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The Courts Operating Systems Government BSD News

Dispelling BSD License Misconceptions 202

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the deflating-the-demons dept.
AlanS2002 writes "Groklaw is hosting an article by Brendan Scott which looks at the misconceptions surrounding the BSD license. From the article: 'We observe that there exists a broad misconception that the BSD permits the licensing of BSD code and modifications of BSD code under closed source licenses. In this paper we put forward an argument to the effect that the terms of the BSD require BSD code and modifications to BSD code to be licensed under the terms of the BSD license. We look at some possible consequences and observe that this licensing requirement could have serious impacts on the unwary.'"
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Dispelling BSD License Misconceptions

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  • by Watson Ladd (955755) on Monday January 15, 2007 @02:06PM (#17617040)
    The MIT license looks like it explictly permits relicensing. Would someone more qualified in the legal art then me care to comment?
    • by albalbo (33890)
      I don't think so. It says you can sub-license it; that doesn't let you change the conditions of the licence. That's basically how people receive the license to use the software.

      In general, no-one except the copyright holder has the ability to set the licensing terms of something. I disagree with the article, though, in that the practical consequences aren't particularly disastrous - complying with the terms of new BSD / MIT / etc. in parallel with those of another license doesn't look too hard to me.
  • Fascinating (Score:3, Informative)

    by JoshJ (1009085) on Monday January 15, 2007 @02:11PM (#17617082) Journal
    If this turns out to be true, it could have some pretty far-reaching effects, potentially damaging Microsoft, Apple, and even certain F/OSS projects. There seems to be quite the firestorm of controversy over the BSD license lately- perhaps it'd just be better to use a license that isn't so controversial- MIT if you want something to be available for use in closed-source products, or GPL if you don't.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by AlanS2002 (580378)
      The BSD license doesn't mean that you have to release the source code to any modification/redistributions. It just says that modifications/redistributions (weather that is source, binary or both) have to be released under the BSD license. In that regard I don't think it would have much impact on Apple (I presume you are referring to Mac OS X) or Microsoft (I presume you are talking about their FTP app.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by QuantumG (50515) *
        Does mean we can legally reverse engineer that binary to see what proprietary extensions they have made to the original BSD licensed code however.. and, if we were doing decompilation, the resulting "source code" would be BSD licensed too.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kcbrown (7426)

        The BSD license doesn't mean that you have to release the source code to any modification/redistributions. It just says that modifications/redistributions (weather that is source, binary or both) have to be released under the BSD license. In that regard I don't think it would have much impact on Apple (I presume you are referring to Mac OS X) or Microsoft (I presume you are talking about their FTP app.

        I think your understanding of the license is basically correct, but you don't seem to be seeing the im

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by init100 (915886)

          With respect to Microsoft, it could have a big impact, because they incorporate BSD code into their TCP/IP stack if I'm not mistaken.

          According to Microsoft, this is no longer true. BSD code were only used earlier to get TCP/IP functionality into Windows quickly when it became obvious that Internet (and not Microsoft Network, a.k.a. MSN) would be the next "big thing"

          But of course the source isn't available , so we can't verify this claim.

      • Re:Fascinating (Score:4, Informative)

        by sik0fewl (561285) <xxdigitalhellxx@ ... m ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday January 15, 2007 @03:42PM (#17618474) Homepage

        The BSD licence does not say that any modifications must also be released under the BSD licence. It does say that that a copy of the original licence, copyright notices, disclaimer, etc, must be including in any redistribution of the source or binary.

        In fact, the BSD licence does not say anything about licensing any code—at all.

    • Re:Fascinating (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Timesprout (579035) on Monday January 15, 2007 @02:24PM (#17617260)
      Its not facinating, its more license genital tugging that OSS seems obsessed with. The argument itself is untested, weak and clearly contrary to the spirit of the BSD license which ultimately is quite liberal so even if the assumptions made in the argument were true little would actually change. Reads more like a GPL is the best license in the world scare tactic.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Aim Here (765712)
        The argument might be weak and contrary to what most people think about the BSD license, but it's not necessarily untested; there was one instance where the holders of a BSD-licensed copyright argued something similar.

        The email client pine used to be nominally BSD-licensed, until the FSF tried to make a GPLed version. Then Washington University got all sniffy about relicensing, claimed that the BSD license didn't say what everybody thought it said (something about distribution being allowed, and modificatio
        • Actually, if the FSF simply backed down before a ruling was reached (if court proceedings even began at all), then the license has never been tested in court. No case with a ruling means it still hasn't actually been tested.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by timeOday (582209)
      Yes, I am baffled by this. It makes BSD sound like the GPL. I've always thought BSD was pretty much the wild west except you have to pass along their copyright statement with your software.
      • You also have to pass on their total lack of warranty - hence MS are debarred by law from warranting that Windows is fit for any purpose whatever. Its not logical - its the law!

        IANAL etc

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by LurkerXXX (667952)
          Incorrect. MS is totally free to warranty that Windows is fit for any purpose they care to warranty it for. What they can't do is pass on that responsibility to the authors of any BSD code in it for the BSD parts. That's why the warranty part of the BSD license stays with the author notice. So 'The buck stops at MS' if they want to warranty it for any purposes, but they are absolutely free to warranty it if they like.
      • by zotz (3951)
        I haven't read the article, but from skimming the comments so far, if correct it would be more like a copyleft without source requirements. Would you agree? (If not, do I really need to read the article?)

        all the best,

        drew
    • by NSIM (953498)
      For Windows, probably not as far reaching as you might think. My understanding is that only piece of BSD code was the IP stack, and this has been rewritten from scratch in VISTA (coincidence?)
    • by Intron (870560)
      What the article entirely misses is that a license is only as restrictive as the licensors wish to pursue it. If someone decides to release closed-source modified BSD code, who is going to write a check to a lawyer to stop them?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 15, 2007 @02:14PM (#17617138)
    One tidbit seems to be ignored--this would only apply under AUSTRALIAN law, per the article.

    But, if true, it might mean that the BSD is indeed "viral" in Australia!

    Wonder what Microsoft might have to do about all that old BSD networking code they use if this is true?
    • by JoshJ (1009085)
      Oh, good catch. I missed that. If this is "true" then I'd just expect Microsoft to just not release Windows in Australia anymore. Or just get the Aussie court system to look the other way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CDarklock (869868)
      I see at least one glaring flaw in the reasoning. The author states that redistribution of modified source code is a distribution of source code and hence it must be distributed under those restrictions.

      But redistribution of unrelated source code is also a distribution of source code. Why stop at applying the license to source code written explicitly to extend the licensed code? You could extend it to source code written by anyone using the licensed code, whether their new code interacts with the licensed c
      • by Chris Burke (6130)
        But redistribution of unrelated source code is also a distribution of source code. Why stop at applying the license to source code written explicitly to extend the licensed code? You could extend it to source code written by anyone using the licensed code, whether their new code interacts with the licensed code or not. In fact, if you interpret the license literally, you could extend the license to any and all source code everywhere - even if the author never agreed to the license. It doesn't say "any distr
    • Australia's legal structure inherits from the UK, as does the US system. The guy did mention that his speculations might well apply to the US and the UK.
      • by jonbryce (703250)
        Or more specifically, it inherits from England. The Scottish legal system doesn't inherit from England, but rather from Roman law, and things about contracts and licensing are very different.
  • It's Funny. Laugh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nuzak (959558) on Monday January 15, 2007 @02:19PM (#17617206) Journal
    This novel interpretation of the BSD license requires various syntax games with the license text that simply aren't supported by common sense interpretation. And yes, while common sense may not be the output of much of any area of law, contract law included, it's still got a lot of weight as input.

    It's not a viral license, no matter how much anyone wants to twist their personal interpretation of it. All in all, it's pretty funny, telling the licensors how they actually intended a different outcome than what they, well, intended.
    • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Monday January 15, 2007 @02:34PM (#17617386)
      Call a spade a spade. It's not a 'novel interpretation', it's FUD.

      Someone who want all software to be 'open' only in the GPL notion is trying to spread FUD that the truely free BSD license also has the same viral restrictions. Don't buy it, don't spread it. It's FUD.

      To the author of this crap 'interpretation': If you want your software under GPL, then write it that way, but don't try to spread crap about the BSD license.
  • by baadger (764884) on Monday January 15, 2007 @02:20PM (#17617216)
    ...personally I'd rather declare any code I produce to belong to the Public Domain or just keep it entirely closed and private. The way law is makes anything else a headache. Seriously, if even lawyers can't agree on anything why does anyone in the Open Source community even bother? Personally I care more about other people being able to benefit from my code than preventing corporations from using it for profit.

    SQLite [sqlite.org] is released to the public domain and it's some damn fine code.
    • Personally I care more about other people being able to benefit from my code than preventing corporations from using it for profit.

      Most OpenSource licenses aren't about stopping corporations from profiting and many even encourage that. They are also not about giving away code. Most are about making a trade. You can have my code if I can get credit, or use any code you write to improve it. If I'm writing some code either personally or for my company my motivation for licensing it with an OS license is to

    • by twitter (104583) on Monday January 15, 2007 @02:50PM (#17617604) Homepage Journal

      Personally I care more about other people being able to benefit from my code than preventing corporations from using it for profit.

      The problem comes when a company claims "ownership" of your code and then determines who benefits and under what contitions. That's what happens when you don't worry enough to make things right.

      A great example of such a theft is Macsyma [wikipedia.org](tediously detailed article that's nice but misses the point), the grand-daddy of Maple, MathCAD, Mathematica and many other symbolic algebra systems. It was developed, largely at public expense by people who expected the public to be able to have it. Instead, the results were "commercialized" in the 80's. A single copy of the original code [sourceforge.net](much better history, as you would expect from a free software project) survived thanks to the efforts of Bill Schelter [wikipedia.org], a GNU Common Lisp author and one of the first to port GCC to i386. Schelter managed to convince the DOE to let him legally distribute that code ... 20 years after it had been stolen from the public. Since then, development has been speedy and it will not be long before the quality matches or exceeds current commercial packages. The next time you spend a hundred bucks on one of it's commercial derivatives, remember that you might have had a free version a decade ago.

      So, before you freely give your life's effort to others, you might consider what they will really do to other people with it and chose an explicit license that suits your real tastes. The GPL is the most common choice made and there's a reason for that. The same old assholes are up to new tricks, like "trusted computing" that are designed to lock everyone but themselves out of the market. In the future, if they have their way, you will not be able to run your code on commercial hardware. Is that the kind of thing you want to support in any way?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ded Bob (67043)
        The GPL is the most common choice made and there's a reason for that.

        Maybe I misunderstood the history of Macsyma, but it sounds like the GPL would never have helped since the original code was not public in the first place.

        I believe all government source should be public domain or MIT-licensed for all to use. No particular party should have control of it within the bounds of the government. If a company wants to commercialize it or others want to GPL it, that is fine. Since everyone from companies to in
      • by Pieroxy (222434)
        This is a fairly lame example. If you don't want anyone to claim ownership of something in the public domain, the solution is simple: Backup you damn drives. Releasing under the GPL (or any other license for that matter) is in no way a guarantee that your code will be safe. Keeping a copy in a safe is a much better one.

        How are you going to prove that company X Y or Z infringed on your GPL license if you don't have your own copy to provide?

        Macsyma source code wouldn't have been lost if their author didn't lo
      • by gronofer (838299)
        Nobody can claim "ownership" of public domain code.

        Somebody who is "Sick of this Shit" is hardly likely to chose a license that places all kinds of restrictions and obligations on their licensees, since they don't want to be bothered with suing the licensees when they violate it.

      • The problem comes when a company claims "ownership" of your code and then determines who benefits and under what contitions. That's what happens when you don't worry enough to make things right.

        I can't figure out what happened with Macsyma from either your post or the two pages you link to. It sounds like MIT initially did not release Macsyma under any kind of open-source license to begin with, in which case your example is irrelevant to the question of BSD v. MIT v. GPL.

        It seems that eventually the

    • personally I'd rather declare any code I produce to belong to the Public Domain or just keep it entirely closed and private

      IANAL, but I worked with a number of attorneys on OSS licensing between 2000 and 2003. Of course, that was a few years ago, so my recollections may be fuzzy.

      A typical public domain declaration (e.g., "dedicate to the public domain any and all copyright interest...") does not disclaim warranties, meaning you may be "on the hook" if your code is used and problems arise. Implicit warra

      • by gronofer (838299)
        Presumably commercial law isn't going to be an issue if you are not selling anything.
  • Arcane (Score:5, Interesting)

    by radtea (464814) on Monday January 15, 2007 @02:24PM (#17617254)

    They seem to be saying this:

    1) The BSD license clause 3 says the FOLLOWING conditions must apply.

    2) They wonder if "apply" means "apply" or something else, like "apple" or "penguin".

    3) They note that one of the FOLLOWING conditions is the warranty.

    4) They wonder if one of the PRECEDING conditions (clause 2) ought to be handled the same way as the the warranty.

    In a narrowly construed legal sense they may have a point.

    In a human being sense, if anyone has ever wondered why we all hate lawyers and think they are wankers, this is pretty much it.

    It is, of course, impossible to create an unambigous document, and yet lawyers pretend to be able to do this, and then make a fortune out of their failures.

    No one, ever, anywhere, has ever had any question as to what the BSD license means. So clearly there is a valid and correct reading that means what everyone knows it to mean. So clearly any reading that completely reverses that meaning must be making a mistake somewhere.

    This post, by the way, can be interpreted as a love sonnet addressed to a musk ox, if you look at it closely enough and make up the meaning of a sufficiently large number of words, and wonder when I say, "it is, of course, impossible to create an unambigous document" if I really mean, "misey were the borogoves, and the momrath outrabe."

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 75th Trombone (581309)

      Close, but no cigar:

      'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
      All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nuzak (959558)
        From this typing mistake, we can conclude that the grandparent in fact engages in improper relations with rutabaga.

        No your honor, I have not been drinking.
        • by gardyloo (512791)
          From this typing mistake, we can conclude that the grandparent in fact engages in improper relations with rutabaga.

                Ah, if by this you mean that the forglewhoops have been dabbling in string theory again, and that Kansas will outlaw such frippery if paid enough by Gill Bates, I totally agree!
        • by radtea (464814)
          Gah! I'm a terrible speller and try to proof my posts. But not, apparently, my subject lines.
        • by dkf (304284)
          Somebody modded the parent as Informative, even with the rutabaga.

          Sir (or madam), you are one sneaky twisted soul with a subtle and disfunctional sense of humor. I salute you!
    • Quite a coincidence. Today, I was reading the subversion license (acknowledged as BSD style) to see if we could incorporate it in some add-on of our products. We need version control, you see. I read the text, and what was immediately obvious was the provision that next to the copyright 'this list of conditions' needed to be included. My common sense told me that if we distributed that software, tightly integrated with out product, what would 'this list of conditions' apply to? The subversion part of the co
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pyrrhonist (701154)
        How would you formulate the license of your code in such a way that (a) contains the BSD-license and (b) it only applies to the BSD part of the code and not to the code you wrote yourself, which EULA style. To make it interesting: you're distributing it as a single binary.

        There are different styles, so consult your lawyer. One good example is Apple iTunes which has a file called, "Acknowledgements.rtf", in its main directory which contains the following:

        Portions of this Apple Software may utilize the f

    • by zotz (3951)
      [This post, by the way, can be interpreted as a love sonnet addressed to a musk ox, if you look at it closely enough and make up the meaning of a sufficiently large number of words, and wonder when I say, "it is, of course, impossible to create an unambigous document" if I really mean, "misey were the borogoves, and the momrath outrabe."]

      Gee, and until I got here I was under the impression that the subject had to be 'Ode to a musk ox!' A sonnet you say? Are you certain?

      By the way, you must be brillig!

      all t
      • This post, by the way, can be interpreted as a love sonnet addressed to a musk ox
        By the way, you must be brillig!
        If by "brillig" you mean "Canadian", I could well believe it...
    • by Sancho (17056) *
      The common interpretation of the BSD license is just that--common. Of course, because legal mumbo-jumbo increases at a constant rate, it has failed to adapt. In other words, the original authors of the license probably never anticipated this amount of scrutiny.

      In truth, they're largely right. The clause explicitly says that source-distributions must effectively contain a reproduction of the entire license. It does it by separating the license into three parts, then demanding that each part be included.
    • by QuantumG (50515) *
      Uhhh, you're on crack. "Following" is only in the BSD license in one place:

      Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without
      modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

      [then the conditions]

      [then the warranty disclaimer]

    • by McDutchie (151611)
      In a human being sense, if anyone has ever wondered why we all hate lawyers and think they are wankers, this is pretty much it.

      You'd think geeks, who have this affinity with coding, would like attempts to define language precisely, since this is what programming languages do.

      Richard Stallman understood that writing legalese is like coding: he compared writing the GPL with writing a program. It's a damn good hack, too.

    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``1) The BSD license clause 3 says the FOLLOWING conditions must apply.''

      Not in my copy of it:

      Copyright (c) The Regents of the University of California.
      All rights reserved.

      Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without
      modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions
      are met:
      1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright
      notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
      2. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the

  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday January 15, 2007 @02:32PM (#17617362) Homepage Journal
    When Microsoft or some other proprietary software company that wants to use BSD licensed code, and actually has lawyers on payroll, decide on the wording for their license, it always reads like this:

    Copyright (c) 2003-2007 Microsoft Corporation.
    All rights reserved.

    [Copy of the EULA goes here]

    This software contains components from XXX which are available under this license:

    [Copy of the BSD license goes here]


    So they are not relicensing the BSD licensed components. They are providing those parts of the software under the license of which they were required and they are doing all they are required to use that code by providing the license in the documentation. The power of this is that the BSD license doesn't require the source code to be released to the user (and Brendan Scott, the author of the paper, recognises this in section 7.3) so the company can keep their modifications secret.

    • That looks like it's clear and valid, so that solves it. On the other hand, if you just put the BSD license into the documentation without the "his software contains components from XXX which are available under this license" line, the whole thing is probably BSD.

  • Personally, I think that this is just an attempt to make the BSD license somewhat equivalent to the GPL just so that people will use the GPL more. After all, we all know that the GNU Foundation has gotten really active with regards to activism:

    http://linux.slashdot.org/linux/06/12/31/010221.sh tml [slashdot.org]

    And the BSD/MIT licenses are the GPL's nearest competitor according to a poll here at /. (yes, I know that polls here aren't exactly accurate, but it does provide a indicator).

    http://slashdot.org/pollBooth.pl?qid= [slashdot.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by GigsVT (208848)
      In case you haven't notice, GPL licensed code is way more widely used than BSD licensed code.

      You could equally say that by making the BSD sound GPL like, it's an attempt to show people that the BSD license is just as good as the GPL at protecting the rights of the people receiving the software.
      • "In case you haven't notice, GPL licensed code is way more widely used than BSD licensed code."

        Prove it. From where I stand, it seems that in terms of sheer volume, BSD-licensed code is much more prominent in daily life than GPL-licensed code. You've got the Windows networking stack and the userland tools in OS X for starters, and OS X alone is much more widely used than Linux.
      • """
        In case you haven't notice, GPL licensed code is way more widely used than BSD licensed code.
        """

        The only thing that I said was that BSD/MIT was the GPL's nearest competitor. Which according *to what I linked to* is correct. So, I actually did notice. It is you that didn't notice that I noticed due to your failure to read what I wrote.

        """
        You could equally say that by making the BSD sound GPL like, it's an attempt to show people that the BSD license is just as good as the GPL at protecting the rights of
  • 8.1
    (e) what is the difference between a "modification" and a "derivative work"? If they are the same, the scope of the BSD's licensing requirement will be very similar to that of the GPL. Note also that the BSD only permits the distribution of modifications, so if there exist derivative works which are not modifications the BSD does not address whether they can be distributed or even created - and in the world of licensing that is the same as a prohibition. Compare the GPL which expressly (bu

    • by Aladrin (926209)
      Nothing says the modified code has to be distributed UNDER the license. Only that the copyright notice, conditions, and disclaimer in the license are retained. Nothing prevents you from adding more copyright notices, conditions and disclaimers.
      • by QuantumG (50515) *
        hehe. Nothing permits you to add more copyright notices, conditions and disclaimers. That's the way copyright law works. Anything that is not permitted is prohibited.
        • by Aladrin (926209)
          It's implicit. You can redistribute as long as you follow the conditions stated. Nothing in the conditions prevents you from adding other conditions.

          Here's a test:

          Can you redistribute BSD licensed code while sitting? Yes.

          "Nothing permits you to redistribute BSD licensed code while sitting. That's the way copyright law works. Anything that is not permitted is prohibited." - Wrong.

          While drunk? Yes.
          While at home? Yes.
          While at work? Yes.
          While...

          Permission was given to anyone who followed certain condition
          • by QuantumG (50515) *
            Yeah no. I'm making a legal argument. You're making a nonsense argument. You are not permitted to make a derived work from a copyrighted work without permission. The BSD license doesn't give you permission. That's it. Of course, the *point* of making something BSD licensed is that you don't give a shit about what people do with the code.. you don't want to be sued.. so in 99% of cases you won't run into trouble.
    • by smoker2 (750216)
      Wrong

      End of message

  • So, what they seem to be arguing is that the BSD license says that the modified source is covered by the BSD license (but does not require disclosure of that source) which itself allows redistribution under simple conditions. Therefore, if previously undisclosed modified source is leaked it may not be possible to sue anyone for breach of copyright nor to gain an injunction to prevent further copying and use of that source since the source would include permission to distribute it.

    In Australia, at least.

    Seem

  • He doesn't even provide anything to try to back up his crazy claim, he just keeps repeating his conclusion that "you must distribute it under the BSD license" under all these circumstances. The closest thing he gets is claiming that the BSD license doesn't explicitly permit re-licensing. But copyright doesn't have anything to do with licensing, so its totally irrelivant. The BSD license grants you the copyright granted rights that normally are reserved for the author, if you obey the terms. Applying you
  • by CyberLife (63954) on Monday January 15, 2007 @03:14PM (#17617988)
    I just spoke to someone I know in UC Berkeley administration about this situation and they told me the following. Please note that I am paraphrasing here and none of this is to be taken as an official statement by the University of California.

    The spirit of the license is exactly as people have interpreted it. It is not intended to limit or hinder people in any way. On the contrary, it is fully intended that their products be freely used, modified, and distributed. That's what academic research is all about. Berkeley has neither the time nor energy nor desire to chase people down. They just want credit for doing the work.

    In addition, most of Berkeley's projects are government-funded. As such, they are not generally permitted to make any profit from the work. It has to be made public and people have to be allowed to extend it for their own purposes. The essence of public research is to benefit society as a whole, not just the corporate sector.

    As for the question of third-party derivative works being used to make a profit, there is nothing stated in the license to prohibit such acts. Thus, it would seem to be legal. However, it could be argued that doing so is against the spirit of the license. Whether or not Berkeley could enforce that spirit in a court of law (assuming they even care to do so) is another matter.

    If anybody wants an official statement, they should contact Berkeley's legal department.
  • *sigh* (Score:4, Insightful)

    by w3woody (44457) on Monday January 15, 2007 @03:32PM (#17618284) Homepage
    Look, when I release software under a BSD-like license, my intent as the owner of the work is to do the following:

    (1) Permit people to do whatever they want with the software--including relicensing the software, so long as
    (2) if you use my software, you don't then plaster my name all over it as if I endorce whatever cause or crappy software you're creating, and
    (3) you don't sue my ass if and when the software you downloaded from me breaks.

    Basically, do what you want--just leave me out of it.

    In one sense the article is correct: in imposing a new license you cannot remove the old one. But as the intent of the old license is to cover my ass and keep my name around so people know what sort of a cool dude I am, so long as the new license also covers my ass and keeps my name around so people know what sort of a cool dude I am, I don't see the problem--either from a common-sense perspective or from a legal one.
  • by mccoma (64578)
    Somehow, I have more faith in Berkley's lawyer's interpretation of US Copyright Law than a random article's flaky conclusions.
  • by jschultz410 (583092) on Monday January 15, 2007 @03:55PM (#17618656)

    It seems that this lawyer has not been trained in computer science because he is glossing over an important detail of the license to reach his incorrect conclusion. The BSD license says (using the author's numbering and my emphasis):

    "2 Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

    3 * Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.

    4 * Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.

    5 * Neither the name of the [organization] nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission."

    The license requires, per clauses 2-4, that a user reproduce (a) the copyright notice, (b) the list of conditions and (c) the disclaimer of the original license. The author reads this as requiring that the entire BSD license be reproduced in any redistrubtion or use of the code. But this is only true if (a), (b) and (c) comprise the entirety of the BSD license. I argue that they do not!

    The key question is, "What is the 'list of conditions' that must be reproduced?" The author incorrectly claims that [2] is part of the list of conditions that must be maintained by a user, which would create a viral mechanism that this paper describes.

    It is obvious from [2]'s use of the phrase "the following conditions" and the fact that [3, 4, 5] are preceded by asterisks and use the phrase "this list of conditions" that [2] is not intended to be part of the list of conditions. The list of conditions only consists of [3, 4, 5]. Therefore, redistributors / users are not required to maintain the original grant of the license [2] in their use or redistribution of the code.

    The flaw in the author's argument is that he is incorrectly including the original grant of the license [2] into the list of conditions [3, 4, 5]. The license truly only requires that users reproduce clauses [1, 3, 4, 5, 6] of the BSD license in their redistrubtions or use.

    • jschultz410 wrote:
      It is obvious from [2]'s use of the phrase "the following conditions" and the fact that [3, 4, 5] are preceded by asterisks and use the phrase "this list of conditions" that [2] is not intended to be part of the list of conditions.

      I was thinking the same as jschultz410 that the word "following" is the critical word. Mod parent up.

  • Fundamental error (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nsayer (86181) * <[moc.ufk] [ta] [reyasn]> on Monday January 15, 2007 @03:57PM (#17618718) Homepage
    My analysis of the paper is that the author confuses what is permitted with what is required.

    Let's take a look:

    Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:
    So long as you include the disclaimer as required, and you don't use the author's name in vain, you can do as you like.

    There is no part of the license that says that you cannot distribute modified forms under more restrictive licensing, provided that you also perform the acts required by the BSD license and require the same of any sub-licensees that distribute. There is no part of the license that says that you cannot distirbute UNmodified forms under more restrictive licensing, but presumably anyone receiving a copy from you under more restrictive licensing could figure out that you obtained it from a source that merely required adherence to the BSD license, throw away the copy you provided and get their own.

    In general, acts that are not specified as prohibited in a contract (in this case the license is a contractural term. You are agreeing to abide by the license in return for being provided value in the form of the code covered by the license) are permitted (modulo exceptions that aren't worthy of mention here). Since sublicensing is not mentioned, it is permitted - provided the original conditions are always met by anyone redistributing and/or using the code.

  • This is a very serious issue, not because there's any validity to what is being claimed here, but precisely because likely there isn't. BSD-style licenses are incredibly useful and provide a good, solid, simple alternative to the GPL. The common interpretation clearly matches the intended spirit of the license.

    FUD like this, and this is the first time I'm even using that acronym, is dangerous and puts the work of thousands of people at risk. This should be shouted down immediately, even if there is any shre
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Even better than shouting down potentially valid arguments that are nevertheless dangerous ideas, let's all plug our ears and LALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALA!! !!!!!!
  • He's half right. You cannot take my BSD licensed software and relicense it under the GPL. However, you are perfectly free to create your own derivative work and license it under the GPL. The differences between the two are slight, but they are there. You cannot take my software and file off the BSD license. But you are able to fork off my software and license that any way you want. But in order to do the latter, it has to be a derivative work and not a mere copy. IFAIK, mere translation via compilation does
    • You cannot take my BSD licensed software and relicense it under the GPL

      Yes you can.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Brandybuck (704397)
        Please point to the clause that allows you to do this.

        Condition number 1 says redistribution of the source code must retain the license (copyright, conditions, disclaimer). Condition number 2 says that redistribution of binaries must be accompanied by the license.

        You may of course, rudely wrap the BSD license inside of the GPL. Examples would be distributing a package under the GPL even though the software inside it was BSD. You cannot restrict the user from redistributing the package contents under the ter
  • The only way this will be tested is if someone who has released source code under the BSD license files suit against someone who is redistributing it under other terms. I don't think that's going to happen any time soon. Until then, it's just speculation...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LizardKing (5245)

      That's effectively what Berkeley did when AT&T sued them over the release of the BSD Unix source code - they countered by pointing out that AT&T had stripped BSD copyright headers from a number of files included in System V. Berkeley pointed out that AT&T were welcome to restribute their code as a binary only, commercial product, but that the copyright stripping in the separately licensed source release contravened the BSD license.

  • I wonder if the same argument (provided it holds any water) applies to the MIT license, which I use extensively. It seems that there is a difference: where the BSD license states

    Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without
    modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions
    are met:
    1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright
    notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
    2. Redistributions in binary form must reprodu

    • by rg3 (858575)
      I also use the MIT license for my programs. However, I include some extra text at the end. I took that text from the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]. The text reads:

      Except as contained in this notice, the name(s) of the above copyright holders shall not be used in advertising or otherwise to promote the sale, use or other dealings in this Software without prior written authorization.

      As you can read, it mentions "as contained in this notice". I think that implies that "the notice" is the full license text, including the

  • don't be confused (Score:4, Insightful)

    by m.dillon (147925) on Monday January 15, 2007 @06:52PM (#17621374) Homepage
    The BSD license isn't viral, don't get confused. It is the viral nature of the GPL that restricts how you can license your additions.

    If you take and modify a piece of GPLed code (that you did not write in the first place), and you wish to distribute or sell the resulting source and/or binaries, you are required under the GPL to basically licence your additions under the same terms, including making your modifications available in source form. The only way around the requirement is if you contact all the authors that created the original work and get permission from all of them to operate on the source under a different license (that is, for the original authors to re-issue the same source to you under a different license). This is nearly impossible for very large GPLed projects but, of course, very easy for small projects since there are only a handful of original authors. Some projects require that submissions sign over their rights to the project to give the project the ability to change the license it is distributed under (I believe the GCC project does this, for example, and MySQL forked off a proprietary dist using the same method). Baring this permission you can only modify the code under the terms of the license.

    If you take and modify a piece of BSD code you are NOT required under the BSD licence to put your additions under the same terms. You can do whatever you want with your derived work, including selling it without disclosing your modifications. All the BSD license does is prevent you from removing the BSD copyright and licensing lines from the source code, and requires you to identify in documentation that your code was derived from BSD. In particular, this means that you can add whatever conditions you like to the combined (derivative) work, as long as they are not contrary to the original BSD license. That is, you cannot remove the requirement that your documentation contain a copy of the BSD copyright notice and licence. But it certainly does not in any way require that that be the ONLY copyright notice and license pertaining to the derived work.

    Any third party is welcome to take the original BSD code and do whatever they want to it under only the terms of the BSD license. But if they want to take your modified work they have to adhere to both the BSD license and your own.

    Only an idiot would think otherwise. I swear, where these people get their ideas is beyond me.

    It's that simple. Think of the BSD license simply as published pure science... that is the closest parallel to its intent.

    -Matt

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