4 Clause license?

Terry Lambert tlambert2 at mindspring.com
Thu Nov 20 03:25:02 PST 2003


Erik Trulsson wrote:
> On Mon, Nov 17, 2003 at 02:48:08PM -0500, Rod Taylor wrote:
> > The PostgreSQL group has recently had a patch submitted with a snippet
> > of code from FreeBSDs src/bin/mkdir/mkdir.c.
> >
> > http://www.freebsd.org/cgi/cvsweb.cgi/src/bin/mkdir/mkdir.c?annotate=1.27
> >
> > Is this intentionally under the 4 clause license or does the copyright
> > from the website (2 clause) applied to everything that is non-contrib?
> >
> > http://www.freebsd.org/copyright/freebsd-license.html
> 
> That copyright notice on the website should apply to everything that is
> not under some other license.  Different parts of the system is under
> different licenses and copyrights depending on who wrote it.
> The mkdir.c *was* under the 4 clause license. However all material that
> was part of the original BSDs and thus was copyrighted by "The Regents
> of the University of California" has had its license changed such that
> clause 3 (the advertising clause) no longer apply.

People seem to frequently misunderstand what a license is, and
more specifically, what the conversion from a 4 clause to a 3
clause license meant, in the case of the UCB License.

This change does not apply to derivative works, only to the
original code itself.

So if you went back and grabbed the mkdir.c code off the BSD
4.4-Lite2 CDROM, and used that, fine.

If you grabbed the mkdir.c off the FreeBSD sources, and even one
line was modified by someone, then it's a derivative work, and,
unless you can also get written permission from the contributor,
it stays under the license from which it was derived.

The announcement by the University only permits the change, it
does not mandate the change, for this very reason: otherwise
third party redistributed code would have sudddenly become
legally questionable.

By the same token, if you dual-license some code under th GPL
and another license, and someone gets the GPL'ed version, and
makes changes, unless thy specifically permit it, the code
contributed back is only licensed under the GPL.  This is why
SGI licensing the XFS code under the GPL was a stupid move: a
contributer contributing code back results in an improved code
base that can only be used under the terms of the GPL, and not
in SGI's commercial product offerings.  I believe that SGI did
not actually expect any significant or worthwhile bug fixes or
enhancements to come from the GPL'ed code using community.

In terms of getting written approval for the license change
from other contributors, this is basically the role that the
Regents of the University of California and the UCB CSRG were
fulfilling: a legal entity to whom such representations could
be made by contributors, and who could then legally forward
those representations to another.

FreeBSD has no such legal entity, at present.  The closest you
could come is perhaps the FreeBSD Foundation.  Had there been
a FreeBSD Foundation from day on, to whom rights could have
been assigned by contributors (turning it into "The FreeBSD
Foundation and its Contributors"), then the license would be
capable of being modified after the fact.

Without that, however, you must track down all of the individual
contributors to get the license changed.


My recommendation is to us the code off the 4.4 BSD-Lite2 CDROM,
if you can, live with the 4 clause license if the code contains
changes you need, if you can, or contact the contributors, if it
is a small enough job.  If none of those things will work for you,
then start with the 4.4 BSD-Lite2 CDROM code, convert to the 3
clause license, as permitted by the university, and then hack out
whatever modifications you ned on top of that for yourself.

-- Terry


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