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Re: Freeness of vague Synopsys license

Andreas Bombe <aeb@debian.org> writes:

> I'm now unsure whether I should keep the Synopsys libraries which
> found some wider use before its features were finally offered by the
> VHDL language standard.
> Here is the copyright statement and license from one of the files in
> its entirety:

Thank you for naming the specific work, and for presenting the text of
the license grant and conditions.

I agree with you that the question of “does this grant of license permit
modification and redistribution”.

> | Copyright (c) 1990, 1991, 1992 by Synopsys, Inc.  All rights reserved.
> |
> | This source file may be used and distributed without restriction
> | provided that this copyright statement is not removed from the file
> | and that any derivative work contains this copyright notice.
> It offers use and distribution without restriction, but technically
> not explicitly modification. However, if permission of modification
> weren't intended, the requirement of keeping the copyright statement
> would be pointless.

We have a stronger argument in favour of this license granting
permission to modify and redistribute. The license states specifically
what the recipient must do with “any derivative work”.

I think a fair interpretation of “provided […] that any derivative work
contains this copyright notice” in the conditions, is that the license
grants permission to redistribute a modified version of the work — what
copyright law typically calls a “derived work”.

It is not as clear as it should be, though. The mere ability of some
people to find an interpretation that coincides with our wishes, is a
poor guide to whether the license will actually be found to grant those
permissions when tested. We should not eagerly take our interpretation
as the right one.

You might contact the copyright holders, and ask them to release a
version of the work with the wording changed to that of the Expat
license <URL:https://directory.fsf.org/wiki/License:Expat>. This is a
well-understood license text, widely acknowledged to result in a free
work. This would remove the doubts raised by the current unclear

 \       “Faith is the determination to remain ignorant in the face of |
  `\                 all evidence that you are ignorant.” —Shaun Mason |
_o__)                                                                  |
Ben Finney

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