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Re: Compatibility between CC licenses and the GPL

Thanks, Dan.  I appreciate your following up.  I'm including
the Debian team on this email, in the hope that I can help
to drive everyone to agreement on the point at last.  I don't
have an email address for Dave Turner, so would be grateful
if you'd pass this along to him.  I've included the licensing
email alias at gnu.org, so perhaps that will be enough.

Dan Frankowski wrote:

> I don't know if you ever got your question about licensing answered, but 
> I emailed licensing@gnu.org because I had the same sorts of questions. 
> Dave Turner answered the same day (!), and basically said the same thing 
> as Andrea Glorioso: bundling GPL software and non-GPL (e.g., CC licensed 
> or whatever) non-software (e.g., documentation) is not a problem. A 
> direct quote:
> 'Yep, Michael Olsen is clearly confused in that message.  Merely
> distributing CC-licensed documentation with GPL software is not a
> problem -- there's no derivative work being created there.  The GPL
> permits this under the "mere aggregation" clause, and CC-SA under its
> "Collective Work" clause.

The issue was raised to us by members of the Debian legal
mailing list.  The Debian project generally takes a strict
view of of the "freedom" requirements of the GPL.  It's
tremendously encouraging that the FSF is willing to make
the statement that Dave Turner made to you.  Nevertheless,
any disagreement on the requirements of the GPL among the
leaders of the big distros is a problem for Sleepycat;
we need to be friendly with all of them.

At that time, I approached Richard Stallman to ask him about
compatibility of the various Creative Commons licenses with
the GPL.  Take this with a grain of salt -- I didn't ask Richard
to review the text of the CC A-SA license, I merely named it
and asked him about compatibility.  He replied:

	I am pretty sure none of [the Commons licenses] is
	compatible with the GNU GPL. However, no reasonable
	free documentation license is compatible with the GNU GPL.

	The Creative Commons licenses are mainly meant for artistic
	works. They are fine for that, but when it comes to
	documentation, we recommend the GFDL.

Richard's response suggested to me that the waters were deep
enough that I would not be able to touch bottom unassisted,
so after trying briefly to engage all of Debian, the FSF and
the Commons in a discussion, I just climbed back in the boat
and sailed home.

To the extent that the FSF is willing and able to clarify
the point on documentation with the Debian leadership,
it will be a good service to people who want to make use
of the Commons deed.

Pragmatically, we solved the problem here by falling back
to the Sleepycat public license for both our software and
our docs.  Both the FSF and the Debian leadership agree
that our public license is compatible with the GPL, so
this problem has gone away for Sleepycat.

> Thus, sounds like you are free and clear.

Well, I'm free and clear now because we switched from the
CC license to our own license.  Pragmatically, if I were
you, I'd be encouraged, but not yet convinced, by Dave
Turner's response.  I believe the FSF speaks authoritatively
on the meaning of the GPL, but I'll reiterate that the
Debian leadership took a different view of the combination
of docs under the CC A-SA and code under the GPL.  If that
remains true today, you've got a problem lurking out there.

Debian folks, this discussion appears in your debian-legal
archives as "Bug#256332: Clarification of redistribution".


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