BSD / GPL compatibility

Ian Grigg iang at
Wed Feb 16 18:04:35 UTC 2000

[summary snipped]
>         the purpose and character of the use (educational good,
>                 commercial bad)

That's a good summary, to which I'll add that the use of
copyrighted work for the purposes of avoiding having to
do the work yourself is held to be bad.  I.e., under this
view, a GPL author may read, criticise, etc, a snippet
from another work, but may not include it in GPL code in
order to avoid writing it.

So, to echo other's words, "fair use" does not apply to
this discussion.

> > 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).

I can't back up my claim of publication, so I'll leave
that one for now...

> > 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.

I've never come across this term, and can't find any useful
description on what it is from google.  If a "copyright license"
is not a contract, what is it?  Do you have a reference to
this concept?

> > > 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.

Sorry, I don't read that.  What is your logic that says that the
covered code is permitted to be re-licensed?  It permits redistribution
under the licence, clearly, as it says you can only redistribute if
you include the licence (and usage in a similar fashion).

Re-licensing seems to be a different thing than use and redistribution,
more akin to changing the authorship or copyright than the former lesser
rights.  The best you can get out of the BSD licence is that it does
not state specifically whether relicensing is permitted, and for my
money, I'd err on the side of this being a right reserved to the owner.

It's a question that would have to be thrown to the lawyers/judges.

> Commercial X servers are closed-source, but
> incorporate vast amounts of code under the MIT license.

Which is not incompatible with redistribution nor usage, all
of those products (presumably) include the MIT licence, and
thus are redistributing the MIT code in used form, not relicensing


More information about the License-discuss mailing list