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Re: [vox] need help: long boring question about the GPL
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Re: [vox] need help: long boring question about the GPL



on Wed, Oct 16, 2002, Peter Jay Salzman (p@dirac.org) wrote:
> hi all,
> 
> i need help here...

I have some familiarity with licensing issues.  I'm not a lawyer.  I'll
provide my read on this.

Summary:  the work's licensing terms are at best ambiguous, at worst,
contradictory and a violation of GPL, which applies to components of the
work whose copyright is held by third parties (the FSF).  I would *not*
use, copy, modify, or distribute the work under its current terms.  I'd
suggest contacting the FSF WRT possible GPL violations if no reasonable
response from the authors is forthcoming.


> bill alexander gave a talk about a program called chord (version 3).
> i have a question about licensing --- the terms are big mess.
> 
> 1. the source code zip file contains a file named "license.txt".  it's
>    a verbatim copy of the GNU GPL.  not the lesser GPL.  the GPL, with no
>    other restrictions.

It would be helpful for you to point to a source or distribution site
for the package.

This would appear to indicate availability of the software under the
GPL.  However, the authors might not be clear on their rights and/or
obligations under same.  If they are sole authors, they might also
unilaterally change future release terms at any time, though
conventional wisdom is that terms for past release would *not*
change[1].


> 2. when you run the program with the -A switch, the program declares
>    itself licensed under the GNU GPL.  not the lesser GPL.....

> 
> 3. chord 3 makes use of GNU getopt() which is licensed under the LGPL.

Note that the LGPL allows for use of licensed libraries under terms
*other* than the LGPL or GPL.  That was the original purpose of the
LGPL.  The 'hook' of the LGPL is that *changes* to the library (or other
licensed code) itself, and uses other than link-level interfacing to
code, *must* be licensed under the LGPL or more restrictive GPL.

My initial read:  use of getopt() is orthogonal to licensing of chord.

...ah, but you didn't give us the full story, Peter.

CHORD doesn't *reference* getopt(), it contains, in the sources of its
own distribution, the full text of getopt.c and getopt.h, copyrighted by
the Free Software Foundation, and licensed under the GNU GPL v2.  This
then requires the full work to be licensed under the GPL, as I
understand things.  I'm writing Martin & Mario separately (copy to
Peter) to clarify this.  I'll loop in the FSF if M&M don't respond by
Tuesday.


> 4. version 4 of the program (written in java) is on sourceforge and is
>    licensed under the pure GPL.  i think this is irrelevant though.

Authors are free to chose licensing terms for their own work(s).
However, they may not unilaterally change terms on behalf of third
parties, in this case the FSF.


> 5. the download website (for version 3) and a readme file contained in
>    the source code zip file have a modified (more restrictive) version
>    of the GNU GPL.  here it is, verbatim:
> 
>    CHORD is licensed following the conditions of the general GNU
>    license. You are authorized to use this program free of charge. You
>    are authorized to distribute this program freely as long as the
>    full source is included. You are not allowed to remove the
>    `copyright' notices from the authors nor are you allowed to pretend
>    you wrote it. You are not allowed to charge any money for CHORD.
>    You are not allowed to distribute a modified version of CHORD
>    without written authorizations from the authors. You are not
>    allowed to use parts of CHORD in any other commercial or
>    public-domain software. Sorry for all the negatives rules ... but
>    we've been bitten once!

Briefly:

   "You are authorized to use..."  GPL explicitly omits restrictions on
   *use* of software.  Section 0.

> 6. i contacted the authors, asking them about the licensing.  no reply.

I'm trying same.  How long did you allow for a response?


> 7. the source code itself (the .c and .h files) have no copyright notice
>    in them, other than handling the -A switch which prints out the pure
>    GPL with no restrictions.

Probably an oversight, but not recommended.


> 
> i'd like to focus on the restrictions that say:
> 
> a. you're not allowed to distribute a modified version of the program
>    without written consent of the authors.
> 
> b. you can't use the source code in any other commercial or public
>    domain software.
> 
> first of all, these restrictions are a clear violation of the GPL.

Yes.

> second of all, i *think* the restrictions are also a violation of the
> LGPL, if and only if the term "library" refers also to "source code".  i
> believe it does.  the LGPL says in section 0 (focus on the word "work"):

Maybe.  Depends on use.  But as I stated above, the use of getopt in
CHORD is governed by the GPL, not the LGPL, at least as presented.

Orthogonal.


> this is important to me because i have modified the program (version 3)
> and would like to redistribute the changes, with their authorship and
> copyright intact.   i believe both the GPL and LGPL give me the right.
> 
> so i have the following questions:
> 
> 1. what license should i consider chord version 3 to be licensed under?
>    the GPL, LGPL, GPL with their restrictions or LGPL with their
>    restrictions?

I'd consider the work to be ambiguously licensed, and would not copy,
modify, use, or distribute it, as a consequence.


> 2. are their restrictions a violation of the GPL?

My reading:  yes, they are.

> 3. are their restrictions in violation of the LGPL?

My reading:  maybe.  But not applicable.

> 4. pragmatically, can i release their code with my modifications without
>    consent?

Not unless you're prepared for international legal consequences (the
authors appear to reside in Canada, eh?).

> if you want to see the zip ball that i downloaded the source code from,
> see:
> 
> http://shred.guitar.net/OLGA/n/chordpro/Programs/
> 
> click on "CHORD3.6.ZIP".

Done.  Interesting reading.


--------------------
Notes:

1.  This is based on a number of arguments, most notable theories of
    laches and/or estoppal, which state that a failure to act in a
    timely manner (laches -- more commonly applied to patent
    enforcement), or a reversing of rights or terms previously granted
    (estoppel), may be legally contested.

-- 
Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
   Support the EFF, they support you:  http://www.eff.org/

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