[License-review] Approval: BSD + Patent License

Jim Wright jim.wright at oracle.com
Thu Jan 21 18:28:07 UTC 2016

Oh, I understand your argument here - and to be clear, my comment was not intended as criticism of the license (as I’m sure McCoy knows), just a note of different effect, however one interprets the mechanisms of copyleft.  If one, e.g., has a commercial contract with a provision requiring all code you give the counterparty to be under particular terms, you might not be able to give them code under BSD+PL because you arguably cannot relicense it, on those terms or any others.  This is a difference from the UPL.

As to anyone’s interpretation of BSD compatibility with the GPLv2, I don’t think we need to deep dive this here (we can take it offline, and let’s please do - it would be impolite to hijack the thread on McCoy’s proposal for a long running debate reading on many other things).  Among the other differences from the UPL, I think we can safely agree that there are nontrivial legal differences between being able to sublicense a piece of code and not being able to.


> On Jan 21, 2016, at 9:34 AM, John Cowan <cowan at mercury.ccil.org> wrote:
> Jim Wright scripsit:
>> - The UPL expressly permits sublicensing, the BSD+PL does not  [...]
>> such that under the BSD+PL you could not necessarily, e.g., cut
>> and paste code into something licensed under terms that require the
>> entirety of the work to be under a single license, or offer the work
>> on proprietary terms, and purporting to do so could be infringing.
> Traditionally, neither of these has been seen as an issue with the
> BSD licenses.  Because they grant licenses directly from the named
> contributor(s) to whoever has the source code, there is no need to derive
> one's license through a sublicensor: it is original.  (This is also why
> the BSD licenses don't explicitly grant access to the source code: they
> *presume* that you have the source code in hand.)  This is a consequence
> of open source licenses being public licenses, meaning that everyone is
> a licensee.
> The GNU GPL and similar licenses require that a composite work containing
> any GPLed code be licensed *as a whole* under the relevant flavor of
> copyleft license, but they do not and cannot require that *no part*
> of the code be licensed under any other license (the term "entirety" is
> somewhat ambiguous here).  If you receive a work in source form under,
> say, the GPLv2, then you have a GPLv2 license to the whole work, but any
> BSD snippets in it are *also* licensed to you on BSD terms directly by
> the BSD licensor, and you can extract them and use them in BSD-ish ways.
> This is the principle by which an anthology, for example, that contains
> public domain short stories (I have such a thing on my desk at present),
> cannot change the fact that stories embedded in it which are in the
> public domain are still in the public domain, and I can copy them out
> of the book (assuming they have not been modified by the anthologist).
> For the typical case of BSD snippet reuse in proprietary works, the
> same thing applies in principle, but you cannot typically extract the
> snippet from the binary because most proprietary licenses forbid reverse
> engineering, so your BSD license to them is not very useful.
> -- 
> John Cowan          http://www.ccil.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
> The experiences of the past show that there has always been a discrepancy
> between plans and performance.        --Emperor Hirohito, August 1945
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