Uwe Ohse

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ: Copyright issues

Are mixed copyrights allowed?

My packages sometimes include files with licenses different from that of the package. This seems to disturb quite a few people. Answer:
This isn't as unusual as you seem to think it is. Many GNU packages include public domain or copyrighted files (see paste.c in the GNU textutils for an example).
A problem arises only if the licenses are incompatible (to decide that one has to study the licenses in question).

When someone says "package X is distributed under the A license" this doesn't mean that a single file inside X as license A - it means that the sum of all files (or the layout, the compilation, however you call it) in the package is of copyright A. The only restriction is that no two copyrights of the package and it's parts must not be incompatible.

The question whether two licenses are incompatible isn't easily answered. Read them carefully and ask a lawyer - if you need to care at all.

A special case is the unclear license of ftpparse.c in the ftpcopy package, there _may_ be a conflict with the GPL ("commercial use is fine, if you let me know what programs you're using this in"). The copyright holder of all the GPLd files - me - made the special exception that this is to be considered okay, and the author of ftpparse knows that ftpcopy uses it.

Why isn't every file GPLd?

Please note that the copyright holder of a GPLd file may do as he pleases (unless he has accepted major contributions), as does the copyright holder of any other file - please direct flames of the "but the GPL forbids this" to /dev/null.

Some people seem to think that such packages aren't open source because of this, but (i'm not a lawyer) i disagree.

Why don't you use a BSD license?

I think it's quite useless. It allows anyone to take the source and close it, keeping the source code of valuable additions for him. I'd rather use a public domain license in these cases where i don't care about that (i already did this). PD is _really_ unencumbered.

Note: there is room for negotiations. It's unlikely that i'll change some complete package away from the GPL, but i did change the copyright of smaller entities (from single files to a set of library functions) when the need arose.

What about open source?


You seem to not care much about open source?

Oh yes: I really do not care about open source. It's way overhyped: Last, but not least: The name is just stupid. "Open Source"? Quite a number of people and companies understand "open" as in "i gave you the source. Look, but don't touch". And "open" as in "you can have a look if you pay $$$ for each line of code" is not far away.
No, i don't have a better name for this.