Xorg license policy

Alan Coopersmith Alan.Coopersmith at Sun.COM
Wed Aug 27 12:51:38 PDT 2008

Daniel Stone wrote:
> On Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 04:10:24PM -0300, Paulo Cesar Pereira de Andrade wrote:
>>   It would require rewriting a lot of code also, to become fully GPL,
>> but at start would be just accepting GPL code.
> The policy is still not to accept any GPL code.  The first step to X.Org
> becoming GPL is for an interested party to take the case to the
> Foundation.  So far, no-one's done so, so any talk is just that -- talk.

Given modularization, it could change from our current one-size-fits-all policy.

For instance, I think there would be little argument against allowing new app/*
modules to be GPL, and allowing new lib/* modules to be LGPL would also seem

>From the perspective of my employer and it's software releases (not that this is
an official corporate statement, or anything beyond my opinion of what I think
we'd be likely to agree to), those both seem fine.   Our requirement is that
we be able to ship the Xorg server with the best available drivers for the
hardware, and that we allow hardware vendors to ship drivers that they keep
closed for whatever reason (3rd party licenses, support of features like
Macrovision or HDCP, or just confusion).   We also have to support software
vendors shipping apps under other licenses (including closed source) that call
the X11 libraries.

We're glad that market pressures have gotten companies like Intel & ATI to be
more open with their drivers & docs, and hope more will follow, but can't
refuse to support those hardware vendors who haven't.    Obviously, we've
learned in the OS space that the ideas our predecessors had in the 90's
about taking the X11 sources and forking with proprietary "value add" doesn't
work as well as simply participating in and shipping open source, and we're
now open source as well for most of our X11 stack - again, simple market forces
and economics worked, without the license forcing our hands.

The MIT/X11 license meets those requirements without the turmoil and work of
relicensing a 21 year old code base with hundreds of copyright holders, but
something like LGPL or a MPL/CDDL family license, that requires publishing
sources/modifications only to the X server itself and not to all linked
or loaded modules could possibly work as well - but then we're back to the
question of whether such a change is really worth all that work?   Pretty much
all vendors I know of actively shipping Xorg are making their sources available,
and I really don't see many people saying "I'd contribute to Xorg if only it
was GPL" - certainly not more than the people saying that they'd stop if it
was forced GPL.

	-Alan Coopersmith-           alan.coopersmith at sun.com
	 Sun Microsystems, Inc. - X Window System Engineering

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