Question about GNU/Linux & the advertising clause of BSD

Brian Behlendorf brian at
Mon Oct 11 05:16:36 UTC 1999

So, I've been thinking about Stallman's desire to see people call
Linux GNU/Linux; and comparing that to his stated (if I recall correctly)
criticism of the advertising clause in the original BSD and Apache
licenses.  By the way, the advertising clause in Apache has been changed -
it's now

 * 3. The end-user documentation included with the redistribution, if
 *    any, must include the following acknowlegement:  
 *       "This product includes software developed by the 
 *        Apache Software Foundation ("
 *    Alternately, this acknowlegement may appear in the software itself,
 *    if and wherever such third-party acknowlegements normally appear.

With this as context, let me ask this list a question.  Bruce, I believe
this is on topic for this list, as it does strike at an OSD issue.

I am advising a company that wants to build a significant library of open
source software for a software niche which until this point has been
completely closed and proprietary and expensive.  This niche is usually
combined hardware and software, and this company is hoping to use
commodity hardware and free software to commoditize this niche and
position themselves in a "Red Hat"-equivalent role.

They want to use the GPL and the LGPL for their software - which makes a
lot of sense, this is a community where the liklihood of a commercial
vendor doing a proprietary fork is quite high.  However, even with
competitors following the mandates of the GPL and LGPL when it comes to
releasing modifications, there is a concern that the brand name behind the
original source code would be lost, and that the momentum behind the
original project would not materialize, because most end-users would not
even know about the origins of the code.  This hurts, because it means
that the network effect may never happen, and this single company could
end up paying for development for the rest of the industry, who get a free

This is an area where the (ex-)BSD or Apache advertising clause would help
- in fact, they'd like a particular logo associated with the project to
appear not just in advertising materials, but on the hardware that when
sold includes this software by default.  This is also a market where the
end-users will typically not even *know* they are dealing with software -
to them it's a hardware piece which performs a particular task
transparantly and usually has no need for customization.  So merely asking
for a note in the README or documentation would be insufficient if part of
the point is to make everyone aware of the upstream origin.

I think, ethically, this is OK - this is one way to prevent "frivolous"
forks, even though I think we all agree the right to fork is essential.
The question is - how do we reconcile it with the GPL/LGPL?  Is this
company forced to create YAOSL (yet another open source license), when all
it is is a GPL with an ad clause?

Anyone else have a good idea on how to make end-users aware of the
upstream origin of the open source software they are using?

Maybe the answer is already there, and my brain cells are just tired

Thanks for any insight.


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