[Pipet Devel] Licensing issues

J.W. Bizzaro jeff at bioinformatics.org
Thu Sep 7 11:57:25 EDT 2000

Jean-Marc Valin wrote:
> 1. Should we allow non GPL-compatible nodes to be used (my opinion is yes)? If
> we want that, we need to provide with an exception to the GPL/LGPL that
> explicitly allows it (like KDE needed to have so it could be linked with Qt).
> The unclear part of this is would we be allowed to use *at the same time*
> non-GPL compatible nodes AND GPL nodes that don't provide the exception.

Hmmm.  I don't believe each node would need to provide the exception to the
"linking restriction".  It should be just Piper that provides it.  However,
Piper does allow "one node to be linked to another", so what are the licensing
implications of that?  This is a good question.

I recall Richard Stallman writing at one time about the implications of Free
Software being used by Application Service Providers (ASP's).  The question
someone posed was, "Do ASP's need to provide the source code for the Free
Software a user executes via their service?"  Stallman's response was that the
user is not effectively "linking" to software, but is instead using it as a
service, so the source code does not have to be available.

The same is true for Web servers.  Think about it: If you wrote a Web server
and licensed it under the GPL, must every browser that accesses the server be
GPL'd?  Would you be required to provide the source code to every surfer who
visits your site?  No, of course not.

I think we can make the same argument for nodes connecting to Piper and to
each other: They are only providing a service to each other.  They are not
being linked to form a single code base.

In any case, I believe the spirit of the "linking clause" in the L/GPL is
that, by "linking", you are creating one code base that would result in a
non-Free component restricting the use of a Free component.  Piper is usable
without any particular node, so I think we are in jive with that spirit.

We should perhaps put some of this reasoning in our license modification.

> 2. (apart from clause 1) Should we release the PL as GPL or LGPL? The LGPL would
> be less restrictive, but would also allow any proprietary Piper-like system to
> use Overflow as it's processing layer. What do you think?

I don't know.  We'll still be include-ing Overflow as a library from the BL,
right?  I suppose that's up to you guys, if you think Overflow might be used
outside of Piper.  A single license might be neater though.

J.W. Bizzaro                                           jeff at bioinformatics.org
Director, Bioinformatics.org: The Open Lab     http://bioinformatics.org/~jeff
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
               -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

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