[sword-devel] Question about Public Domain

Chris Little chrislit at crosswire.org
Tue Mar 17 23:19:52 MST 2009

Jonathan Morgan wrote:
> On Wed, Mar 18, 2009 at 1:49 PM, Chris Little <chrislit at crosswire.org> wrote:
>> Jonathan Morgan wrote:
>>> It is not backward, it is a pure statement of facts, which you can
>>> find quite clearly in the GPL v2 FAQ
>>> <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-2.0-faq.html#GPLModuleLicense>.
>> You need to look at the question immediately following the one you link.
>> I'll quote:
>> Q: 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?
>> A: Yes, because the program as it is actually run includes the library.
>> That couldn't be any more clear. Putting it into concrete terms, Sword is a
>> library. Sword is under the GPL. And front end to Sword is a "program which
>> uses it". Thus, any front end to Sword must be under the GPL.
> It couldn't be any clearer, no.  But you are also misapplying it.  It
> says that it has to be under the GPL.  It does not say that it has to
> be *only* under the GPL, which is how I read you saying.

If a work is licensed under the GPL, then all works derivative of that 
work must be licensed under exactly and only the GPL. If you disagree, 
contact the FSF. They will confirm my statements.

A front end to Sword is a derivative work of Sword and thus must, 
obligatorily, be licensed under the GPL and only the GPL. Here, I am 
talking about the code of the front end itself--not a binary. The front 
end, by virtue of its use of Sword headers or their analogues, is a 
derivative work. That doesn't mean it is the sole property of CrossWire, 
but it does mean that copyright is jointly held between CrossWire and 
the front end author(s). Disagree? Ask licensing at fsf.org.

>> No, you have complete and sole ownership of those changes *only*. The
>> complete, derivative work is owned jointly between you and the author of the
>> original work from which yours is a derivative. For information about
>> derivative works (including definitions, rights, & limitations) you'll want
>> to consult the Copyright Act (US Code Title 17). This pertains since the GPL
>> is couched in terms of copyright.
> Precisely, but not relevant.  I can still release those changes under
> any license I choose.  The fact that no-one else can use them by
> themself is a mere detail - should anyone choose to take my code,
> licensed in any way I choose and remove the Sword dependency they are
> welcome to.

If that code contains any Sword calls (or calls to other GPL software), 
then it cannot be licensed under any license other than GPL. Provided 
that all Sword calls are removed entirely, then the front end code would 
no longer be a derivative of Sword and could be released under any 
license. (It need not even compile or work.)

But so long as the front end code uses Sword or other GPL software in 
any way, it must be GPL (only).

> The reason why this becomes a problem is because you choose to attack
> people or state that they are doing the wrong thing by using more
> permissive licensing with their code than Sword uses.

Indeed, I will not ignore the dissemination of misinformation here.

If you feel the need to continue arguing, you can contact me privately, 
preferably after contacting licensing at fsf.org.

(NB: I don't have a problem, in general, with the use of licenses other 
than GPL. I've done plenty of code for The SWORD Project (but not using 
the library) that is under the BSD license. My objection is not to using 
licenses other than the GPL--my objection is to violating that license 
or encouraging others to do so.)


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