Question about GPL with exception

Nathan Kelley digitaleon at
Thu Feb 27 12:45:48 UTC 2003

To OSI License Discussion subscribers,

> From: Arnaud Quette <arnaud.quette at>,

> We (MGE UPS SYSTEMS) would like to release some code under GPL with 
> exception (file header at the end of this mail), and we need to have 
> confirmation about some points to do things cleanly and surely:

> 1) As the GPL is an OSI-approved license, is the GPL with MGE 
> exception, that we proposed hereafter, an OSI approved license too ? 
> Or do we have to get an OSI approval for it ?

Normally, superficial changes (changing names, dates, etc) that do not 
affect the actual terms of the license and the way it works do not 
require a separate approval. This does not qualify as a superficial 
change in my book. However, you may wish to consult with someone from 
the OSI for a confirmation on this as I am not a representative of them.

> 2) Is the below header sufficient for inclusion in the distributed 
> files, or do we need to attach a full GPL license file with those ?

This is sufficient as per what the FSF states is required for the GPL 
(, provided that the full 
license is included in a plain-text document along with the 

> 4) We also want to be sure that we can still extend this exception in 
> the future, on the same released files, in example for allowing a 
> partner to include this files in its proprietary program. Is this 
> possible ?

As it stands now, the text appears to grant "MGE UPS SYSTEMS" the 
ability to use the code in your proprietary softwares, including 
changes, without being subject to the terms and conditions of the GPL 
(whether this is actually the case or not is a question for a legal 

Assuming this is correct, then anyone who is not "MGE UPS SYSTEMS" 
cannot do this, regardless of the circumstances, as they are not 
granted an exception. There are two ways around this issue:

1) Change the text to say "MGE UPS SYSTEMS or its partners" so that the 
exception applies to the parters of "MGE UPS SYSTEMS", or

2) When releasing new versions of the software, update the license to 
grant the exception to additional entities. Anyone who disagrees will 
therefore not be accepting the terms of the license and will not get 
rights to redistribute, modify, or create derivative works of the 

Now, neither of these approaches violates the OSD as I understand it, 
but it is obviously against the spirit of open-source software. 
Further, authors that are a part of GNU or authors that advocate the 
GPL will not advocate your product, and will likely refuse to use or 
work on it, on the basis of your license changes and the fact that 
their changes could be used in proprietary products. You may wish to 
consider this.

I have not answered your question 3) as I would not be comfortable in 
giving you any advice on that issue, not being a legal expert.

Cheers, Nathan.

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