[sword-devel] More thoughts on GPL

Paul Gear sword-devel@crosswire.org
Sun, 27 May 2001 23:56:19 +1000

> ...
> > bit too restrictive in others, might it be the right time to set up some
> > sort of SWORD Public License?  One that allows for the use of third-party,
> PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS.  We do not need MORE licenses.  All
> new licenses do is breed incompatiablity and thus prevent sharing which
> is the whole preface for free software in the first place.
> If you dont like the GPL or LGPL that is fine.  Use BSD or so other less
> 'restrictive' license, but please dont author your own.

That is very wise advice.  One more license == one more way to create confusion.  It is especially unnecessary
since the only other real option we have been discussing so far is going to LGPL.

> First let me say this is one the more accurate posts I have seen on the
> GPL from a project, kudos to doing due diligence.

Which post is this referring to?

> ...
> I am a STRONG
> supporter that ANY open source project that has more than one active
> developer needs to handle copyright by doing a collective copyright, but
> I will tell you from GNU project experience its a lot of work.  As you
> must get signed paper work from people contributing.  This might sound
> silly but have you ever considered making SWORD a GNU project?

Does anyone know why making anything a GNU project would offer any benefit?

(As an aside, i would have thought that aligning a Christian project with such an strong anti-Christian as RMS
would be a little inappropriate.)

> ...
> > opinion on linking to non-free libraries.  If someone wants to write a GPL
> > library for WinCE that handles STL and basic i/o calls, we don't need
> > Dinkumware.  But I don't see that happening, so we need an exception to our
> > license, which requires permission from EVERYONE who ever contributed to
> > Sword.
> You can just put an exception in your GPL that says its ok to link to
> this library. (this was the proposed solution for Qt btw)

I'm not sure that this is completely accurate.  According to the GPL, you are not allowed to modify it.  The
technique advocated in the GPL FAQ seemed to be to put the exception in the code header.

> > Not really, but I am hoping smaller groups like SIL and Bible societies will
> > use Sword for projects internally and in general release and it would make
> > some sense to allow them to use it under LGPL.
> What would these groups be using it as that would need to be LGPL?

That is a good question.  Chris, what led you to think that any of these groups would have a problem with the

> ...
> > I would, however, cast my own vote in favor of retaining GPL as our general
> > license because I think it encourages others to make free software and I
> > think that's a good thing.  Not everyone seems to remember Matt. 10:8b--
> > "Freely you received, so freely give."  I think the GPL serves well as a
> > friendly reminder.
> I think in the spirit of giving it should be GPL.  Barring that should
> we really ADVOCATE people making profit off of spreading the gospel?  As
> much as people here complain (rightfully so) about the ill copyright of
> many bible texts and locked modules.  Why would you change the license
> of SWORD to allow other groups to do the same?
> Lets face it the only reason one would be against using a GPL
> compatiable license would be so that they could make a profit in
> licensing.

I've got another reason: providing access to commercial texts.  The situation needn't be that we want to allow a
commercial entity to use Sword.  It may be that CrossWire needs to provide a commercial text unlocking service
that can't be open source.  (This is the first of the two classifications that Jerry has just posted about.)

I know this has been gone through before, but i am yet to be convinced that we will ever get permission to
distribute commercial texts if we don't come up with a solution that is at least partially closed-source.  The
fact that we've got real encryption instead of just obfuscation like all the commercial Bible software doesn't
mean anything if anyone can download the keys and write a program to extract the module.

I think we need to seriously consider whether we ever want to provide access to commercial texts that are paid
for by the user, and if so, either switch to LGPL, or put in a GPL exception.  The exception could be fairly
generic, e.g.:

    As a special exception, <name of copyright holder> gives permission
    to link this program with any code owned or officially distributed
    by the CrossWire Bible Society, provided that such code is for the
    express purpose of providing additional texts for use with the
    Sword project, and distribute the resulting executable, without
    including the source code for such code in the source distribution.

(Insert standard IANAL disclaimer here.)

Personally, i would highly value some of the commercial texts i use on Logos being available on Linux (like
different Bible versions, Bauer's lexicon, TDNT, NBD), and my faith in God is not quite strong enough to believe
that the Sword copyright battle is going to be won (maybe you could all pray that i receive the gift of faith!
:-).  Thus i think a license change or exception is a good idea so that we can allow this possibility.

With respect to Jerry's problem category #2, i think this is a good enough reason to change to LGPL permanently
for everything (or at least until RMS' views on non-free libraries are determined to be wrong by a court).