Sunday, 2014-11-09

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paulI'm wondering if anyone could help me (well, us) on a licensing question that's affecting the community of our project.08:42
paulWe have a GPL library, with a very diverse set of copyright holders.08:42
paulIt has an API for registering callbacks for dealing with IPC to another daemon,  such that the library will deal with monitoring the fd and parsing incoming messages, and the library user just gets it callbacks called with everything parsed and filled in after an IPC message comes in.08:45
paulIt also provides services to support configuration and interactive UI.08:45
paulSo, non-trivial functionality.08:45
paulSay someone takes a BSD/MIT/X11 licensed daemon, and adapts it to make use of this library.08:46
paulI.e. they make significant modifications to some subset of the files that came from this BSD/MIT/X11 daemon, and they even write a new file.08:46
paulCan the resulting work still be distributed only under the BSD/MIT/X11 licence?08:47
paulI always thought this kind of thing pretty clearly would make (at least) the modified code subject to the GPL licence of the library.08:48
paulThere are some in/around our project who claim it doesn't.08:48
paulThey claim only the resulting /binary/ of the adapted-daemon is subject to the GPL of the library.08:49
paulThey claim its source is not affected.08:49
paulIs that claim correct?08:49
paulIt seems to me unlikely, because binary and source are generally not different under copyright law, are they? If binary of the adapted-daemon becomes subject to the library's GPL because of the modifications, then surely its source does too?08:51
paulFurther, if that claim is correct, wouldn't that mean then that anyone could distribute code that used GPL libraries heavily under any licence (proprietary or whatever), so long as they distributed it as source. That doesn't seem right.08:52
paulDoes anyone know of authoritative, widely respected opinions on this subject?08:53
warppaul: this is one of the difficult questions in free software licensing :)08:56
warppaul: I think a statically linked binary is obviously a derivative work of the library, because it includes the library in the same file. (and linking dynamically doesn't change things significantly)08:58
paulwarp: so, in another sphere, I dealt with corporate legal counsel once. They didn't care a jot about technicalities like static v dynamic linking.08:59
warppaul: if you don't distribute the library along with the MIT/BSD/X11 licenses daemon, it is less obvious.  Have the changes which have been made to the daemon source code made that source code a derivative work of the library?09:00
paulwarp: they seemed to be concerned about whether one body of code dependend on another in the abstract. (Was my understanding)09:00
paulIt was really interesting, because those lawyers reasoned about things in a way I was completely unused to as a free software programmer.09:00
paulMuch more abstract.09:01
warppaul: if the API boundary is clear enough, I can see the argument that the daemon is not a derivative work.  I think in general it is safer to assume that it would be covered by the GPL though.09:01
paulwarp: some other people are distributing the daemon together with the rest of the project.09:02
paulthe library is part of a wider project, that has different daemons that implement different protocols.09:02
paulbecause we havn't made the library stable, it is hard to write distribute any daemons using separately from the library.09:02
warppaul: anyway, I suggest you stick around here and see if anyone else (like bkuhn) has an opinion :)09:03
paulwarp: yeah, I'll lurk :)09:03
paulIn our project, there is friction, because that other project wants us to incorporate that adapted-BSD/MIT/X11-daemon into our project, but they /refuse/ to let it be integrated with GPL headers.09:04
paulIn our project there are some who think at least the adapted source code almost surely should have GPL headers (e.g. prob me), and there are others who think it definitely should not (primarily they think the source form is not subject to the GPL, even if the overall binary is).09:05
paulThis is causing a little bit of friction.09:05
paulAny advice that could help settle this, or advice, greatly appreciated.09:06
paulor other advice i mean.09:06
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bkuhnpaul: I read the backlog, the situation is clearly complicated and a lot going on.10:03
bkuhnHave you written to the FSF's licensing advice address, <>.10:04
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bkuhnpaul: I think the main problem with questions is that your community has conflated so many different things.  I see there distinct topics conflated in your comments: (a) corporate control of the developers' of your project (and some developers not being under that corporate control), (b) community politics involving disagreements in licensing strategies, and (c) the actual licensing questions.10:05
* bkuhn notices that Paul is a Quagga developer.10:13
bkuhnI know a few things about the history of Quagga and its relationship with the financial industry, which is notoriously GPL-unfriendly.10:13
bkuhnBut nothing comes to mind that can help you -- other than to point out that the politics you're dealing with are probably the bigger issue than the actual licensing questions that are used as props in that political fight.10:13
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paulbkuhn: Ah, well, the corporate thing I mentioned as an aside - that's a different case, but one that has helped inform my view of licensing issues :). But yes, there are definitely politics at play.13:06
paulbkuhn: Getting some kind of clear answer on the licensing issue would be good. I had thought it was fairly clear, at least clear enough to be the kind of issue that distros would drop your packages for.13:06
paulBut some disagree.13:06
bkuhnpaul: Have you read The Guide already?13:10
bkuhnAnyway, I definitely disagree with the idea that having some sort of "clear answer" about th licensing would solve the politics.13:11
bkuhnFirst of all, there are no clear answers in life about anything.13:11
bkuhnIf people want to push the edges of what's permitted and try to get away with something, they may get enforced against.  This is the risk that everyone who wants to do proprietary software and put it close in some way with copylefted software must take.13:12
bkuhnI don't really care that it's risky for them.13:12
bkuhnThat's the point: the goal of copyleft is to influence people's behavior such that they can't keep things proprietary.13:12
bkuhnAnd, once you reach that point in the discussion, it simply degrades into the usual "adoption vs. software freedom" spectrum that maps directly to the "non-copyleft vs. copyleft"  spectrum.13:13
bkuhnIn short, copyleft, as a strategy, does *not* have as its goal of making it easy to create proprietary software.13:13
paulbkuhn: I agree it isn't per se the answer to the politics.13:17
bkuhnIt's not really an answer to anything, IMO.13:17
paulbkuhn: there are a subset of people who might be able to change their mind based on strong legal advice. Depending on which way that is, in some scenarious it could fix things.13:18
bkuhnwhat "things" would13:18
bkuhnit fix?13:18
bkuhnand what is the "it" you're talking about?13:19
paulPeople advocate two incompatible scenarios. Advice that one was definitely OK or definitely not OK could be enough to sway things, to either resolve the issue or at least allow the discussion to die.13:20
bkuhnThis whole discussion sounds really vague to me.13:21
paulbkuhn: corporates wanting to build proprietary software isn't, AFAIK, the issue - if people have been straight with me about their motivations.13:21
paulbkuhn: yeah :)13:21
paulbkuhn: So you're saying there's no point getting legal advice on the specific case I gave above?13:21
bkuhnI read the backlog, all of it seemed vague and confusing.13:22
bkuhnIf the company wants to release all its code as GPL'd software, then there's no issue.13:22
bkuhnIt doesn't matter what is or is not a derivative and/or combined work of what then.13:22
bkuhnThey just GPL it all.13:22
paulbkuhn: well, from when I joined at 1341 to 1349 - was that not fairly specific?13:22
paulbkuhn: I need to do shopping, I can give links to the specific files in the git repos if it would help.13:23
bkuhn(I'm in a diffeernt time zone ;)13:23
paulWhen I get back.13:23
bkuhnpaul: Honestly, I'm not convinced yet there is anything worth spending my time on.13:23
bkuhnIf the people releasing stuff under MIT, or 3-Clause-BSD or other licenses that the FSF has listed as GPL-compatible, take their code and incorporate under GPL, as the FSF advises you can.13:23
paulbkuhn: well, I joined at xx41 in your time zone. To 9 minutes later after that.13:24
bkuhnIf they object, tell them you are complying with their license, and that they can sue you for copyright infringement if they think you aren't.13:24
bkuhnI don't see why you'd need nor want to maintain it as purely permissively licensed code, unless there is some non-copyleft project you need to collaborate with regularly, which you didn't say in your text above.13:24
paulbkuhn: Sure, but that has pissed off the authors of the BSD/MIT/X11 code who maintain there was no need to put GPL headers on their code when integrating it. They claim only the binaries, containing the collective work, are subject to the GPL of the licence.13:25
paulAnd, we'd like to keep them happy, if it were possible.13:25
paulthey are not a corporate, he's an academic basically.13:25
bkuhnpaul: have you written to <> already?13:26
paulAnd his former student (I don't know if he's stayed in academia or not).13:26
paulbkuhn: I'll do that.13:26
bkuhnIf that's all your asking, then this a pretty simple question that they could answer.13:26
bkuhnI think there's more to the story that's not clear, because all this is very vague.13:26
bkuhnBut that's the right address to write to.13:26
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paulI found something that seems to answer my question:
paulThe last paragraph of ยง2.3 seems to cover the question I had.19:37
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fontanapaul: I might have written that paragraph (though if so I think it was under bkuhn's tutelage) - I think it reflects a kind of FUD we were perpetrating at SFLC (with the best of intentions). Otherwise an article I'm very proud of having helped write. :)21:42
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ollythe links from the contents at seem to open with the scrollbar position ignoring the header, so you can't see the first couple of lines for the section you clicked on22:12
ollyat least in iceweasel (unbranded firefox)22:12
ollye.g. - the first line I can see starts "begin by first considering"22:12
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