[sword-devel] Re: Introducing BibleMemorizer

Chris Little chrislit at crosswire.org
Fri Mar 25 01:30:33 MST 2005

I think your best suggestion so far has been BSD/GPL dual-licensing, 
along with a short disclaimer explaining that GPL is obligatory if Sword 
code is included.

You don't like GPL, so GPL-only is out. I don't think BSD-only is an 
option if even Sword interfaces are included in the code. I think that 
makes it a derivative work and therefore obliges GPL licensing. If you 
put all Sword interfaces inside of IFDEFs and make a short statement 
about their use obliging acceptance of the terms of the GPL, I think 
you're fine. If they're not used, users can have a choice of BSD/GPL.

Stallman's (alleged) quote seems to use a different definition of 
"derivative work" from mine. I would consider a function call within 
code to cause that code to become a derivative of whatever library it is 
calling. Stallman here seems to think only that the compiled program 
constitutes a derivative work. It's really sort of splitting hairs though.

All you really need to do is to make the users of your code aware that 
if they use Sword code, they must abide by the GPL with respect to using 
both Sword and BibleMemorizer. Failing that, they can just follow the BSD.


Jeremy Erickson wrote:
>>I think that people should not only obey the letter of the licenses but also 
>>respect the will of the licensors.
> Couldn't agree more.  Even if the licensors use a proprietary license.  In 
> that regard I don't agree at all with RMS and the FSF (who believe 
> proprietary software is unethical and that people have an obligation to share 
> all software out of the concept, seemingly twisted from the Bible, of 
> "helping one's neighbor".)
> As I said in the original message, I respect the decision of Crosswire to 
> copyleft.  I simply did not realize this could be perceived as a violation, 
> after reading what RMS and the FSF had to say about the issue.  I was 
> thinking that if they, some of the strongest proponents of copyleft, didn't 
> find it a problem, then no one would.  I was wrong, though.
> Following I have some questions about my understanding of the licensing.  
> Please do not take this as bickering, I'm just trying to understand.
> My (non-lawyer) understanding is that copyright licenses simply give 
> permissions people normally don't have under copyright law.  I don't see how 
> BSD License and BSD+GPL dual license would be at all different in this 
> respect.  Anything permitted under GPL+BSD would be permitted under BSD, and 
> anything not permitted under GPL+BSD would not be permitted under BSD.  (I 
> discuss later the fact that I could specify Sword calls as not BSD-covered.) 
> If this were not the case, the FSF wouldn't call it "GPL-compatible".  Does 
> Crosswire disagree?  This seems to mean that there would be, from a legal 
> perspective, no change at all if I added a GPL license.  In fact it seems 
> from a legal perspective that BSD'd code is essentially multi-licensed under 
> all licenses that have equal or greater restrictions.  In other words, BSD'd 
> code is already implicitly GPL'd and therefore complies with the GPL's 
> restriction that it be GPL'd.  The BSD License does require that itself be 
> present, but it is a very minor requirement, not considered a problem by the 
> FSF, and including a 186-word notice is minor compared to including a 
> 2,984-word notice (the GPL).  Is this the problem?  Would it be equivalent 
> to, instead of an explicit dual-license, put a notice that says: 
> "Some code may use the Sword API from Crosswire.  Due to the restrictions of 
> the GPL, as interpreted by them, this code is subject to the terms of the 
> GPL.  Also due to the terms of the GPL, all other code in BibleMemorizer is 
> subject to the same restrictions when the Sword code is present.  Otherwise, 
> all code may be used under the BSD License that follows this notice.  Because 
> this license is GPL-compatible, it is also permissible to relicense code 
> under the GPL as long as you follow the BSDL's terms."
> Or, even simpler:
> "This code is subject to the terms of the GNU General Public License if any 
> code currently within '#ifdef USE_SWORD' blocks is included at compile time."
> I already plan to enable people to compile BibleMemorizer without Sword 
> support in a way that does not require them to edit the source code (i.e. 
> #ifdef blocks).  The Sword support is a completely optional extension to, not 
> a basis for, the rest of the program.  The only "derived work" seems to be 
> the Sword extensions, not the whole program.  (Was InVerse the same way?)  
> The program does contain the extensions, but that is why I made sure to use a 
> GPL-compatible license.  (It's almost like a plugin; although I know GPL'd 
> plugins for non-GPL'd code are a potential issue.  Wouldn't Sword extensions 
> on a BSD'd codebase be much like Sword using BSD'd libraries as it already 
> does, though?)  If I were writing a Sword frontend with no significant 
> purpose beyond providing a GUI to Sword, I would use the GPL.  However, such 
> is not the case here.
> Although what I don't see is how even the above notices I suggested are really 
> different (not trying to argue, just to understand) from simply BSD'd code 
> that contains Sword API calls.  Doing anything with the Sword-based code 
> permitted by the BSDL but not by the GPL would violate the GPL as soon as the 
> result was distributed.  Therefore, for all practical purposes, wouldn't the 
> Sword calls be effectively GPL'd whether this was stated or not?  And covered 
> fine by my current statement?  I know that under all interpretations I've 
> seen (from those who define code that uses a library as a 'derivative work') 
> binaries are completely subject to the GPL.  (e.g. proprietary programs can't 
> link to them.  Doing so would create an easy way to circument the GPL 
> anyway).  Therefore by putting Sword calls under the BSDL I am not granting 
> any permissions to third parties they don't already have under the GPL.  I am 
> not in any way providing a way for proprietary software developers to use 
> Sword.  I couldn't, anyway, since I don't own the copyright on Sword.
> We do get into the spirit of the GPL here.  Is the spirit of the GPL "you can 
> use our work if you give us and everyone else freedom" or "you can use our 
> work if you agree to spread the virus to others"?  The second interpretation 
> doesn't seem very Christian, given that Free Software is not a concept from 
> the Bible.  I'm not saying that it contradicts the Bible, only that it comes 
> from outside the Bible.  The first interpretation seems more like the idea I 
> always got out of Sword's goals.
>>It would not be very Christian to license 
>>a derivative work against the will of the copyright owners, even though 
> their 
>>interpretation of the licenses could be diffferent from RMS, FSF, US court, 
>>public opinion, or anything else.
> It seems to me that Crosswire's desire is that Sword be used to promote FLOSS 
> (Free/Libre Open Source Software) Bible Study tools.  In the scheme of 
> things, does it really make a difference whether a client program has COPYING 
> or LICENSE.BSD if the use of Sword still must be GPL-compliant?  Doesn't 
> getting technical beyond what the law states and beyond practical matters 
> border on mimicking the Pharisees?  (I am not saying we shouldn't accept the 
> will of the copyright holders).
> Would it go with the goals for Sword if we did something like what Trolltech 
> did with Qt, providing licensing terms allowing linking from any FLOSS 
> program, whether otherwise legal or not?  (If of course we removed the 
> current GPL'd third party code and doing so were legal).  Perhaps even a 
> GPL/QPL dual license, maybe with a statement that the QPL's "choice of law" 
> clause was null and void for Sword?
> <personal opinion only>
> It is my opinion that if a license has as much ambiguity as to its 
> interpretation as the GPL seems to have, it would be better to not use it for 
> new code except when necessary.  It would save a lot of posts to mailing 
> lists...  That's one reason I would prefer to use a simpler, more permissive 
> license for BibleMemorizer.  For other reasons, see
> http://biblememorizer.sf.net/whynotgpl.html
> </personal opinion only>
> Perhaps Chris Little would be able to answer my questions, he seemed to have a 
> lot to say on the thread Eeli mentioned.  Again, please do recognize that I'm 
> not trying to pick a fight.  You are brothers in Christ, not enemies.
> -Jeremy Erickson
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