF's opinion on license compatibility is irrelevant
> legally.

Right.  However, if a license clarification doesn't follow from the license
text, and/or differs from the common interpretation, then we must be careful.
For example, if somebody licenses their work under the GPL, and says "by my
interpretation of the GPL, you don't have to make source available to people
you send binaries to", then their stated interpretation is clearly inconsistent
with the actual text of the license.  In those cases, it's best to step
carefully and conservatively.

My recommendation to those authors would be to issue a specific exception,
to the effect of "advertising clauses are permitted without being in
violation of GPL#6", rather than using an unusual interpretation of the
GPL itself.

I'm sure somebody else on d-legal can offer a better statement than I can,

>   Note that I intend no disrespect for any FSF people on this list!  This
> is just basic copyright law.  A third party can't dictate how a copyright
> holder interprets any license to it's own code.

And I no disrespect for the authors of htdig, of course.  It's just best to
be careful and explicit with issues like this.

For example, all (known) GPL projects in Debian which link against OpenSSL
have such an exception, because it has an advertising clause, as well as
forced-renaming and a forced-acknowledgement clauses.

Glenn Maynard

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