Octave and licensing issues

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Octave and licensing issues

Andy Adler
Here is a topic that came up while looking at building a new sparse
implementation for octave.

For some reason, authors of much mathematical software seem to love
inventing their own licenses. Many of them are free, but somehow
conflict with the GPL due to an advertising clause, or some other minor
reason.  For octave to be able to benefit from much of this work,
then it will need to be able to be linked with code under these
licenses.

It looks the like its not a problem for UMFPACK for the sparse code,
but may be a problem in future.

My suggestion was this: explicitly allow this type of linking in the
octave licenses. Thus:

    "This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
    modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License ...

    In addition to the terms of the GPL, you may redistribute this
    program with free software that includes an advertising clause,
    ..."

John Eaton's comment was:

> Probably it would make more sense to use a clause that allows
> linking to non-free software through a specific plug-in interface
> only.  But in any case, we can only make a change like this if all
> contributors to the core of Octave can be reached and if they will
> agree to the change.
>
> One difficulty with making a change like this is that it brings up
> the "user does the link" problem with readline, which is GPL and
> which we don't "own", so we can't change the readline license.
> OTOH, the license of Guile includes a similar exception and has a
> readline module that is linked in at run-time, so perhaps there is
> a way to make it work.
>
> If you'd like to discuss this further, then perhaps we should do it
> on the maintainers list.

Does anyone have any strong advice or opinions?

--
Andy Adler


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Re: Octave and licensing issues

Paul Kienzle
The Open Source Initiative has a definition of open source software
and a list of approved licenses:

        http://www.opensource.org/

- Paul

On Nov 5, 2004, at 11:05 PM, Andy Adler wrote:

> Here is a topic that came up while looking at building a new sparse
> implementation for octave.
>
> For some reason, authors of much mathematical software seem to love
> inventing their own licenses. Many of them are free, but somehow
> conflict with the GPL due to an advertising clause, or some other minor
> reason.  For octave to be able to benefit from much of this work,
> then it will need to be able to be linked with code under these
> licenses.
>
> It looks the like its not a problem for UMFPACK for the sparse code,
> but may be a problem in future.
>
> My suggestion was this: explicitly allow this type of linking in the
> octave licenses. Thus:
>
>     "This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
>     modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License ...
>
>     In addition to the terms of the GPL, you may redistribute this
>     program with free software that includes an advertising clause,
>     ..."
>
> John Eaton's comment was:
>> Probably it would make more sense to use a clause that allows
>> linking to non-free software through a specific plug-in interface
>> only.  But in any case, we can only make a change like this if all
>> contributors to the core of Octave can be reached and if they will
>> agree to the change.
>>
>> One difficulty with making a change like this is that it brings up
>> the "user does the link" problem with readline, which is GPL and
>> which we don't "own", so we can't change the readline license.
>> OTOH, the license of Guile includes a similar exception and has a
>> readline module that is linked in at run-time, so perhaps there is
>> a way to make it work.
>>
>> If you'd like to discuss this further, then perhaps we should do it
>> on the maintainers list.
>
> Does anyone have any strong advice or opinions?
>
> --
> Andy Adler
>


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Re: Octave and licensing issues

John W. Eaton-6
On  5-Nov-2004, Paul Kienzle <[hidden email]> wrote:

| The Open Source Initiative has a definition of open source software
| and a list of approved licenses:
|
| http://www.opensource.org/

Without changes to Octave's licensing, what matters is whether a
license is compatible with the GPL, not that it is on the list of
approved open source licenses (which includes a lot of
GPL-incompatible licenses)

If we change Octave's licensing, I would probably be more inclined to
allow linking with any software no matter what the license, provided
the external code only uses a specific plug-in interface (i.e., not
giving access to all of the internals of Octave unless the external
code is also licensed under the terms of the GPL).

(Apparently, open source/free software licenses are like IRC clients:
everyone feels the need to write their own...)

jwe