Collecting arguments for licence change
Achim D. Brucker
brucker at spamfence.net
Fri Apr 23 08:39:47 UTC 2004
I'm trying to convince a group of authors (I'm not one of those)
to release their software with a free licence (preferable (L)GPL or
at least a (L)GPL compatible one).
The project is a (in its community) well known and highly respected
piece of software which was initially distributed under a non-free
"Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software and
its documentation for any non-commercial purpose and without fee
is hereby granted, provided that the above copyright notice appears
in all copies and that both the copyright notice and this permission
notice and warranty disclaimer appear in supporting documentation, and
that the name of the University xxx not be used in advertising or
publicity pertaining to distribution of the software without specific,
written prior permission."
Where in the real licence terms, "University xxx" stands for two
Today, the copyright situation is somewhat complicated.
- the above copyright note seems to be still the intended "main"
copyright note, as it is located in a file called "COPYRIGHT"
within the top-level directory of the (source) distribution.
- Within the source files there are at least three types of copyright
1) // Author: Joe Developer
// Copyright: 2003 University xxx
2) // Author: Jim Developer
// Copyright: GPL (GNU General Public License)
3) // Author: Fred Developer
// Copyright: Fred Developer
Note that one can assume that all authors have written the code
"from scratch" for this project, e.g. Jim Developer will argue
for changing the licence but would not accuse the project of
disrespecting his licence.
At the moment I'm in the brain-storming phase, e.g. I'm collection
any thoughts, ideas, arguments, problems which I can use to convince
the copyright holder to change the licence. My rather unstructured
and unpolished list is as follows:
- IMHO the actual licence constellation is highly contradictory
and therefore "default copyright" rules come into force, which
means (as I understood it) that a user is not allowed to do anything
with the software...
- recently they launched a public project where they are collecting
examples for their software. They strictly require that the authors
of the examples must licence their work under the LGPL.
This prohibits code exchange in both directions, using code from
the project in the example and also using the submitted examples
in the main distribution (I think, this could be a kind of "killer
- releasing the project as free software opens the door to broader
publicity, e.g. inclusion of the project into Debian GNU/Linux,
which IMHO is a great chance for projects in a non-mainstream
area. (After a licence change, I would volunteer to provide Debian
- I plan also an offer to produce a Gnoppix (www.gnoppix.org) setup which
provides a bootable demo system which should also be a great gain to
the project as system is quite complex to install (at least in some
As I have the suspicion that the important people cannot be conviced
on the legal level (the contradiction problem of the actual
constellation) I try mainly to argue with the benefits of releasing
the software as free software.
Do you have any hints, guidelines, and/or further arguments for me? Any
ideas how to start the licence discussion in a friendly way.
What are the modest licence changes needed to get a (L)GPL compatible
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