What exactly is "redistribution?"

Chuck Swiger chuck at codefab.com
Fri Apr 13 22:04:12 UTC 2007

On Apr 13, 2007, at 2:45 PM, Zach Leatherman wrote:
> According to the BSD license, redistribution and use are permitted
> given three stipulations are true.  However, the first two
> stipulations only refer to redistribution and none of the three refer
> to use.

True.  It's not actually clear that a license can restrict whether  
and how you choose to use software which you've obtained-- that seems  
to require a contract, but YMMV.

> http://www.opensource.org/licenses/bsd-license.php
> Last week I found some of Yahoo's CSS source code being used on
> Google's Personalized Homepage.
> http://www.zachleat.com/web/2007/04/05/google-using-yui-grids-css/
> Some have argued that Google doesn't need to attribute the source to
> Yahoo, because the BSD license with which Yahoo has released the code
> only restricts redistribution and not basic use.  This would seem to
> make the most sense.

If Google redistributes the software from Yahoo, they would need to  
keep the BSD license intact, along with any copyright statements and  
so forth.  It is certainly arguable that providing the CSS code on a  
website constitutes redistribution, but it also seems like someone  
from Google is going to fix the missing license/copyright.

> My question is, what is the difference between distribution and use in
> a web environment?  Because the files are hosted in their application,
> they are not really redistributing the code as a whole, just 4 or 5
> lines of it.  Just for my curiosity...

It's probably likely that 4-5 lines of publicly released code are not  
significant enough to merit copyright protection or constitute a  
"meaningful taking" according to copyright law...but the question of  
distribution vs. use for an ASP or web-based program is an issue  
which is not clearly resolved with regard to the BSD, or at least I  
don't believe it is.  Some other licenses have attempted to clarify  
what they mean under such circumstances (cf GPLv3, Academic Free  
License, etc).


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