BSD / GPL compatibility

John Cowan jcowan at
Wed Feb 16 16:21:41 UTC 2000

Ian Grigg wrote:

> If that's the case - I can use "fair use" on GPL, then what
> are the limitations or paramaters?  The old rule was something
> like a chapter / 10% for copying, and brief snippets for distribution?


In the U.S., at least, "fair use" is held deliberately undefined,
so that it can be resolved on a case-by-case basis.  However,
in general the courts take at least four factors into account:

	the purpose and character of the use (educational good,
		commercial bad)

	nature of the copyrighted work

	the amount and substantiality of the use (less good,
		more bad)

	impact on the potential market for the work

> Actually I'm skeptical.  Software is not published in the
> literary sense,

Free/open-source software is decidedly published: it is made
available to any member of the public who can pay the
owner's price ($0).

> it is licensed, and is thus available under
> the law of contract, not the law of copyright.

Free licenses are copyright licenses, not contracts:
when you modify or copy the software, you do so because the
copyright holder has empowered you to do so under certain
conditions.  Your consent is irrelevant.

> > Some say that the
> > BSD license doesn't put any restrictions on derived work
> <snippet>
>    Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, ...
>    are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:
>       Redistributions of {source|binary} code must retain
>       the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and ...
> </snippet>
> I would interpret this as "you must include this licence."

You must include the *text* of the license, but the derived work
as a whole may be licensed under any license, including a
proprietary one.  Commercial X servers are closed-source, but
incorporate vast amounts of code under the MIT license.


Schlingt dreifach einen Kreis vom dies! || John Cowan <jcowan at>
Schliesst euer Aug vor heiliger Schau,  ||
Denn er genoss vom Honig-Tau,           ||
Und trank die Milch vom Paradies.            -- Coleridge (tr. Politzer)

More information about the License-discuss mailing list