Licenses again...

Matthew Dillon dillon at
Mon Sep 17 22:27:39 PDT 2007

    The issue between OpenBSD and Linux revolves around Sam Leffler's code
    (as in the Sam Leffler of FreeBSDland).

    Basically Sam's code is dual-licensed and he has explicitly said that
    people can use one license to the exclusion of the other.

    OpenBSD then took Sam's code and, per Sam's dual-license they decided
    to use the BSD license only.

    OpenBSD then modified Sam's code.  In particular, I believe they
    reverse-engineered one of the black-box drivers.  The code with
    these modifications is under a BSD license only.

    Someone in the linux arena took OpenBSD's code, stripped the license,
    and relicensed it w/ the GPL.  That is what created the whole bruhaha.
    But if I understand the situation properly this stripping was accidental,
    only occured in one patch set, and was never committed to the linux
    repository.  I do not have definitive information on this.

    In anycase, what followed after that was a whole mess, with OpenBSD
    people basically asking why the linux people wanted to put the code
    under the GPL when that would prevent any modifications they made from
    being able to go back into OpenBSD.

    What everyone with a brain agrees on is that you have to respect the
    license the code is distributed under and it is good policy to not
    change it or to add a license undesired by the author(s) the code was
    taken from, so a lot of people are scratching their heads wondering why
    the linux folks wanted to put their modifications under the GPL.

    Regardless of what the law allows, if open source developers do not
    follow that one simple rule they wind up in dog city.  So all the 
    legal bullshit is irrelevant.


    That said, it is very clearly the law that a person's copyright notice
    cannot be removed except by the original author.  People can add their
    own copyrights if the modifications are significant enough (and as you
    know we do this all the time in BSDland), but the original copyright
    cannot be removed.  Sam has stated that his original code explicitly
    allowed either BSD or GPL (big emphasis on 'or').  But just as clearly
    once the code got into the OpenBSD repository modifications were intended
    to be under the BSD license only.


More information about the Users mailing list