Yenya's World

Mon, 03 Sep 2007

OpenBSD Licensing

So we are in a middle of another licensing flame war. To summarize: Jiří Slabý has posted a patch narrowing the Atheros Linux kernel driver license to GPL (some header files were BSD licensed, and the rest was GPL or BSD dual-licensed before). This caused a big uproar in the OpenBSD community, including Theo de Raadt's accusation of Alan Cox giving advice to break the law.

Narrowing the license (i.e. forking the development) is usually not very polite, and I hope Jiří had good reasons to do so. However, ethics aside, the original author of the Atheros HAL code has already said that he is perfectly OK with taking the code under GPL for the Linux kernel.

But what makes me think "WTF?" are not the licensing details, but the overall attitude of the OpenBSD people (Theo, especially): they appeal to ethics (and, in Theo's case, law), when their license clearly allows taking the software and making it proprietary. And with relicensing to GPL only, it is not even made proprietary, just a bit more restrictive. This is not the only case of Theo de Raadt actually demanding something other than their license says. See his OpenSSH funding request as an example. If they so much care about what people do with their software, and whether they give back their changes, why they did not write it into their license (e.g. use GPL instead)? Is it a "not invented here" syndrome?

Section: /computers (RSS feed) | Permanent link | 2 writebacks

2 replies for this story:

Vasek Stodulka wrote:

Interesting. It looks like BSD developers do not understand BSD license...

Jiri Slaby wrote:

Ok, let me enlighten it a little bit. Beside the fact I'm idiot and should check more carefully what am I changing, the only thing I did is I executed Nick Kossifidiss's (the main developer of madwifi project, which I forked and wrote the base mostly on my own) idea of having the whole stuff under GPL to not allow companies to pull the code and close it in their proprietary device OSes (such as routerOS & Mikrotik IIRC). Yes, it will deny bsd devs to get the patches back (anyway the "linuxisation" of the code would raise, and they won't be able to use it anyway), but OK, I've decided to publish my changes under ISC or BSD license -- i.e. mine, not the Nick's changes in the fork he did from bsd people, he still probably wants GPL AFAIR, or at least license statement say so in the latest repo commit. Anyway the whole bunch of messages dropped in lists was about the changes that were legal and that never violated anything (see Adrian Bunk's posts, they seem to be very mature). Possible problematic parts of the patch were not discussed that much and was solved promptly. The flame seems unreasonable in my eyes, and so the Raadt's threats.

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