[LONG] (sub)licensing issue

Alessandro Rubini rubini at gnu.org
Thu Apr 11 14:16:23 UTC 2002


> I've written a GPLed (not LGPLed) library which I know is currently used
> in a software licensed under the BSD license, so this is clearly a
> GPL violation since the other software license should be GPLed too.

That's not completely right, as already remarked by Tomasz Wegrzanowski.

The program as a whole must be licensed according to GPL terms, but each
part (file or whatever) can still be licensed in a different way as
long as it's a gpl-compatible license.

Thus, your used can't distribute the binary unless on GPL terms, but
some parts can be reused according to different terms.

However, please be careful when talking about "BSD" license, as
there's not one of such licenses.
http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/bsd.html explains why it is unclear to
talk about BSD-style licenses.

> I'm currently trying to make the other software authors change their
> license to GPL to comply with my module's license.

It's not needed. But the program _as_a_whole_ must be GPL'd if they
include your code.

> However AFAIK it may be impossible for them to comply since they may be
> disallowed to do so by the company they are a part of, which may want to
> keep the right to close their sources (we are currently discussing the
> issue, no need for a flamewar on them) 

They can close their source, but not link them with your library in
that case. So they don't need to change license to use your library
in the free release; they just won't be able to use the library in a
non-free release.
> In other words, in the worst case scenario, the two only options
> available to them are :
> 	1 - don't use my library at all.
> 	2 - ask me for a sublicense in exchange of money 
>             (I'm the only author), which I'd be glad to accept ;-)

I've had the same problem. We (several authors) would accept to
release LGPL if paid to do do.  The "client" turned to a different
(proprietay) product instead.

> Now if they finally choose point 2, and ask for my software
> under a different license (BSD for example) and I agree, what
> are my options to :
> 	1 - give them my software under the BSD license in exchange
>             of money.

Yes. Why still releasing to the public the GPL version. Sure people
can distribute the BSD version, but if yours is the "official" one you
most likely won't loose control of it.  But yes, having to
"competitors" in this way might be very bad to handle.
> 	2 - allow them to give/resell and/or close their sources which
>             include my own BSDized (or other) sources. 

You might give them a copy with a different license, still not BSD,
that they could use in the non-free version. They should have no problem
in linking the GPL library from the free distribution.

> 	3 - don't allow any of their "client" to extract my library's
>             sources from their  whole package and redistribute it
>             under the BSD license, since I want to keep my library
>             under the GPL for the rest of the world.

That's whay I say above, but your terms are wrong. IF there's such
clause than it's not BSD at all.

Hope this helps

> I've asked to the FSF but I've got no answer yet.

Sorry, we are very backlogged.


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