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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- JoeBarr.Org: "Avoiding BSD v. GPL licensi

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- JoeBarr.Org: "Avoiding BSD v. GPL licensing issues"
Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 20:36:34 +0100

Avoiding BSD v. GPL licensing issues

In the wake of recent flareups over the inclusion of BSD licensed code
in GPL licensed programs, a little extra vigilance can go a long way.
Recently, Fedora package managers manually reviewing code licenses in a
new version of Joop Stakenborg’s popular XLog program — used by amateur
radio enthusiasts around the globe to record their contacts — discovered
a change in the licensing of one of the included files which impacted
the licensing of the program as a whole.

The problem began with the release of Xlog 1.6, which, according to its
ChangeLog, “Adopted the wwl rewrite by Diane, VA3DB.” Xlog had long used
the wwl.h and wwl.c files, which were previously licensed under the GPL.
The rewrite of wwl.c, however, stipulates:

* <db@FreeBSD.ORG> wrote this file. As long as you retain this notice
* can do whatever you want with this code, except you may not
* license it under any form of the GPL.
* A postcard or QSL card showing me you appreciate
* this code would be nice. Diane Bruce va3db

Stakenborg obviously didn’t catch that change as he merged the new wwl.c
in with Xlog version 1.6, but a visual check of licensing terms by
people trying to add an Xlog package to Fedora did. As Sindre Pedersen
Bjordal reviewed the source code for Xlog 1.6, submitted for packaging
by Bob Jensen, KC0WYC, he noted the comment in wwl.c and queried Tom
Callaway at Red Hat about it, saying “I’ve found at least three
different licenses in the source code headers. GPL, LGPL and BSD.
Examples: wwl.c seems to be under BSD style license, gc.c is under the
LGPL, support.c seems to be under the GPL.”

Callaway responded Bjordal’s query by saying “This is problematic,
because it links directly to the rest of the xlog sources, which are
GPLv2+. (All of the other files also make a reference to the Library
Public License, but they’re really under the GPL, not the LGPL). Not to
mention that the header file for wwl.c (wwl.h) is explicitly under the
GPL, its really not possible for wwl.c to not be GPL. As is, there is no
way you can include this package in Fedora. You either need to
relicense, replace, or remove the wwl.c code.”

When Stakenborg was informed of the issue, he immediately made it a
non-issue by releasing Xlog 1.6.1, in which he reverted to the earlier
version of wwl.c. Stakenborg replied to an email I sent asking about the
issue that “All of the xlog code is now GPL V3.”

For the short term, and setting aside possible debate over whether or
not a rewrite of wwl.c could be released under any license other than
the GPL, Stakenborg’s solution is certainly the quickest and easiest
path to correcting the situation and avoiding another BSD v. GPL
licensing dispute. Kudos to Joop and all involved with licensing reviews
at Fedora for catching and correcting the problem.

For the long term, and to get a better version of wwl.c included in
Xlog, the best course of action would seem to be to do a complete
rewrite of wwl.c licensed under the GPL.


"Plaintiffs’ copyrights are unique and valuable property whose market 
value is impossible to assess"

                             -- SOFTWARE FREEDOM LAW CENTER, INC.

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