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From Ovidiu Predescu <>
Subject Re: Why not LGPL? (Was: Re: ChartTransformer 0.0.4 urge a commiter!)
Date Mon, 27 Jan 2003 05:58:44 GMT

On Sunday, Jan 26, 2003, at 11:58 US/Pacific, Pier Fumagalli wrote:

> If (for example) we, the ASF, decided to get the library and make some 
> modifications to it, or, scarier though, we _had_ to "fork" the 
> library for our own needs (imagine, the orignal author changes from 
> LGPL to something else, full GPL for example -as happened lately to 
> the MySQL JDBC drivers- or even worse, decides the library will only 
> be distributed as "commercial software"), then we would be utterly 
> f***ed.

Under the same logic, nothing prevents somebody to take any project 
from Apache and release it under their own commercial license, without 
releasing any source code at all for any change. The Apache Software 
License is of no use either in such a situation, since there is no 
provision that prevents such forks to happen.

I think the real issue is not the _license_, but the _copyright_. If 
you're the copyright holder, you can change the license at will or you 
can release the same code under different licenses. That's why a 
license change was possible in the case of MySQL's JDBC driver. It was 
not LGPL that was viral, it was the copyright holder. That's why Apache 
and FSF require their contributors to assign the copyrights to the 
respective foundations. [One nice thing about FSF is that once you 
transfer your copyright to them, they even give you the right to 
continue distributing your original code under a restrictive license.]

> Ethically the ASF does not develops software under a "viral" license, 
> therefore, given the "partial virality" of LGPL, we wouldn't be able 
> to "fork" and maintain such a library. We wouldn't even be able to 
> change the license, all modifications would have to be LGPL, so, we 
> either would have to rewrite the whole thing, or get rid of the 
> offending bits and bobs...

This is FUD! What is the problem with your changes being LGPL? If what 
matters is the software continuing to be free software, it should be 
fine with you. The changes you make are copyrighted by you, so the 
original developer will not be able to take your improvements and 
release them under a commercial, more restrictive license without your 

Linux worked just fine on exactly these principles, using GPL, an even 
more restrictive license than LGPL. Sure you may not like that Linux is 
not copyrighted by your favorite foundation, but is that a good reason 
to rewrite the whole thing?

> Soooo, I'd say, if you see the word GPL  somewhere (with or without 
> the leading L) my answer is usually no, because now or in the future 
> it could/will create problems...

I don't think LGPL is a problem. Informed commercial companies (big 
ones too) are routinely using LGPL code with no problems, even in 
commercial products, without encountering any legal issues. It's a 
shame open source developers stumble on such issues, rather than 
discussing the technical merits of the code and collaborating on 
software that solves the problem. Rewriting the code to conform to a 
license is a poor choice IMO.

Ovidiu Predescu <> (I'm feeling lucky)

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