licensing of cephes library (affects labplot, grace, ?...)
Please CC replies to me, because I'm not on the list.
I noticed a problem with the license of the cephes library, which is
included in the Debian packages labplot (maintained by me) and grace
(maintained by Torsten Werner), and possibly others. At least
python2.2-scipy and python2.3-scipy seem to have some cephes stuff in them,
though I haven't looked at their sources. Both labplot and grace are GPL.
In the version of labplot and grace that are in Debian, cephes appears to be
unlicensed. Looking for versions of cephes on the web, I've found
variations on the following statement:
Some software in this archive may be from the book Methods and Programs
for Mathematical Functions (Prentice-Hall, 1989) or from the Cephes
Mathematical Library, a commercial product. In either event, it is
copyrighted by the author. What you see here may be used freely
but it comes with no support or guarantee.
This is all the licensing that seems to be around for cephes, and it does
not seem to be DFSG-free as it stands, because it doesn't specifically allow
modification and redistribution.
Torsten Werner and I have contacted the upstream authors of both labplot and
grace, and it seems that they do not have any clearer idea than we do of the
licensing for cephes. So I have emailed the author of cephes to ask him for
clarification of the cephes license and whether he would consider
relicensing cephes in a way that is both GPL compatible and DFSG-free. I
specifically suggested the MIT or GPL licenses as a possibility, with the
MIT license being possibly preferable, because it is simpler and easier to
understand. He seems to be helpful - he responded quickly and seems to be
wanting to help. But he doesn't appear to want to relicense cephes in that
fashion for his distribution of it on his website 
The most recent communication from him follows below . I am confused
about whether this arrangement would be OK from Debian's point of view.
Specifically, I would like to know whether,
1) if the labplot and grace upstreams put the proposed boilerplate into the
cephes files in their distributions of labplot and grace, could Debian
package and distribute labplot and grace with those cephes libraries included?
2) if the labplot or grace upstream were taking a long time to do this,
would it be OK to put the boilerplate into the Debian distributions of those
cephes libraries in the meantime, as a quick fix to make labplot and grace
I don't particularly want to hassle the cephes author further, since he is
trying to help but he doesn't seem to want to change the way he mostly
distributes his things. So if this solution is OK, I would like to go with
that. But I want to be sure that it is OK for Debian first.
This is the most recent email from the cephes author, in repsonse to my
suggestion that he consider releasing cephes from his website under the MIT
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: licensing of cephes
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 2004 12:36:15 -0500 (EST)
From: Steve Moshier <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Helen Faulkner <email@example.com>
CC: firstname.lastname@example.org, Ben Burton <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Stefan Gerlach <email@example.com>
I think you do not have to dictate the terms under which I distribute
the material through other channels. You probably need only a
permission that allows you to distribute it under your particular
terms. Here is an example boilerplate that worked for BSD. A recent
go-around with the FSF resulted in something a bit more wordy but
similar in spirit.
* Cephes Math Library Release 2.8: June, 2000
* Copyright 1984, 1995, 2000 by Stephen L. Moshier
* This software is derived from the Cephes Math Library and is
* incorporated herein by permission of the author.
* [standard BSD license here]