[postgis-users] Is PostGIS effectively LGPL?

Bruce Momjian bruce at momjian.us
Wed Dec 21 12:25:28 PST 2016

On Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 12:12:16PM -0800, Paul Ramsey wrote:
>     Yes, they would it would affect closed-source versions of the Postgres
>     backend, as well as perhaps closed source/binary functions and
>     extensions.
> "Most users" would have concerns w/ closed source PgSQL and proprietary forks?
> I'm guessing that 99.9% of our user community is using the community open
> source version w/o alteration. Or in the case of AWS Aurora, using a forked
> version of PgSQL that is not being "distributed".

Yes, but the example in the FAQ talks about running Oracle on Linux, so
it is referring to a closed-source database there too.  There is no talk
about client-side apps vs. the database server in that FAQ.

>     > Probably not, right, because they are just using the unmodified database,
>     all
>     > their proprietary IP would be on the other side of the client/server
>     boundary.
>     Right, but that is not what the FAQ addresses, I thought.
> Then we should clarify it a bit, because it's mostly about those Frequent
> questions on "I'm building a SaaS thing using PgSQL/PostGIS, so I have to share
> all my code?". Basically questions about stuff that's on the far side of the
> client/server dividing line. Almost nobody asking the licensing question has
> actually modified either PgSQL or PostGIS.

Well, imagine someone writes a closed-source server-side function that
calls PostGIS functions.  Is that allowed?

>     > That leaves folks who are shipping proprietary PgSQL with PostGIS added
>     in. Are
>     > you wondering about them?
>     Yes, plus things like server-side functions and triggers.
> For the "proprietary fork of PgSQL folks", which are a very small subset of the
> user community, things are greyer and we leave it to their own lawyers to
> determine how comfortable they are w/ it.  Our internal "we care about it"
> policy has been more LGPL'ish, in that we're concerned w/ people shipping
> closed, modified versions of PostGIS (apologies to strk if I'm granting more
> leniency than he might like). However, that doesn't stop lawyers and folks from

Yes, that was my analysis too in reading the FAQ, that you are more LGPL
than GPL in this area.  My original question was how you were
_different_ from LGPL, even though you are listed as GPL.

I think the dynamic linking thing has always been unclear so clarifying
it in the FAQ is fine, if in fact that is what is says, and other
projects have done this clarification.  Right now I am not sure where
PostGIS is on this issue.

I will state that I think the FSF keeps the linking thing vague on

> applying a stronger interpretation around shipping proprietary PgSQL w/
> un-modified community PostGIS. Does PgSQL depend on PostGIS? No. You can run it
> w/o. You can even have your users download a plug-in separate from the shipping
> PgSQL, so that you aren't "distributing" both parts together (I believe that's
> the line that historically EDB has taken w/ PostgresPlus?). There's all kinds

Yes, for EDB you install the closed-source server and then you can add
PostGIS later.  They are not shipped as combined.

> of tap-dancing, depending on what companies have decided feels right. We aren't
> a $1B company, we aren't suing anybody, do your due diligence and abide by the
> spirit of the license as best you can.

Well, these license issues can change if we rely just on intent, e.g.
Oracle buys Sun.  It is good to have it in an FAQ that everyone can
read.  You can change the FAQ, but as long as the text is there people
are clear.

  Bruce Momjian  <bruce at momjian.us>        http://momjian.us
  EnterpriseDB                             http://enterprisedb.com

+ As you are, so once was I.  As I am, so you will be. +
+                      Ancient Roman grave inscription +

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