GPLv3, LGPLv3 Review (WAS: License Committee Report for July 2007)

Wilson, Andrew andrew.wilson at
Tue Jul 31 23:14:22 UTC 2007

John Cowan wrote:

>> In this scenario, you are in fact relicensing the BSD components
>> GPLv2, as you have rights to do providing you leave the original BSD
>> copyright notices and disclaimer of warranty intact.
> How on earth can I change the license (which is what "relicense"
> on a copy of a copyrighted work that belongs to someone else?  A
> is an act of sovereign power by the copyright owner that grants rights
> to the licensees.  Absent a grant of the power to relicense (a word,
> as well as a right, not present in the BSD license), I cannot possibly
> do such a thing.

Perhaps a non-GPL example will help clarify.  As is well known,
Mac OS X contains great gobs of BSD-licensed code which Apple 
re-releases under their own proprietary license.  They are permitted
to do this since BSD gives unlimited rights to redistribute and modify,
with the sole proviso that the original copyrights and disclaimers
With BSD, anything that is not forbidden is allowed.  You may apply your

own additional terms and conditions (e.g. relicense).  You don't
have to change the original grant from the BSD copyright holder to do

Just as Apple may add their EULA on top of BSD, you or I or anyone else
may add GPL on top of BSD-licensed code and distribute the result.

The phrase you sometimes hear "GPL-compatible license" is a
misnomer.  What is really meant is "a license which allows you to
relicense as GPL."  BSD is one such license, LGPL is another.  Because
the aggressive nature of the GPL copyleft, the only type of non-GPL
code which can be integrated into a Combined Work with GPL code must
be under a "license which allows you to relicense as GPL."  The point of
original comment was that, for better or for worse, LGPLv3 has no
built-in mechanism to convert to GPLv2 and thus is incompatible
with a non-trivial set of real-world programs. e.g. GPLv2-only code.

Andy Wilson
Intel open source technology center

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