[License-discuss] Differences between GPL and LGPL

Lawrence Rosen lrosen at rosenlaw.com
Wed Jan 2 16:57:58 UTC 2013

[topic changed from "License which requires watermarking?"]

Hi Bruce, 

You keep referring to the enormous cost of litigation and you encourage companies to err on the "conservative side" of this GPL/LGPL issue. You should also consider the potential cost to a plaintiff for falsely accusing a defendant of copyright infringement, even outside of court. I would also like you to weigh the frustrated expectations of licensors who choose between the GPL and LGPL on mistaken grounds, expecting certain behavior by their licensees that they won't be able to force even in a court fight. 

FOSS is no longer a small-business enterprise where a random copyright owner can threaten licensees to force the disclosure of proprietary code and expect to win simply because of community pressure. (At the very least, you shouldn't expect open source lawyers like me to respond to that form of community pressure on a list like this!)

The first question one should ask about copyright infringement situations is: "Do we have an infringement?" In other words, "Has the defendant created a derivative work?" Only then does one ask, "Is this derivative work licensed (under certain conditions)?" This analysis must precede even the *allegation* of infringement!

As to that latter question about license conditions, BOTH the GPL and the LGPL require the publication of the source code of derivative works. No difference! So what is the proper criteria for choosing between the GPL and LGPL? Does anyone here actually contend that the difference between these two licenses lies in the definition of a "derivative work"? Or that the GPL and LGPL impose different burdens on licensees depending upon what kind of derivative work they create?


Lawrence Rosen
Rosenlaw & Einschlag, a technology law firm (www.rosenlaw.com)
3001 King Ranch Rd., Ukiah, CA 95482
Office: 707-485-1242

-----Original Message-----
From: Bruce Perens [mailto:bruce at perens.com] 
Sent: Tuesday, January 01, 2013 6:58 PM
To: lrosen at rosenlaw.com; license-discuss at opensource.org
Subject: Re: [License-discuss] License which requires watermarking? (Attribution Provision)

Would that we all had infinite budgets for going to court :-) But short of having them, many businesses choose, quite sensibly, to err on the conservative side of this sort of issue and will honor the license whether or not a court would make them do so. This will also get them through an M&A intellectual property audit in better shape than otherwise.

I do know a company that spent money, including on me, to argue just this sort of issue recently. They spent more than most businesses would be able to endure.



On 01/01/2013 05:23 PM, Lawrence Rosen wrote:
> Really? That's not wise. How would the choice of license affect the
> *legal* determination of whether the resulting work is or is not a 
> derivative work for which source code must be disclosed?

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