Re: GPL-incompatible license

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On Tue, Feb 10, 2004 at 04:45:45AM -0500, Richard Stallman wrote:
>    Am I correct in my understanding that the problem here is the possibility
>    that under current, and also previous, XFree86 licensing policy, X
>    libraries are permitted to contain code under a GPL-incompatible licence,
>
>I may be wrong, since I don't entirely know the XFree86 policies, but
>this not how I thought it was.
>
>I thought that the previous XFree86 licensing policy was to use a
>specific license, which happens to be compatible with the GPL.  That
>license did not pose a problem.  The problem comes from adoption of a
>new license which, as far as I know, was not used in XFree86 before.

XFree86 contains code from many sources and contributors, and under a
range of licences with many copyright holders.  There has never been
a single _specific_ licence covering everything.  XFree86's policy has
always been that the licensing choice is up to the individual contributor
falling within our basic policy. 

The only specific licence that has ever existed in XFree86 is that which
applies to code that the Project specifically holds the copyright to.
This code is a relatively small percentage of the total XFree86 source
tree, and is the only part of XFree86 that is seeing a change with the
new licence.  We are neither requiring nor asking other copyright holders
to tender their copyright over to XFree86 and so these other copyright
holders would still retain their rights.

Basically, XFree86 licensing policy has always been to allow licences
that satisfy both of these extremely important requirements:

   1. Be an Open Source licence.  
   2. Not require that source code be made available for binary-only
      distributions of derivative works.

The general preference has been for licences like the BSD and MIT
licences.  By BSD, I mean the original BSD licence in common use when
XFree86 began.  Historically, GPL compatibility has not been an issue
one way or the other regarding XFree86's licensing policy and so to make
it an issue now would represent a very real change in our licensing
policy.

The COPYRIGHT/LICENSE document that accompanies our releases serves as
an example of the types of licences that are acceptable, with each of
them being used for some portion of the code in the XFree86 source tree.

So, I am surprised to hear that you were not aware of this, especially
since the FSF web site's "Various Licenses and Comments about Them" page
<http://www.fsf.org/licenses/license-list.html#OriginalBSD> links to
the online copy of the XFree86 3.3.6 COPYRIGHT document for its example
of the original BSD licence.

An example of a substantial piece of work included in the XFree86 source
tree is the FreeType Project's 1.3.1 release which includes a version
of FreeType that has the type of "advertising" clause that appears to
be at the centre of this discussion.  The FreeType Project has since
chosen to dual-licence their work, at least for later releases, but
XFree86 continues to redistribute newer versions of FreeType under the
original licence because the alternative (GPL) is not consistent with
XFree86 licensing policy.

>    and that by addressing the GPL-compatibility of the X library code we
>    would also be addressing your concerns?
>
>The GPL-compatibility of the license is the whole of my concern.  This
>is clearly essential for Xlib, since the use of Xlib is to combine it
>it with applications, but I don't think the significance is limited
>to Xlib.

I could see a potential case for arguing that our library licensing
policy be tightened, i.e. become more restrictive in what licences it
will accept, and reduce the licensing choices available to contributors
to XFree86 libraries.  This is analogous to the FSF's use of the LGPL
for libraries instead of the GPL for practical and pragmatic reasons.

Anything beyond this modification would represent an unprecedented change
to XFree86's licensing policy, and I believe that there would be situations
in which some code would have to be removed to satisfy it.

David
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