[cairo] Re: License for cairo changed to LGPL

M. Evans datafeedNOSPAM at gmx.net
Wed Aug 4 18:27:23 PDT 2004

Both the FSF and OSI deprecate the LGPL for legal

The idea that LGPL, because it is "standard," does
not invoke corporate legal reviews, holds little
water.  The LGPL hinges on technical definitions.
These are highly debatable in court, change
substantially over short time periods as the
software industry mutates, vary from platform to
platform, and have no case-law underpinnings (yet).

My opinion was long ago filed with the OSI when
they deprecated the LGPL but called the wx
workaround "clever":

The LGPL is, as you indicate, very questionable,
and yet (unfortunately) very, very popular.  I've
had many debates with open source folks about this
license.  They are all quite adamant and
closed-minded on the subject.  They consider LGPL
a kind of gold standard.  If OSI is serious about
deprecating this license, it should do more to
publicize its problems.

The wx license actually resolves the questionable
nature of the LGPL with its binary exception
clause.  This trapdoor renders linkage questions

So I think the wx license is not just "clever,"
but actually quite intelligent.  Probably it could
be rewritten without reference to the LGPL, that
would be a good thing.  That's the kind of
activity I'd like to see the OSI engage in.

To my mind, the wx approach is a very good middle
ground.  It lets businesses sell binaries with or
without library changes, and without worrying
about the definition of "linkage."  It doesn't let
them sell code.  And it leaves open the option of
contributing back to the project -- on a voluntary
basis, without forcing the issue like LGPL.  This
is a better way to attract business into helping
open source efforts.  It's an invitation, not a

That makes my life easier when I approach managers
about a desire to use code from, and participate
in, open source projects.  The wx commercial
binary clause is a "safe haven" that leaves
managers with reasonable control over disclosure
of proprietary developments for which they pay
good money.  They are mostly happy to contribute
back to open source projects, as long as they have
some secure feeling of not being forced into
giving away the family jewels by obscure technical
legalese in the LGPL.

Related links, no endorsement implied:

OCaml's modified LGPL.

Perl's binary-only commercial clause.

Python and Eiffel looseness.

Apache is very loose, but a strong market force.


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