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Re: What license should I use when including code from subversion?

From: Branden Robinson <branden_at_deadbeast.net>
Date: 2004-02-27 16:51:17 CET

On Wed, Feb 25, 2004 at 09:58:16AM -0600, kfogel@collab.net wrote:
> Now, the minor complication is that the Subversion license does ask
> you to put the words
> "This product includes software developed by CollabNet
> (http://www.Collab.Net/)."
> somewhere. So fine, just do that. The GPL doesn't forbid this, so
> you can satisfy all of the requirements of the Subversion license
> easily, and you can satisfy the GPL to the copyright holder's (i.e.,
> your) satisfaction.

Er, uh, I hate to get involved in a licensing discussion with the
Subversion guys, especially since I love Subversion to death, but I feel
compelled to point out that I do not think it is true that the GPL is
compatible with mandatory acknowledgement statements (unless preserving
copyright notices, license texts, and warranty disclaimers suffices as

The reason it's GPL incompatible is because:
1) the GPL doesn't make a requirement this broad (GPL 2c does mandate an
   acknowledgement for certain types of applications, but there are a lot
   qualfications on it, and it doesn't address documentation, so I won't
   quote it here); and
2) GPL clause 6 says that a GPL licensee "may not impose any further
   restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted [by
   the GPL]"; and
3) GPL clause 7 says: "If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy
   simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other
   pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute
   the Program at all."

I am assuming, of course, that the acknowledgement requirement is
intended as an obligation, and not as a non-binding request.

Don't just take my word for it; take Richard Stallman's, who, in a
recent discussion about the XFree86 Project, Inc.'s decision to change
their license, explained that mandatory acknowledgements, even in
documentation (as opposed to advertising) are GPL-incompatible.

See <URL: http://www.xfree86.org/pipermail/forum/2004-February/003974.html >.

I'd also like to ask a question about the intended meaning of clause 3
of the Subversion license, if I could. It says:

  3. The end-user documentation included with the redistribution, if
  any, must include the following acknowledgment: "This product includes
  software developed by CollabNet (http://www.Collab.Net/)."
  Alternately, this acknowledgment may appear in the software itself, if
  and wherever such third-party acknowledgments normally appear.

Is this intended to be true even if the end-user documentation in
question is not a derived work of Subversion (or any work authored by
CollabNet) under copyright law? If so, then A) this requirement might
not be enforceable under U.S. copyright law (though it may be in other
jurisdictions), and B) this requirement would, as I understand, violate
the Debian Free Software Guidelines, clause 9, and the Open Source
Definition, clause 9.

Quoting the OSD:

  9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software

  The license must not place restrictions on other software that is
  distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license
  must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium
  must be open-source software.

    Rationale: Distributors of open-source software have the right to make
    their own choices about their own software.

    Yes, the GPL is conformant with this requirement. Software linked with
    GPLed libraries only inherits the GPL if it forms a single work, not
    any software with which they are merely distributed.

I apologize if this throws a wet blanket on the Subversion 1.0.0 release
euphoria. License discussions are seldom fun. Congratulations on the

G. Branden Robinson            |        "To be is to do"   -- Plato
Free Software Developer        |        "To do is to be"   -- Aristotle
branden@deadbeast.net          |        "Do be do be do"   -- Sinatra
http://deadbeast.net/~branden/ |

Received on Fri Feb 27 16:50:40 2004

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