[OSGeo-Discuss] The importance of a project's license

Andrew Ross andrew.ross at eclipse.org
Thu Jul 26 19:44:44 PDT 2012

Cameron, Everyone

[was: Re:  Asking permission for re-licensing from LGPL to Apache on the 
OSGeo board list]

I am not a lawyer of course. I do work with some really good ones. Like 
each of you, I do listen, learn, and try to pick up what I can to 
educate myself.

Stating it plainly, there are noteworthy firms that have sufficient 
concerns about LGPL that they will strive to avoid it. These are 
respected firms such as Nokia 
Lockheed Martin 
<http://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/openlayers-dev/2012-March/008552.html>, IBM 
and many others.

It's about friction. The IBM link above is a good one to review and 
consider in this regard.

The Eclipse Foundation, and by extension the LocationTech 
<http://wiki.eclipse.org/LocationTech> working group are designed 
carefully to minimize such friction while simultaneously balancing 
benefits to projects. These policies seem to be reasonably effective 
based on the success of Eclipse software.

The Eclipse Public License is a central part of reducing friction while 
maintaining balance for the project's well being and interests. It is a 
weak copyleft license. In short:

 1. If you modify EPL code and redistribute, you are obligated to share
    the changes.
 2. If you build on top of EPL software, your own software can be
    licensed under your own license of choice (assuming no license
 3. You can also re-license the finished product under a commercial
    license of your choice

LocationTech also allows other business friendly licenses like MIT, BSD, 
and Apache.

In our license choices, IP policy, and other processes we're trying to 
ensure things don't needlessly hinder projects from being adopted by 
anyone and especially those people who might help you make a living from it.


On 07/26/2012 06:48 PM, Cameron Shorter wrote:
> Andrew Ross,
> I think it would be very valuable for you to expand the forum of your 
> discussion about OSGeo/LocationTech, licences, and all things come 
> under that banner.
> In particular, I think it should be discussed on osgeo-discuss.
> One of the first questions that I think needs to be debated is "Why 
> Eclipse believes in the license it supports (and in particular, why 
> there are concerns with LGPL)"
> I think there are many developers (such as myself) who would question 
> their previous choice of LGPL, based upon further legal advice you 
> have mentioned to me.
> Andrew, you may wish to CC the osgeo discuss list in your reply to 
> this email.
> On 27/07/2012 8:10 AM, Martin Desruisseaux wrote:
>> Board
>> As suggested, we posted our request on the GeoTools mailing list 
>> (http://sourceforge.net/mailarchive/message.php?msg_id=29572383). The 
>> GeoTools PMC had a meeting Monday, which resulted in 2 "inclined yes" 
>> votes, 2 "inclined no" votes and one proposal to re-license GeoTools 
>> too. We do not know yet the final GeoTools PMC decision, neither we 
>> saw any reply to our request from the OSGeo board. Consequently I 
>> would like to recall a few points, and make one proposal (note: my 
>> willing is not to create contentious, but to insist on open source 
>> spirit in a context where two projects are facing strategic steps):
>>  1. We granted copyright to OSGeo, not to GeoTools.
>>  2. When we granted copyright, we understood that OSGeo would have
>>     the duty to behave according its charter, which is not to protect
>>     the economical interests of some members or to favour one
>>     particular project at the expense of an other project.
>>  3. We were willing to trim every code not written by ourselves
>>     (while of course we prefer not having to - see proposal below).
>>  4. GeoTools contains thousands of lines of code written by ourselves
>>     - when we left, we were the authors of 40% of GeoTools 2.6 code base.
>>  5. If OSGeo requires GeoTools permission for re-licensing our code,
>>     then conversely we assume that GeoTools needs our agreement for
>>     re-licensing our above-cited work.
>> Considering that some peoples considered to re-license GeoTools as 
>> part of their plan to join LocationTech (Eclipse), we would like to 
>> reach an agreement around the following proposal: OSGeo allows 
>> re-licensing of the full Geotoolkit.org code base to Apache 2, 
>> including the work derived from other contributors in GeoTools 2.6 
>> (as of 2008, it was 5% of lines of code in the "core" modules and an 
>> undetermined percentage in the "pending" modules - we can compute 
>> this number if it is considered necessary for reaching an agreement). 
>> In return, we give our agreement for re-licensing any work we 
>> committed on the GeoTools SVN (both OSGeo and SourceForge), at any 
>> time in the history under any license that the GeoTools PMC wishes. 
>> From an "amount of lines of code" point of view, I don't think that 
>> GeoTools would be deserved by such deal.
>>     Martin
>> Le 20/07/12 23:37, Cameron Shorter a écrit :
>>> Martin, board,
>>> (talking as a non-board member)
>>> I recommend that the course of action should be:
>>> 1. Note that OSGeo's commitment is to support projects, and support 
>>> Open Source use for projects.
>>> 2. Note that there are 2 projects with a vested interest in this 
>>> decision, GeoTools and Geotoolkit.
>>> 3. Note that the board would in principle be in a position to 
>>> support Geotoolkit's request, as it is a request to use an Open 
>>> Source licence (which part of OSGeo's charter)
>>> 4. However, before making a decision, the board, and/or Martin, 
>>> should approach the GeoTools community, and ask for comment, in 
>>> particular ask the GeoTools community if there are any grounds for 
>>> objection which might revolve around how GeoTools might be adversely 
>>> effected by such a license change.
>> _______________________________________________
>> Board mailing list
>> Board at lists.osgeo.org
>> http://lists.osgeo.org/mailman/listinfo/board
> -- 
> Cameron Shorter
> Geospatial Solutions Manager
> Tel: +61 (0)2 8570 5050
> Mob: +61 (0)419 142 254
> Think Globally, Fix Locally
> Geospatial Solutions enhanced with Open Standards and Open Source
> http://www.lisasoft.com

*Andrew Ross*
Director, Ecosystems
Eclipse Foundation <http://eclipse.org>
Twitter: @42aross <http://twitter.com/42aross>
Mobile: 1-613-614-5772
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