Adding the GPL to Fluid license? - requesting input

Christopher D. Coppola chris.coppola at
Thu Jan 10 23:53:20 UTC 2008


I'm not sure I understand how the dual ECL 2.0 and LGPL 2.1 situation  
would work. As you clearly articulated, Fluid's IP isn't a discrete  
library. The advantage of the LGPL over the GPL in a situation like  
this is that we can be more clear about what constitutes a derivative  
work. If something's licensed under LGPL and it's not a discrete  
library then the waters are muddy and you end up in the same fuzzy  
situation you'd be in if the work was licensed under GPL. Right?

the rSmart group
Chris Coppola | 602.490.0472

On Jan 10, 2008, at 4:39 PM, Barnaby Gibson wrote:

> I spoke a bit to Sheila this morning, but I thought that I would  
> chime into this forum as well.
> As Lennard pointed out in one of his messages, the folks who are  
> asking for the software to be licensed under the GPL are concerned  
> that they will contribute to the code base and then later discover  
> that a third party is distributing a modified version of the  
> software without contributing its modifications back to the  
> community.  But if the software is also licensed under the BSD and/ 
> or the ECL, there is not much that prevents a third party from  
> taking the software under the BSD or ECL and distributing a modified  
> version without contributing its modifications to the community,  
> potentially creating a proprietary fork if people find the  
> modifications to be sufficiently compelling that they start to  
> insist on using the modified distribution. This is the "proprietary  
> fork" that foks in the GPL camp worry about.
> Likewise, under a dual BSD/ECL licensing scheme, there is nothing  
> that prevents a third party from taking the software under the BSD  
> and distributing a modified version under the GPL that creates a GPL- 
> only fork, again if people find the GPL-only modificiations to be  
> sufficiently compelling that they insist on the distribution that  
> has the GPL-only modifications, rather than on the Fluid  
> distribution that is dual licensed. The problem with this GPL-only  
> fork is that in many cases it discourages investment in the software  
> by commercial third party developers.
> I'm not sure in these circumstances that there is a solution that  
> will make everyone happy, in part because the UI- and code- (as  
> versus library) centric nature of the Fluid project makes it hard to  
> license it exclusively under the LGPL, which is one of the more  
> common "compromises" between copyleft and non-copyleft open source  
> licenses.  If Fluid were more akin to a library or had an API, or if  
> it provided discrete functionality, it would be easier for Sakai to  
> come to the conclusion that including it in the distribution under  
> LGPL is consistent with the non-proprietary/non-copyleft "agnostic"  
> nature of the Sakai project, and I would probaby think that using  
> only the LGPL would be a possible compromise solution.  But given  
> the nature of Fluid it's hard to recommend that they adopt the LGPL  
> exclusively.
> If they really are not willing to license Fluid solely under the  
> ECL, they should dual license Fluid under the ECL 2.0 and the LGPL  
> 2.1 and drop the BSD.  The BSD does nothing to protect against a  
> proprietary fork, and it does nothing to protect against a GPL-only  
> fork.  I still think a LGPL fork would be a "bad thing," but at  
> least if there is a LGPL fork, there is some chance that folks will  
> feel comfortable using portions of the LGPL code.
> Regards,
> Barnaby
> --------------------------------------------------
> D. Barnaby Gibson
> General Counsel, Treasurer & Secretary
> Ithaka Harbors, Inc.
> 151 East 61st Street, New York, NY 10065
> (212) 500-2342 (work)
> (212) 500-2366 (fax)
> barnaby.gibson at
> From: Lennard Fuller [mailto:lfuller at]
> Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2008 12:41 PM
> To: markjnorton at
> Cc: Barnaby Gibson; Christopher D. Coppola; licensing at 
> ; fluid-work at
> Subject: Re: Adding the GPL to Fluid license? - requesting input
> Just to further clarify the difference between GPL and LGPL.  LGPL  
> does using the Lesser GPL permits use of the library in proprietary  
> programs.  For fluid this would mean that large companies could then  
> make use of fluid to build their products.  LGPL would also mean  
> that if a commercial company were to enhance fluid in any way, those  
> changes would have to be made open and available to the world.  A  
> full GPL license only allows non proprietary usage.  In short, a  
> full GPL limits your audience... and for software like fluid, in my  
> opinion, it would also limit the good such a product could do.
> Again, my vote would be to not use either LGPL or GPL, but if one  
> must be used, LGPL would seem to be the better course.
> -Lennard Fuller
> Lennard Fuller wrote:
>> So long as the customizations are also open and available there
>> shouldn't be any problems.  GPL does not require that the changes be
>> committed back into the project's root.  It is just that all of the
>> modifications must be open and available.  Problems really start when
>> GPL code is included into a proprietary application... there is a  
>> clause
>> in the license that then requires the entire application be made open
>> and available.  If the code being used is LGPL, and is used properly,
>> then by and large the 'viral' type restriction is removed.  IF the  
>> software is modified in any way, it does need to be open and  
>> available.
>> Mark Norton wrote:
>>> I had a look at Moodlerooms Terms of Service.  Had trouble accessing
>>> the site, so used Google Cache:
>>> Interesingly, there is VERY little mention of Moodle in the TOS.   
>>> This
>>> line is interesting, however:
>>> "Moodlerooms provides expertise and energy to train your  
>>> instructors,
>>> customize Moodle to your specifications, host Moodle at an
>>> enterprise-level stemming from superior hardware and software
>>> engineering, connect your legacy information systems to Moodle  
>>> through
>>> integrations, and convert your courses so that they work in Moodle."
>>> Customize Moodle, eh?  Sounds like thin ice to me.
>>> - Mark
>>> Lennard Fuller wrote:
>>>> MoodleRooms source code is open and available.  They also provide
>>>> services such as corporate hosting.  It is not that GPL precludes  
>>>> any
>>>> commercial usage... it is just that the license places some severe
>>>> limitations on how it can be used.  Personally, I am not for adding
>>>> the GPL license.  If we absolutely HAVE to have some form of the  
>>>> GPL,
>>>> please consider using the LGPL.
>>>> Mara Hancock wrote:
>>>>> This is very interesting. I agree with Mark that this seems like  
>>>>> an
>>>>> attempt to avoid the inevitable conflict between the licenses. I
>>>>> fear that it make the management of the code contributions so
>>>>> complicated that it will need a full time code gatekeeper. I came
>>>>> into the conversation late yesterday, but I thought  that Colin  
>>>>> had
>>>>> some very concrete examples of why he thought this might be a good
>>>>> thing. It would be good to hear those. Right now I am on the -1
>>>>> track but willing to be convinced otherwise. I would love to know
>>>>> the answer to the question about Moodle Rooms.
>>>>> Thanks, Mara
>>>>> On Jan 10, 2008, at 8:00 AM, Lennard Fuller wrote:
>>>>>> Many of my clients specifically ask me to avoid GPL, some of that
>>>>>> set of
>>>>>> clients will accept an LGPL if no other reasonable alternative  
>>>>>> exists.
>>>>>> Oddly enough... over the last 7 years I have yet to have had a  
>>>>>> single
>>>>>> client that has demanded the use of GPL exclusively.
>>>>>> -Lennard Fuller
>>>>>> Mark Norton wrote:
>>>>>>> This sounds like an attempt to please all of the people all of  
>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>> time.
>>>>>>> The fact is there are some very different philosophies in the  
>>>>>>> open
>>>>>>> source community, primarily divided between those who favor
>>>>>>> commercial
>>>>>>> use and those who don't. If Fluid is licensed (as it currently  
>>>>>>> is)
>>>>>>> under
>>>>>>> ECL 2.0, then the Sakai community will likely be satisfied,  
>>>>>>> since
>>>>>>> it has
>>>>>>> a more inclusive view of open source use. However, I suspect  
>>>>>>> that
>>>>>>> those
>>>>>>> in other camps will not be satisfied with a GPL license if it  
>>>>>>> is also
>>>>>>> licensed under ECL. What's the point, really?
>>>>>>> Who specifically needs a GPL license for Fluid?
>>>>>>> - Mark Norton
>>>>>>> Sheila Crossey wrote:
>>>>>>>> All,
>>>>>>>> We are considering adding the GPL to the Fluid licensing  
>>>>>>>> scheme and
>>>>>>>> are seeking input on the ramifications this would have.
>>>>>>>> Refresher:
>>>>>>>> Fluid is currently dual-licensed under ECL 2.0 and BSD  
>>>>>>>> licenses. The
>>>>>>>> BSD license was selected to enable combining with GPL- 
>>>>>>>> licensed code
>>>>>>>> (as BSD is deemed to be GPL compatible whereas ECL 2.0 is not)
>>>>>>>> and to
>>>>>>>> avoid forking of the code (BSD is not copyleft so code licensed
>>>>>>>> under
>>>>>>>> BSD can be merged into non-copyleft code).
>>>>>>>> Issue:
>>>>>>>> Some communities who license their code under the GPL will  
>>>>>>>> not adopt
>>>>>>>> any third party code unless it also is licensed under GPL; that
>>>>>>>> is, a
>>>>>>>> GPL-compatible license such as BSD does not solve the problem  
>>>>>>>> (even
>>>>>>>> though technically, it should).
>>>>>>>> Proposed solution:
>>>>>>>> Tri-license Fluid under ECL 2.0, BSD, and GPL V2.
>>>>>>>> GPL V3 was considered as an option, but rejected as there are  
>>>>>>>> some
>>>>>>>> parties who have licensed a considerable body of code under GPL
>>>>>>>> V2 and
>>>>>>>> who will not move to GPL V3 as they have various objections to
>>>>>>>> the new
>>>>>>>> terms. We can apply GPL V2 in a way that will permit the  
>>>>>>>> option of
>>>>>>>> applying GPL V3 to those who wish to.
>>>>>>>> Risk/Benefit:
>>>>>>>> The benefit would be potentially increased penetration and  
>>>>>>>> usage of
>>>>>>>> Fluid code.
>>>>>>>> One risk is that GPL communities could license their
>>>>>>>> modifications to
>>>>>>>> Fluid code solely under GPL thus creating a separate fork. The
>>>>>>>> chances
>>>>>>>> of this happening could be reduced by publicizing this negative
>>>>>>>> impact
>>>>>>>> of single-licensing under the GPL.
>>>>>>>> A second risk is that communities who are concerned about the
>>>>>>>> effects
>>>>>>>> of GPL’s copyleft terms might be uncomfortable adopting Fluid  
>>>>>>>> if the
>>>>>>>> GPL is one of the licenses which apply to it. We need input  
>>>>>>>> from
>>>>>>>> Sakai
>>>>>>>> regarding this.
>>>>>>>> As there may be other risks arising from the increased  
>>>>>>>> complexity of
>>>>>>>> tri-licensing and adding copyleft into the mix, I encourage  
>>>>>>>> anyone
>>>>>>>> with expertise, or access to it, to weigh in on this.
>>>>>>>> Sheila
>>>>>>>> ----------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>>>>> Sheila Crossey
>>>>>>>> Senior Project Coordinator
>>>>>>>> Adaptive Technology Resource Centre
>>>>>>>> Faculty of Information Studies
>>>>>>>> University of Toronto
>>>>>>>> voice: (416) 946-7820
>>>>>>>> fax: (416) 971-2896
>>>>>>>> email: sheila.crossey at
>>>>>>>> <mailto:sheila.crossey at>
>>>>>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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>>>>>>>> fluid-work at
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