[sword-devel] Wiki Misrepresentation

DM Smith dmsmith at crosswire.org
Mon Aug 3 07:29:02 MST 2009

On 08/03/2009 09:58 AM, Greg Hellings wrote:
> I was on this page - http://crosswire.org/wiki/Frontends:FeatureList -
> earlier today and noticed the following line:
> All frontends MUST be GPLv2 licensed. (This should be obvious. The
> SWORD Project is GPLv2-licensed. All derivative works, such as
> frontends and utilities, must be GPLv2 or they would be in violation
> of CrossWire's copyright and the copyrights of 3rd parties whose code
> has been incorporated into SWORD, e.g. the FSF.)
> However, that is directly in contradiction to the words of the Free
> Software Foundation's FAQ lines about this exact situation:
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#IfLibraryIsGPL
> If a library is released under the GPL (not the LGPL), does that mean
> that any program which uses it has to be under the GPL or a
> GPL-compatible license?
> Yes, because the program as it is actually run includes the library.
> This explicitly allows for distribution of other works under
> compatible licenses, not only under the GPL.

This is only part of the story. The GPL is viral and anything built from 
GPL libraries also has to be GPL. As I understand it, this clause allows 
for dual licensing with another compatible license. It does not remove 
the viral nature of the GPL.

There is another entry in the same FAQ that says that when combining GPL 
code with other non-GPL, but compatible license code, the resultant code 
is GPL.
See: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#WhatDoesCompatMean
What does it mean to say a license is “compatible with the GPL?”

It means that the other license and the GNU GPL are compatible; you can 
combine code released under the other license with code released under 
the GNU GPL in one larger program.

All GNU GPL versions permit such combinations privately; they also 
permit distribution of such combinations provided the combination is 
released under the same GNU GPL version. The other license is compatible 
with the GPL if it permits this too.

GPLv3 is compatible with more licenses than GPLv2: it allows you to make 
combinations with code that has specific kinds of additional 
requirements that are not in GPLv3 itself. Section 7 has more 
information about this, including the list of additional requirements 
that are permitted.

>    This is not restricted
> by SWORD being only v2, the statement applies to all GPL versions, as
> others have verified directly with the FSF.  This particular FAQ was
> updated because it had been causing issues with people misinterpreting
> it to mean that only the GPL could be used for derivative works, as
> our Wiki has been misled to state.  This line on our Wiki should
> either be updated, or just use a reference directly to the GNU/FSF FAQ
> page.

I guess we could update it to say that it can be dually licensed with a 
compatible license provided that one is GPLv2. But I don't think that is 
all that important. I find that most people that bring up this question 
aren't looking for that as an option, but rather for a way to not 
license it as GPLv2.

In Him,
DM Smith

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