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Re: Compatibility between Apache and GPL licenses

From: Karl Fogel <kfogel_at_red-bean.com>
Date: 2007-05-29 23:29:48 CEST

Alexander Thomas <alexander@collab.net> writes:
> I'm developing a product called NaughtySVN (www.naughtysvn.org),
> similar to TSVN but in Linux (GNOME/Nautilus). Presently its under
> Apache-style license, but ppl suggest me to move to GPL because its
> expected to use more and more GPL based tools/libraries.
> Frankly I don;t understand much about the license and for me its all
> about fun, But I don;t want myself to land-up in mess. So can anyone tell me
> how compatible is Apache license with GPL and its variants? Is it
> advisable to mix-up Apache and GPL or any other opensource licenses?

The easiest solution might be probably to use one of the permissive
GPL-compatible licenses, such as the MIT/X license or the (modern) BSD
license. See http://producingoss.com/html-chunk/license-choosing.html.

The situation between the GPL and Apache License is complicated. As I
understand it, the ASF believes the two licenses are compatible (that
is, that a GPL'd project can incorporate Apache-licensed code; the
resulting derivative work, as a whole, would be under the GPL and this
would not be a violation of the Apache license). On the other hand,
the FSF believes the licenses are not compatible in that way, for
various reasons not worth going into here (basically, the FSF believes
that the Apache license imposes some restrictions that are
incompatible with the GPL).

(In all this, I am talking about the GPL v2. GPL v3 is coming out
soon, and may correct the problems the FSF perceives. See
http://gplv3.fsf.org/ for details about the GPL v3.)

But you said "Apache-style" license... The NaughtSVN license is the
same as Subversion's license, which is not really the same as the
Apache license, and is not GPL-compatible. I think you're going to
need to relicense, either under GPL or under one of the simpler
licenses above.

> I addition to this, NaughtySVN got a wrapper library (API) for third
> party developers. Which I hope will make life's of lazy developers
> (those who want to use Subversion API, but don;t want to get
> difficulties of using Subverion API) easier. This library is developed
> only with libraries under Apache licenses, and I think this can be
> released under Apache and not GPL. So is it possible to have two
> different licenses in one product, like whole of NSVN is in GPL and nsvn
> library alone in Apache ?.

If you need to include both the Subversion libraries and GPL'd code in
your final product, I think it'll be problematic. The Subversion
license is a custom license, similar to an old version of the Apache
license, but with an advertising clause that's incompatible with the

There are two claims about NaughtySVN's license on its web site. The
first claim is here:


It says "This license is the same as the Apache Software Foundation
license, but with CollabNet given as the copyright holder." But it
doesn't specify which version of the Apache license; I think it means
an old version, http://apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-1.1, which is no
longer used by the ASF. However, most people will interpret the
NaughtySVN page as talking about the Apache license 2.0, and they'll
be surprised when they see the actual license...


...whose clause (3) is GPL-incompatible.

So, currently NaughtySVN is GPL-incompatible. Even if it becomes
GPL-compatible, it is based on libraries which are GPL-incompatible
(Subversion's). I don't see any way for you to dual-license around
that problem, unless Subversion relicenses.


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Received on Tue May 29 23:30:08 2007

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