[GRASS5] New info on openDWG

Michael Barton michael.barton at asu.edu
Fri Aug 27 01:05:08 EDT 2004

Some months back I brought up the lack of DXF support in GRASS 5.7. The
ensuing discussion pointed out that the best way to support DXF was through
openDWG libraries. But because of licensing concerns with these libraries,
the GRASS module v.in.dwg could not be distributed with the libraries. Any
user needed to join the Open Design Alliance (free as an Associate Member),
download openDWG, put the libraries into v.in.dwg, and compile GRASS with

Last night I looked at the Open Design Alliance (formerly openDWG Alliance)
web site to see what was involved in doing this. To my surprise, their web
site description of Associate Member terms and conditions permitted the
distribution of the libraries in software that is distributed free of
charge. This certainly fits GRASS. However, when I downloaded the form I had
to sign and send them to complete my membership application, it did not
mention that the libraries could be distributed in free-of-charge software.

I thought I'd email someone at Open Design Alliance and ask them to clarify
this. But when I checked the contacts page, I found that the alliance is
headquartered here in the Phoenix area, where I am.

So I called them this morning. I had a good discussion with Aaron Dahlberg,
membership coordinator with the Open Design Alliance. He assured me that the
alliance's intent was only to restrict or control commercial use of their
libraries, not use in educational or free software. I described GRASS and he
felt that--based on my description--this fit their intent to permit openDWG
to be used in non-commercial applications developed by Associate Members. I
encouraged him to visit the GRASS web site and he said he would do so.

I asked him if he could reiterate all this in an email so I'd have it in
writing. He said he had answered similar questions before and would send me
something. I copied it to Markus this morning. This evening, I received my
Open Design Alliance membership and password with another email, from Pat
Smith (another membership coordinator at the alliance), along with further
clarification of the terms and conditions. I include it here.

> Dear New Associate Member :
> I have given you access to the DWG files according to the Associate Member
> Agreement.  We allow access to our libraries for research purposes and
> development of free or internally used software only.

Unless there is some catch to the GRASS GPL license that I am missing (quite
possible, I suppose, given my lack of legal expertise), I think we can
distribute openDWG libraries with GRASS as long as we don't sell GRASS
commercially--something prohibited by the GPL license.

I'd like to reopen discussion about whether we can include a functional
v.in.dwg in GRASS 5.7 under these circumstances. In my conversation with the
alliance this morning, Aaron was clear that this was not a problem. I've
included below the complete (longish) text of my email correspondence with
the alliance today.

For those of you are have worked closely with relevant licensing issues,
what do you think?


C. Michael Barton, Professor
School of Human Diversity and Social Change
PO Box 872402
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ  85287-2402

Phone: 480-965-6262
Fax: 480-965-7671
www: <www.public.asu.edu/~cmbarton>

- - - - emails with ODA start here - - - -

------ Forwarded Message
> From: ODA Membership Coordinator <pat at opendesign.com>
> Organization: Open Design Alliance
> Reply-To: <pat at opendesign.com>
> Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004 17:45:17 -0700
> To: 'Michael Barton' <michael.barton at asu.edu>
> Subject: Approved Associate Member DWGdirect - Barton, Michael
> Dear New Associate Member :
> I have given you access to the DWG files according to the Associate Member
> Agreement.  We allow access to our libraries for research purposes and
> development of free or internally used software only. You are required to
> upgrade to either a Commercial Associate Member or Sustaining Member before
> you can sell or distribute software with our libraries in it.
> Your login is:     michael.barton at asu.edu
> I have attached a PDF of your counter signed Membership Agreement.
> Also, just a reminder that you  are the only person permitted to use your
> login. You are solely responsible for anything that is downloaded using this
> login.
> Sincerely, 
> Pat Smith
> Membership Coordinator
> Open Design Alliance
> (Formerly OpenDWG Alliance)
> 5025 N. Central Avenue #602
> Phoenix, AZ 85012
> Tel#602-263-7666
> Fax#602-263-5578
> E-Mail:pat at opendesign.com
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Michael Barton [mailto:michael.barton at asu.edu]
> Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2004 11:45 AM
> To: pat at opendesign.com
> Cc: Markus Neteler
> Subject: Re: Per our conversation 8/26/04 - OpenDWG
> On 8/26/04 9:26 AM, "ODA Membership Coordinator" <pat at opendesign.com> wrote:
>> Dear Michael:
>> Please provide more information on how your plan to include or if you
>> plan to include our libraries in your Free Ware/Shareware product.
>> I have also included a couple of simple guideline to follow in regards
>> to using our libraries in Freeware/Shareware
>> - Whoever owns a "member application" must be an Alliance member.
>> Ownership is typically determined by copyright and distribution
>> rights.
> Aaron,
> Thanks very much for talking with me today and for sending this
> clarification. I hope you have a chance to look at the GRASS website. It is
> indeed an opensource program, freely distributed over the internet (as
> described in the description of Associate Member terms and conditions on the
> Open Design Alliance). It is widely used internationally with recent
> estimates of a user base at 20-30K worldwide (though because this is freely
> distributed open source, it is difficult to estimate this accurately)
> GRASS certainly fits the next paragraph.
>> - Freeware applications, eligible for distribution under the Associate
>> membership agreement, can not be adjuncts to commercial sales.  This
>> would include premiums and programs with proprietary functionality.
>> From these rules, we can suggest the following scenarios:
>> If it is your customer who is contracting for the product, and they
>> wish to have unlimited rights to it, then they are the ones who must
>> be the Alliance member.  You would be a contract developer, with your
>> customer holding copyright, source code, and IP rights subject to the
>> terms of their Alliance membership.
> The following scenario fits GRASS I believe.
>> It is possible under this scenario for the product to be an Associate
>> (Freeware) application, but it would require that the product be
>> offered freely to anyone (on an open and searchable web page), and
>> that the product could not be an adjunct to a commercial transaction.
>> (One way to measure this would be:  Would customers or potential
>> customers of application's owner find it to be of more use than
>> non-customers would?)
> Here is the introductory description paragraph at the top of the GRASS main
> web site <http://grass.itc.i>.
> RASS GIS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System) is an open source,
> Free Software Geographical Information System (GIS) with raster, topological
> vector, image processing, and graphics production functionality that
> operates on various platforms through a graphical user interface and shell
> in X-Window. It is released under GNU General Public License (GPL).
> The GNU GPL site (with full license information) is at:
> <http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html>
> Perhaps the most relevant section of the GPL is:
> .  You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's source code
> as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and
> appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice and
> disclaimer of warranty; keep intact all the notices that refer to this
> License and to the absence of any warranty; and give any other recipients of
> the Program a copy of this License along with the Program.
> You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy, and you
> may at your option offer warranty protection in exchange for a fee.
> 2. You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of it,
> thus forming a work based on the Program, and copy and distribute such
> modifications or work under the terms of Section 1 above, provided that you
> also meet all of these conditions:
>     * a) You must cause the modified files to carry prominent notices
> stating that you changed the files and the date of any change.
>     * b) You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in
> whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part
> thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under
> the terms of this License.
>     * c) If the modified program normally reads commands interactively when
> run, you must cause it, when started running for such interactive use in the
> most ordinary way, to print or display an announcement including an
> appropriate copyright notice and a notice that there is no warranty (or
> else, saying that you provide a warranty) and that users may redistribute
> the program under these conditions, and telling the user how to view a copy
> of this License. (Exception: if the Program itself is interactive but does
> not normally print such an announcement, your work based on the Program is
> not required to print an announcement.)
> These requirements apply to the modified work as a whole. If identifiable
> sections of that work are not derived from the Program, and can be
> reasonably considered independent and separate works in themselves, then
> this License, and its terms, do not apply to those sections when you
> distribute them as separate works. But when you distribute the same sections
> as part of a whole which is a work based on the Program, the distribution of
> the whole must be on the terms of this License, whose permissions for other
> licensees extend to the entire whole, and thus to each and every part
> regardless of who wrote it.
>> Alternately, you might choose to develop the product, and then license
>> it to your customer for a fee.  In that case, the software would have
>> your copyright (not the customer's), and would need to be licensed to
>> them in such a fashion that, if you cease being a member of the
>> Alliance, the software will no longer be distributed. (Notwithstanding
>> this limitation, seats currently being utilized -- by the customer or
>> other end-users -- could continue to be utilized.) In this case, the
>> distribution of the software is treated as is typical of most
>> commercial software, and is subject to the requirements of our
>> commercial level memberships.  If you license up to 100 copies of the
>> software per agreement year to your customer, you would be eligible to
>> be a Commercial Associate members of the Alliance. If you wanted to
>> license more than 100 copies per year, you would need to be a
>> Sustaining member of the Alliance.  In any event, your customer,
>> having licensed a certain number of copies from you at a time, would
>> then be able to redistribute those copies to its customers.
>> I realize this is a lot of detail, but it's probably necessary for you
>> to make a choice about what direction to take.
>> Please let me know what directions that you would like to go?
>> Thank you for your cooperation,
>> Aaron Dahlberg
>> Membership Coordinator
>> Open Design Alliance
>> 5025 N. Central Avenue #602
>> Phoenix, AZ 85012
>> Tel#602-263-7666
>> Fax#602-263-5578
>> E-Mail:pat at opendesign.com
> Given this, what do you think? I am now (hopefully) an associate member.
> Certainly, others of the development team can become associate members to
> make sure that there remains a valid user license for the openDWG libraries
> among the development group.
> In this situation, can we distribute these libraries with GRASS?
> I am copying Markus Neteler, head of the GRASS international development
> team to make sure he is in the loop on this. There was considerable
> discussion about the use of openDWG libraries earlier this year and some
> confusion about the terms and conditions of the use of these libraries. As I
> mentioned, I think part of the difficulty comes from the fact that, unlike
> the website and your email here, the form that associate members sign does
> not mention free distribution over the internet. The GRASS team is very
> conscientious about proper licensing and preferred to err on the side of
> being conservative. However, if indeed we can distribute the libraries with
> GRASS it would make it much easier to link the CAD and GIS worlds.
> Thanks again for your help
> Michael
> ______________________________
> Michael Barton, Professor & Curator
> School of Human Diversity and Social Change
> Arizona State University
> Tempe, AZ  85287-2402
> voice: 480-965-6262; fax: 480-965-7671
> www: http://www.public.asu.edu/~cmbarton

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