For Approval: GPLv3

Donovan Hawkins hawkins at
Sun Aug 26 19:37:35 UTC 2007

On Sun, 26 Aug 2007, Chris Travers wrote:

> Donovan Hawkins wrote:
>> And again, when I was almost done with this I came up with what may be the 
>> point of confusion. If a BSDL program is released unmodified as a GPL v3 
>> program with no additional permissions, you are wondering what happened to 
>> the BSD license that used to be attached to it? It's still there...attached 
>> to the original. I, as the distributor, am under no obligation to 
>> explicitly grant that license to you even though you are trivially able to 
>> obtain that license for yourself regardless.
> On what basis?  You are just distributing a work, not creating a derivative 
> or any other work that would require permission of the original copyright 
> owner outside of derivation?

You release a program under BSDL. I have released an unmodified copy of 
the source code under GPL v3. The only change I make is to add the 
following to the top of the LICENSE.TXT file that you used:

"I used BSDL code from Chris Travers (like, all of it), and he made me 
include this, but I'm releasing only under the GPL v3 and nothing else. 
You still can't do the stuff he says you can't do because I can't give you 
that permission, but you should talk to Chris if you want to use it under 
BSDL because that ain't my problem. Ok, here's the text I'm supposed to 

Let's go down the BSDL point by point. You tell me where I violated it.

"Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without 
modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are 

Ok check, I'm redistributing in source form without modification, which it 
allows. If I satisfy the three conditions, I'm home free.

"Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, 
this list of conditions and the following disclaimer."

Check. I retained all those things because they are at the end of my 
LICENSE.TXT file. Of course they now only serve as a disclaimer and no 
longer offer the program under BSDL as they originally did, but that's not 
my problem. You never said I had to license under BSDL, only that I had to 
retain the text. That is, incidentally, what Microsoft does in the 
Acknowledgements section of their license file for Windows. In no way is 
Microsoft offering any part of Windows under the BSDL...just reproducing 
the text as a disclaimer/acknowledgement.

"Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, 
this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation 
and/or other materials provided with the distribution."

Not applicable since I didn't distribute in binary form.

"Neither the name of the <ORGANIZATION> nor the names of its contributors 
may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software 
without specific prior written permission."

Check. I never used your name to promote it, just blamed you for wasting 
space in my LICENSE.TXT file.

That was it, I passed all requirements of the BSDL that you used. If it's 
still confusing, imagine the conversation between myself and a licensee 
named Billy:

Billy: Can I use this software, Donovan?

Donovan: Sure thing, Billy, here is a copy. It's licensed under GPL v3 and 
has some minor disclaimers and notices you have to keep.

Billy: Huh? But Chris said I can use it under BSDL!

Donovan: Then talk to Chris. I only give you permission to use it under 
GPL v3.

Billy: But you say right here that Chris licensed under the BSDL.

Donovan: Yep, he sure did. He's a really generous guy.

Billy: Well then, how come you won't let me do the same thing?

Donovan: I think you should use a license that ensures that rights cannot 
be removed by other people, so I removed the right to do that.

Billy: Well, do I even need your permission to use it under BSDL?

Donovan: No, not really. I don't own it.

Billy: *glares angrily at Donovan for wasting his time*

> How can you read the quotes other than "you may, at your option, remove other 
> software licenses?" and that "you must extend this permission to all aspects 
> of the Corresponding Source?" and even "you may remove other developers' 
> linking exceptions?"

It means all that. I can remove them, I do extend that to all aspects. 
Your BSDL license is toast. Your BSDL disclaimer survives.

> Now if this can be done solely through distribution, how is this even 
> remotely related to copyrights on the works?

No idea, ask a copyright lawyer. I only followed the license you set forth 
in your program.

>> All I am required to do is maintain the legal notification informing you 
>> about the BSDL and its disclaimer.
> Don't forget the copyright ownership of the file contents.  On what basis 
> could you change the copyright ownership of the file without editing the 
> contents aside from copyright/license notices?

I have no idea if I changed the copyright ownership of anything, and I 
don't really care. I distributed your code under a license in a way that 
you permitted me to distribute it. Why would I care about copyright?

> Hence, how can you say that people can remove the addtional permissions of 
> the BSDL files without adding some sort of protected copyright content to the 
> work covered by that license?

You gave me carte blanche to distribute in a myriad of ways when you used 
the BSDL. How can you say I can't remove them if I didn't violate the 
terms of our license?

> Look closely at the definition of additional permissions.  It includes other 
> software licenses as additional permissions and says that they may be removed 
> from any portion of the corresponding source.  You cant grant such a 
> permission over BSDL code because this would require removing the condition 
> list which is itself prevented under the license.

No, the condition list is not the license and it is not an additional 
permission. It is a restriction, a disclaimer, and it must remain as such. 
I don't have to offer it as a license.

The first line of the BSDL (Redistribution and use...) giveth, the 
condition list taketh away. Strictly speaking I don't even think you have 
to include the first line because it isn't part of the list, but that's 
not really the issue. The effect of those lines depends on what I write 
around it.

Case in point, this email. I quoted you, but I'm not saying those things. 
I am relaying the fact that you said those things to anyone who reads my 
email. That is all the BSDL requires of me...that I relay the fact that 
the original license said all those things. I don't have to repeat them 
myself and become bound by them myself.

Donovan Hawkins, PhD                 "The study of physics will always be
Software Engineer                     safer than biology, for while the
hawkins at                   hazards of physics drop off as 1/r^2,                biological ones grow exponentially."

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