[sword-devel] Bible-Discovery - non-free program using SWORD modules

Jonathan Morgan jonmmorgan at gmail.com
Fri Aug 28 06:25:12 MST 2009

On Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 5:36 AM, DM Smith<dmsmith at crosswire.org> wrote:
> On 08/27/2009 03:32 PM, Matthew Talbert wrote:
>> On Thu, Aug 27, 2009 at 10:05 AM, Peter von Kaehne<refdoc at gmx.net>  wrote:
>>> David Haslam wrote:
>>>> Has anyone seen this site before?
>>>> http://www.bible-discovery.com/ Bible-Discovery
>>> Looks to me jsword derived.
>>> Peter
>>>> I saw no reference to availability of source code. Isn't this in breach
>>>> of
>>>> the GPLv2 license?
>>> It probably would be.
>>> Peter
>> Isn't jsword LGPL?
> Yes. But, BD is GPL. However, the stylesheets are all GPL as part of BD.
> JSword is not useful without the stylesheets. If they used/derived from one
> of the stylesheet, then their program is infected.

I'm not wishing to start another argument about the GPL, but I think
that statement is questionable.  Use and derivation are very different
things.  As a trivial example, if you were to use the stylesheets by
dumping OSIS to a file, running xsltproc, and reading the output in
again, there is no way that your code is a derivative work of the

However, the example goes deeper than that.  If I link with the JSword
libraries, such linking is to LGPL libraries.  If those LGPL libraries
happen to use an XSLT file (as a data file) to generate more data
(HTML) it is questionable whether I have linked with that XSLT file,
and whether the rest of the program is a derivative work of that XSLT
file.  My personal suspicion is that the answer is no, it is not a
derivative work (though any changes to the XSLT file are derivative
works), but I could not find anything on the GPL FAQ on a quick glance
that is relevant.  It is possible that passing the OSIS could be
construed as passing "intimate internal structures", which would make
the GPL stick.  I don't think the interpretation reasonable because
OSIS, while possibly being quite detailed, is an independent standard,
and not an internal structure specific to JSword.

However, one thing that can be said is that the generated HTML is
probably a derivative work of the XSLT file (since copying a large
part of the program into the output will make the output GPL, and that
is exactly what the XSLT does).  If this is the case, then this may
mean that all modules rendered by this XSLT must be GPL compatible
(and the licensing of most copyrighted modules will not be so
compatible).  It sounds ridiculous, but it is much more direct than
saying programs using the LGPL library JSword are derivative works of
that style sheet.

If you wish to claim JSword is GPL, then it should be relicensed or
made clear that it is distributed with a GPL XSLT spreadsheet that you
consider a part of the program and that therefore the whole of the
program is distributed under the terms of the GPL (though a
considerable part is LGPL).  Otherwise, saying (as the website says):
"It is licensed under the LGPL for the libraries and GPL for the
application" is at best misleading, and would likely suggest that your
intention was that those XSLT sheets did not constitute a part of the


More information about the sword-devel mailing list