[License-discuss] Category "B" licenses at Apache

Lawrence Rosen lrosen.rosenlaw at gmail.com
Mon Aug 17 22:09:59 UTC 2015

An Apache member wrote that this ASF license objective is firmly held: To
allow our customers to "redistribute with closed-source modifications."

That objective remains completely and always enforceable for ALv2 code. It
is not enforceable for Eclipse (ECL) components or MPLv2 components.

These are two different but entirely valid ways to FOSS. Reciprocity is a
license condition for some FOSS licenses. There is nothing evil in that. It
is always an author's prerogative to choose her FOSS license.

None of the companies in Eclipse Foundation have any objection whatsoever
(that I've heard) to the inclusion of ECL and MPLv2 components into Apache
aggregations. Indeed, they collectively and enthusiastically create such
valuable FOSS components for that very purpose. They include them in their
own products.

So is the objective "to redistribute with closed-source modifications"
intended to describe an actual Apache concern, or a religious objection to
all reciprocal licenses? Certainly not the latter!

According to the current Apache Third Party License Policy
<http://www.apache.org/legal/resolved.html>, ASF doesn't really object to
these reciprocal FOSS licenses; they are handled as exceptions. In the
Policy "this is colloquially known as the *Category B* list."

But then that Policy makes the following strange explanation for Category B
and its enforcement conditions at ASF: *"By including only the
object/binary form, there is less exposed surface area of the third-party
work from which a work might be derived; this addresses the second guiding
principle of this policy."*

That "object/binary form" requirement and the reference to "exposed surface
area" in the Policy are nonsense. I repeat three statements I made here

·       The binary and source forms of a work are, from a copyright
perspective, the exact same work subject to the exact same FOSS license.
Stop wasting time trying to distinguish them legally.

·       Apache is committed to FOSS. For that reason, we should always
publish source code. Binaries are a convenience for our customers published
by our projects, but never without source code.

·       Our failure, or our customer's failure, to make that source code
available (including of course any ALv2 code) and copies of all relevant
licenses, is a probable breach of license and possible copyright
infringement. All modern technology companies understand that about FOSS
and copyright law.

The "second guiding principle" referred to in the current Apache Policy is

2.  The license must not place restrictions on the distribution of
independent works that simply use or contain the covered work.

This accurately and precisely refers to "independent works" and not
"derivative works."  Reciprocity has nothing to do with independent works.
Every FOSS license (except perhaps under the GPL "static linking" doctrine)
satisfies this second guiding principle. See OSD.


P.S. I don't know if this message will survive legal-discuss@ list
moderation, so I intend to send it onto other lists. All quotations are
from *public* ASF lists.

Lawrence Rosen

"If this were legal advice it would have been accompanied by a bill."
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.opensource.org/pipermail/license-discuss_lists.opensource.org/attachments/20150817/9794cbfc/attachment.html>

More information about the License-discuss mailing list