[sword-devel] Question about Public Domain

Eeli Kaikkonen eekaikko at mail.student.oulu.fi
Wed Mar 18 02:28:13 MST 2009

Quoting Chris Little <chrislit at crosswire.org>:

> Provided that all Sword-derived code were removed from a front end (by
> removing all code from Sword and calls to Sword functions), CrossWire
> would have no copyright over the result. Providing there were no other
> GPL dependencies, the authors of this code would be free to release it
> in any fashion he liked, from PD to closed commercial licenses.
> It's really all just copyright law.

Let's also remember that our opinions don't matter much. Even the  
writer of the licence can't say what it really means, he can only say  
what HE meant. The only legally binding meaning is made in court, and  
even different judges can come to differing conclusions.

FSF has created the GPL with help of attourney(s) and their opinion is  
better than anyone's on this list, but even their FAQ is not very  
clear in many points.

We can continue arguing, or we can just live with a couple of facts:

GPL is used by many big companies with hordes of lawyers, and by  
countless individuals. The essence of GPL is that all derivative code  
must be released under the GPL. That's why the companies and  
individuals use it. And that's why the SWORD frontends must be  
released under the GPL.

Each writer owns the copyright to his own work, but if the work is a  
derivative, he can't decide the licence freely. He can't mix GPL'ed  
and GPL-incompatible libraries etc.

Here is my proposition:

If someone wants to release his work under a liberal licence but must  
still obey the GPL he can double licence the code like this: "This  
work is released under the GPL licence. Additionally, any part of the  
source code which can be used independently from GPL'ed libraries can  
be used in any way you like."

Then there's no reason to argue because everyone is happy. The GPL  
requirement is satisfied and still the frontend developer can use his  
own copyright to release his own code with any licence he wants, as  
long as it's independent from GPL'ed libraries.

My understanding is that some people think that the frontend can be  
released under e.g. the BSD licence because it's GPL compatible and so  
the whole work and all its parts can be automatically be under the GPL  
even though the frontend code is released also under more liberal  
licence. In effect this would be the same as my proposition, because  
the licence can't in any circumstances be changed to a non-GPL  
compatible and the source code and binaries must be distributed like  
under the GPL. But it's not reasonable to do this because it's not  
agreed upon and may give some less knowledgeable people a thought that  
the frontend licence may be changed to any licence and the source code  
can be closed. Therefore, let's just use the GPL and add an additional  
clause if necessary.

--Eeli Kaikkonen

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