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Re: Artistic and LGPL compatibility in jar files

On Dec 14, 2009, at 8:36 PM, Anthony W. Youngman wrote:
>  (And you might guess I read groklaw avidly, where there's a lot of emphasis on getting things right.)

Sorry, but I don't know what groklaw is, at least, not enough to guess about your interests in it. I'm contacting debian-legal because I don't know enough about what the details are concerning a package where the developers want it to be distributed as part of Debian.

> After all, rms isn't keen on the LGPL - it's just a useful stepping stone on the way to full GPL as far as he's concerned. And having seen that, I'd be rather wary of the LGPL 2.1!

For what it's worth, the authors of these packages I'm talking about want LGPL and are removing all traces of GPL-licensed code from their package. While I'm more of an BSD/MIT kinda person. The subject line of this post is also about the LGPL, so I'm really diverting things by going into a GPL discussion.

> Let's go back to what I originally wrote - "I'm wary of relicencing". While I don't think rms has done anything wrong (as far as I can see he has just enabled switching from one strong-copyleft licence to another), it still throws up the spectre of relicencing!

Or the more complete quote

    I'm always wary of explicitly relicencing. The GPL doesn't permit
    it, and by doing so you are taking away user rights.

I still would like to know what user rights I'm taking away by relicensing. Stallman seems to think that relicensing is acceptable under some circumstances so long as the essential rights are preserved, which include the rights supported by GNU and the FSF.

(I say "essential rights" because that is what Stallman used. There are obviously differences between the licenses.)

> Okay, I'd use the FSF-recommended wording, fine. (Actually, personal choice, I'd probably take a leaf out of Linus' book and use the wording "either version 2 or version 3".)

One of the projects I work with uses source code which was explicitly "GPL version 2 only". Now they are starting to have problems integrating with GPLv3 software and they are considering if a massive rewrite is in order.

> But note, the GPL *itself* says that the recipient gets their licence from *me*. And the licence I would grant is 2+ or "2 or 3".

I pointed out the quote from a copyright lawyer with a special interest in free software who said that the GPL was ambiguous about sublicensing and if a chain of licenses was required or not.

> Oh - and the GFDL 1.2 does *not* allow relicensing to CC-BY-SA. Your legal logic has slipped up. You've made the elementary error of confusing the *grant* of licence with the licence *itself*.

If I use the recommended wording from GNU, which is what I quoted and was using as a reference, then the phrase is

    Version 1.2 or any later version published by the
    Free Software Foundation;

Obviously if the license says "1.2" and leaves out that provision for sublicensing/ relicening/ whatever you want to call it, then it's not possible to change it. The GPL even has a section where it describes the impact "or later" has on being able to re/sub/license.

Just like if something says "GPL 2" and leaves out the provision for "or later" then it cannot be changed to GPLv3.

It's just, well, I didn't say that.

I don't understand why you think I'm confused about this matter.

> If I licence my work as GFDL 1.2 and you relicence it as CC-BY-SA, I'll be after you for infringement like a shot! You *need* the "or later" wording in the grant, and that is nothing to do with the licence itself.

I see. It's because when I said "Well, the GPL does allow relicensing to newer versions of the GPL" it's because I should have written "Well, the GPL does allow relicensing to newer versions of the GPL so long as you use the recommended phrase from GNU which allows 'or later' licenses to be applied."

> If you get a work as "GFDL 1.2 or later", *then* and *then*only* can you say to yourself "stuff 1.2, I'll use 1.3" which allows you to pass the stuff on as CC-BY-SA instead of GFDL.

I really do think you're reacting to what was a minor omission on my part, by my using the phrase "the GPL" when it was "the grant that most people make to use the GPL."

Pointing out that omission would have been more clarifying than saying "IT DOESN'T, ACTUALLY !!!"

My omission came up because you outright declared that relicensing takes away rights, when it's clear from the history of free licenses that relicensing does occur and that it's possible to relicense without taking away (essential) rights.

> In this case, I think *YOU* are now the licensor. My legal-fu isn't up to this, but if I originally granted GFDL, I don't think a CC-BY-SA recipient can get their CC-BY-SA licence from me (they are *restrospectively* changing my grant of licence, which I don't think is possible). Likewise with LGPL 2.1, I think the person who changes the licence to GPL becomes the new licensor.

Except that that wasn't at all the issue involved here. The "Massive Multiauthor Collaboration Site"s involved received contributions, and by contributing the copyright owners had to allow their contributions to be used under GFDL-1.2 or later. These owners became perturbed when the FSF changed GFDL-1.3 in order to allow relicensing under CC-BY-SA.

> But in order to do that, you need the copyright holder's permission. And if I've said "v2 or later", you need my permission to *change* that to "v3 or later". And with the GPL, I gave you permission to *use* v3, not *change* *my* *grant*.

I believe you are wrong about this. Every evidence I've seen is that if you allow "v2 or later" then I can at any time and with no cause or other permissions from you and without any sort of creative addition to the package, change the license I have on my copy of your source to use GPLv3.

At this point the only thing which would convince me otherwise is an explicit statement from the GNU project or FSF. I say this because I read things like

> If the Program specifies that a certain numbered version of the GNU General Public License “or any later version” applies to it, you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that numbered version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. If the Program does not specify a version number of the GNU General Public License, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.

and that is in direct contradiction to your interpretation. GPLv2 has a similar clause.

> Agreed. Note that you can only relicence a *modified* version, so I don't think you can take the version you've received, and just modify the licence notices!

Again, what you write is directly in opposition to what the GPLv2 and GPLv3 explicitly say. If you state that your software is distributed under GPLv2 "or any later version" then you've also agreed that I have the option of following the T&C of GPLv3, and without putting any creative change into the software.

Please, at this point if you insist that you are correct, please point to something from the GNU or FSF or from Stallman which backs you up on this.

After all, I managed to find explicit statements from them which backed up my points that LGPL and GFDL allow relicensing yet do not remove essential rights, which was the point you were trying to make.



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